Former Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka returned to the country on Sunday from Juba after accomplishing a delicate peace deal that saw South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar form a unity government.
The negotiators of the peace agreement heavily relied on Mr Musyoka to achieve the long-delayed process towards ending a six-year civil war that has led to loss of thousands of lives.
As a former Foreign Affairs minister in Kenya, Mr Musyoka was not new to the Sudan conflict. He was involved in the talks that culminated in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
The negotiations brought together President Kiir’s predecessor John Garang and former Sudan President Omar al Bashir.
President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed Mr Musyoka to head the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission on peace in South Sudan in November 2018.
Being the Special Envoy, the former VP had the time, the diplomatic expertise and the historical perspective to the conflict.
He said he was known to both President Kiir and his former deputy turned-rebel leader, Mr Machar, having worked with them to successfully implement the 2005 peace pact and the 2011 referendum that paved the way for creation of the Republic of South Sudan.
His appointment came in handy for two main reasons, one being the confidence he enjoyed from the two protagonists and his previous peace-building efforts in the region.
“I was aware of the issues defining the standoff and I took up the work, determined to finally get the two parties to agree to end the conflict,” Mr Musyoka said.
Despite the significant pressure the international community put on the two leaders, it was finally the negotiation skills and hours of delicate talks that helped the warring leaders sign a last minute deal.
Mr Musyoka played a key role in getting both parties in the conflict to agree to talks, where he held several meetings with both President Kiir and Mr Machar.
The sticky issues were a formula to integrate tens of thousands of former rival forces into the country’s united army and plans to reduce the number of administrative states in the country.
“The integration of security forces, security arrangements in Juba and the politically sensitive process of determining internal state boundaries were the thorny issues, which we carefully navigated under the leadership of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni,” he said.
Mr Musyoka had to shuttle between Juba, where he held meetings with President Kiir, and Khartoum where Mr Machar was exiled.
He had to keep constantly briefing both President Kenyatta in Nairobi and President Museveni in Uganda.
Mr Machar, he said, had “expressed fears of his safety and we had to work closely with President Kiir in assuring his camp of their security once they return to Juba”.
The confidence Mr Musyoka enjoyed from the two parties in the conflict was underpinned in a statement both camps released endorsing his appointment as a special envoy.
Through Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Mawien Makol, Mr Kiir hailed his appointment saying the move will boost ties between the two neighbouring countries.
Mr Makol said then that Musyoka had a better understanding of the ongoing efforts to restore peace and stability in South Sudan.
“The government welcomes his appointment and his addition to the effort that is being exerted here by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development and the region,” Mr Makol said.
He added: “Mr Musyoka is a very diligent leader, who is well informed about South Sudan issues, and the problem the young country is facing. So he is the perfect diplomat for the peace process,” he added.
President Kenyatta picked the former VP as his special envoy to Juba to help shore up efforts to achieve durable peace and stability in the world’s youngest republic.
His appointment was made shortly after the South Sudan President made a two-day state visit to Kenya in November.
"The envoy is not new to South Sudan, he has been engaged in South Sudanese and Sudanese issues from his time as Foreign Affairs minister during the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signing in 2005 before his vice-president role in Kenya, so he is fully aware of the issues of our country," said Mr Makol.