JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN - Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta is urging South Sudan's leaders to implement last year's peace deal and stabilize the country.
Kenyatta made a one-day stop Tuesday in Juba, the first head of state to visit since deadly fighting erupted last month between soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir and those backing former First Vice President Riek Machar, who fled the capital soon afterward.
Speaking to reporters after meeting Kiir at the presidential palace, Kenyatta said he had come to encourage South Sudan’s leaders to concentrate on bringing back law and order to the country.
Stability and peace "are the key ingredients for the prosperity that we wish for the people of South Sudan," he said. "I believe that is why they struggled so hard to achieve their independence — not for war, but for them to be able to prosper.”
Kenyatta said he wanted South Sudan’s leaders to fully implement the peace agreement brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an African trade bloc. Kiir and Machar signed the pact over a year ago, when Machar led South Sudanese opposition forces.
The country’s leaders have struggled to implement several aspects of the agreement and have never resolved other issues, such as Kiir’s decision to create 28 states out of the existing 10 states after the agreement was signed.
“We are here to ask the government to push along the peace agreement and the reforms that were agreed to under that peace agreement and to see how that can be fast-tracked,” Kenyatta said.
Gai's Nairobi visit
Earlier this month, South Sudan’s newly installed First Vice President Taban Deng Gai paid an official visit to Nairobi, where he asked Kenyan officials to invest in South Sudan to help revitalize the country’s devastated economy.
Kiir appointed Deng after Machar went into hiding and eventually fled the country.
Kenyatta promised Kiir that Kenya would provide both moral and material support to South Sudan “to help accelerate this process so that we can ensure we have peace and stability and then, ultimately, working together as a region, begin to work for the prosperity of our region and our people.”
Kiir said Kenyatta’s visit to the South Sudanese capital was proof that the country was now at peace.
“There is no fighting in South Sudan, there is no war," he said. "People are very peaceful in Juba town. ... For President Uhuru to come to Juba as the first head of state to come to Juba after our crises, it shows that the regional leadership is with us."
Kenya is one of the neighboring countries expected to contribute to a 4,000-soldier regional protection force that could be sent to South Sudan under a resolution recently approved by the U.N. Security Council.