President Yoweri Museveni has arrived in South Sudan Capital, Juba, where he will join other regional leaders including; Sudan’s President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo Mohamed (Somalia), Eritrea’s Isaias Afwerki, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde and Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly for the peace celebration day at the invitation of President Salva Kiir.
Museveni was received by Kiir at Juba International Airport. Others at the Airport to receive him were; Senior Presidential Advisor on Defence and Security Gen. Proscovia Nalweyiso, Ugandan Ambassador to South Sudan Col. Ronnie Balya, Bukedea Woman Member of Parliament Anita Among, among others.
The celebrations being held under the theme “Celebrating the dawn of peace, appreciating friends, cherishing reconciliation and Unity,” are taking place at the John Garang Museliem in Juba.
South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar returned to the capital Juba for the first time in more than two years on Wednesday to take part in a peace ceremony.
Machar, who under the terms of a peace deal is to be reinstated as vice president, had not set foot in the city since he fled in July 2016 under a hail of gunfire when an earlier peace accord collapsed.
The rebel chief arrived at Juba airport at 9:30am (0630 GMT) and was welcomed by President Salva Kiir, Machar’s former ally turned bitter enemy.
The two are to join regional leaders at the ceremony later Wednesday to publicly welcome the most recent peace agreement, signed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in September.
It was not immediately clear if Machar would remain in Juba after the ceremony, as his aides have expressed concerns over his safety in the city.
– ‘Here for peace’ –
A previous planned homecoming for Machar was put off by wrangling over how many bodyguards he could bring with him and what weapons they would carry.
Lam Paul Gabriel, a spokesman for Machar’s SPLM-IO rebel group, had said on Tuesday that he would be accompanied by around 30 political figures.
“We are worried for his security in Juba, but the truth is here: we are for peace, and what we are trying to do is build trust. So that is why he is able to leave his forces behind and just go with politicians,” Gabriel said.
President Salva Kiir and Machar, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-in-opposition (SPLA-IO), inked the final peace deal mediated by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an east African bloc.
The 2015 peace agreement to end the violence was violated in July 2016 when the rival factions resumed fighting in the capital Juba, forcing Machar to flee into exile. Under the new peace deal signed last month, Machar will be Vice President Salva Kiir’s deputy once again.
The South Sudan conflict has had a huge effect on trade. During stability, Uganda used to export over US700m worth of goods. With the war, this has shrunk to a miserable US$200million.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 85 per cent of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda are women and children under the age of 18.
In addition to the million refugees now hosted by Uganda, a million or even more South Sudanese refugees are being hosted by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic.
President Museveni believes with this peace process, the refugees can return home and participate in rebuilding their country.