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African leaders in South Sudan for peace talks

The Kenyan president and Ethiopian prime minister arrived to South Sudan to mediate between its president and his political rivals

Published: Updated:

Leaders from Kenya and Ethiopia arrived in South Sudan Thursday in an attempt to mediate between its president and his political rivals, amid violence threatening to destroy the country.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta are set to meet with South Sudan’s President Slava Kiir later on Thursday, said the Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth, reported the Associated Press.

The minister added that the government has not formally contacted former Vice Presidet Riek Machar yet, insisting that “the rebel” was expected to first renounce violence.

Presidnet Kiir accused Machar of leading a failed coup plot.

“For us, we are not talking with him,” he said, referring to Machar, whose whereabouts remain unknown.

The United States, Norway and Ethiopia are leading efforts to initiate talks between Kiir and his rivals. Other world leaders have urged both parties to stop the violence.

In a Christmas address, Kiir said he is willing to have a “dialogue” with all his opponents.

Although the country’s capital, Juba, is now calm, fighting has spread across the country. The United Nation’s humanitarian office said aid agencies need $166 million to save lives amid the severe violence.

Around 58,000 people took refuge in and around U.N. bases in the country, while over 92,000 fled their homes as a result to the clashes that raised fears of a civil war in the two-year-old country, according to the U.N.

The resources needed would “provide clean water and sanitation, health care, shelter, and deliver food and livelihood assistance,” the office said in a statement.

“It will also ensure that the rights of vulnerable people, including survivors of violence, are better protected. The money will be used to manage sites for displaced people and transport aid workers and supplies to strategic locations where communities are most at risk,” it added.

The international organization has also been investigating mass-killings since the violence sparked after a fight between the presidential guard, pitting soldiers from Kiir’s ethnic group, Dinka, against members of Machar’s ethnic group, Nuer. The country’s top U.N. humanitarian official, Toby Lanzer, said Monday that he believes the death toll is over 1,000.

South Sudan peacefully broke away from Sudan in 2011 following a 2005 peace deal. Before that, the south fought decades of war with Sudan. The country, one of the world’s least developed, still has pockets of rebel resistance and sees cyclical, tribal clashes that result in hundreds of deaths.