Former South Sudan political detainees who left Nairobi Monday to Juba will know their new roles in the ruling party after meeting with President Salva Kiir Tuesday.
On Monday, President Uhuru Kenyatta who had been hosting 11 former detainees since January last year asked them to accompany regional mediators to Juba.
An advance team of five of the detainees left Monday afternoon with South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa together with Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Tedros Adanhom as well as Tanzanian Ruling party (CCM) Secretary-General Abdulrahman Kinana.
They are former minister for Cabinet Affairs Deng Lor, Kosti Manibe (former minister for Finance), Dr Majak D’Agoot who deputised in the Defence Ministry, former Sports minister Cirino Hiteng and John Luk of Justice Ministry. Mr Chol Tong Mayay, former Governor of the Lakes State in South Sudan also left with the team to Juba.
Seven of the detainees were first brought to Kenya in February last year before a group of four others were brought to Nairobi after President Uhuru Kenyatta successfully convinced Salva Kiir to drop charges of treason against them.
The eleven also included Pagan Amum, Ezekiel Gatkuoth, Gier Chuang, Rebecca Nyandeng, Madut Biar and Oyai Deng Ajak. The six will remain in Kenya until the advance team brings back the report.
President Kenyatta’s announcement followed a meeting with the detainees last week in which he told them to be part of efforts to reunite Juba’s ruling party.
“We have embarked on a mission to merge the two peace processes so that they can have one focus,” the President announced after meeting them last week.
“I oversaw a new initiative in the efforts to stabilise South Sudan that will see two parallel peace processes merged.
He was referring two one effort by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) meant to reconcile rebels under former Vice President Riek Machar with the government under President Salva Kiir. The other process is supported by South African and Tanzania and is meant to reconcile splinter groups within SPLM, thought to have caused a war.
IGAD is a regional bloc including Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Djibouti. Sitting in Addis Ababa, its mediators have led the parties to sign seven ceasefire agreements since December 2013. All of them were broken within days. Fighting has since resumed with both sides announcing victory, then blaming each other for atrocities.
The South Sudanese government said it welcomes the decision to let the detainees back home as it will foster reconciliation.
“The region has come to see that the government is serious about reconciliation in the party. It is a welcome decision because they (detainees) are part of the Arusha Agreement,” South Sudan Deputy Ambassador to Nairobi James Morgan told the Nation Monday.
“They were not willing to go back home initially because of unfounded fears. It should be remembered that President Salva Kiir had dropped charges and asked them to come home.” he added.
Yesterday, President Kenyatta told a gathering during Madaraka Day celebrations that the former detainees will be part of a team to spearhead the reconciliation within the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).
They will meet with President Kiir today before meeting with Riek Machar’s side, at undisclosed venue later in the week.
“Their role will now be defined within the party. They had demanded to get back their positions in the party but that could only happen if they returned home,” Mr Morgan added, referring to the group which was initially suspected of plotting a coup against Salva Kiir.
The South African Deputy President is President Jacob Zuma’s Special Envoy and Co-guarantor of the SPLM Reunification Agreement signed in January in Arusha under the support of CCM. The Agreement was signed in Arusha, Tanzania, by various factions of the party who included the former detainees.
Another meeting was held in Pretoria in April with Ramaphosa and representatives of the SPLM factions meant to iron out the differences.