By South Sudan News Staff
Juba — January 15 … The head of the South Sudan governmental delegation on peace talks has expressed optimism over ongoing peace talks with rebels loyal to former South Sudan Vice President Dr. Riek Machar in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis Ababa.
Nhial Deng Nhial, the Head of the South Sudan government negotiation team arrived home from Addis Ababa on Monday for consultations with President Salva Kiir following the start of face to face talks with the rebels in its first day on Monday.
“We are hopeful,” Nhial told journalists in Juba on Tuesday shortly after meeting President Kiir.
“So there is an intense process that is going on aimed at arriving and speedily as possible to cessation of hostilities,” he said.
“Initially, there was a hiccup that threatened to scuttle the negotiation but fortunately the problem was resolved. The other side basically insisted that they cannot talk unless they see that the detainees are set free,” Nhial said.
“I want to tell you that it will not be very long until a cessation of hostilities agreement is signed,” Ateny Wek Ateny, a spokesman for President Salva Kiir, told reporters in Juba.
Three Chief mediators from Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya on behalf of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) are brokering the talks and also arrived in Juba to meet President Kiir for consultations.
Release of detainees before the talks reaches a peak and a commitment to other issues including cessation of hostilities remained key demand of the rebels.
Though South Sudan government said the detainees, accused of masterminding a Coup on the 15 of last month, can only be released in accordance with the laws of South Sudan.
More than 400,000 South Sudanese civilians have been driven from their homes by the fighting, with most believed to be internally displaced in the country and nearly 80,000 fleeing to neighboring countries.
As rebels advanced, crowds of civilians fled to the river to escape the violence, rushing into barges to cross the White Nile. Amid the frenzy, officials said Tuesday, more than 200 people were killed when the ferry carrying them to safety went down.
All of the people killed, possibly as many as 300, were civilians, including children abandoning the town of Malakal, said Colonel Philip Aguer, a spokesman for the South Sudanese military. “The boat was overloaded,” he said.