Prime Minister Raila Odinga spent the weekend in Tanzania over what is believed to be a new initiative by President Jakaya Kikwete to bring lasting peace in South Sudan. Kikwete had approached the Sudan conflict from the standpoint of first re-uniting the main political parties in the country, namely, SPLM and SPLM-IO.
The two political entities are led by President Salva Kiir and nemesis former vice president Dr. Riek Machar.
Kikwete is said to have been disappointed by the handling of the South Sudan crisis by Nairobi (read President Uhuru) and wanted the CORD leader to get involved in the elusive search for peace in Juba. Tanzania views Raila as a neutral figure in the region but with the clout to reach out to the two leaders.
Late last year, Tanzania had sent a senior official of CCM who met Odinga in his Karen home. It is believed Raila had initially declined to get involved in the Juba crisis, fearing Uhuru government would frustrate the mission so that it fails for political reasons. According to sources, Raila had urged Kikwete to put pressure on Uhuru to be neutral in the conflict, which seemed to have worked for the better part of late last year and early this year.
However, the conflict has once again escalated.
New fighting was reported days after a group of former exiled rebels were accompanied by Kenya and South Africa back to Juba last week. The group, which has been state guests of Kenya, were rejected by both the government and the rebels.
The South Sudan government also expelled a senior United Nations refugees official Toby Lanzer, prompting bitter protest from the US government and the United Nations Security Council.
“The expulsion of Mr. Lanzer is an affront to the international community working to bring peace and stability to South Sudan, and demonstrates a callous disregard for the suffering of the South Sudanese people. The governmentâ€™s priority should be bringing an end to the violence that has already displaced more than 2 million of its citizens â€“ half a million of whom are now refugees in neighbouring countries â€“ and left 4.6 million facing extreme, life-threatening hunger,” read the statement.Â
Pressure to restore peace in South Sudan is mounting amidst suspicion that the government of Kenya is fanning the conflict while appearing to be interested in solving it.
Sources at CORD secretariat were livid about the reasons for the visit, only confirming that Odinga is, indeed, in Tanzania.