South Sudanese president Salva Kiir, left, shakes hands with Pagan...

South Sudanese president Salva Kiir, left, shakes hands with Pagan Amum Okiech, leader of the Real-SPLM group, during the launch of high-level peace talks for South Sudan at State House in Nairobi, Kenya, on Thursday, May 9, 2024. Credit: AP/Brian Inganga

NAIROBI, Kenya — High-level mediation talks on South Sudan were launched Thursday in Kenya with African presidents calling for an end to a conflict that has crippled the country's economy for years.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir thanked his Kenyan counterpart, William Ruto, for hosting the talks and said that his government would negotiate in good faith and with an open mind.

“We hope that the opposition groups have a similar conviction and desire for peace in South Sudan, which, when fully achieved, will bring everlasting stability and economic development in the region, not just South Sudan,” he said.

The talks are between the government and rebel opposition groups that were not part of an 2018 agreement that ended a five-year civil war that left 400,000 people dead.

Ruto reiterated Thursday the need for inclusive and home-grown solutions to African issues.

“This initiative exemplifies the Pan-African policy of African solutions to African challenges, contributing to the ‘Silencing the Guns in Africa' initiative and fostering an environment for transformational development in South Sudan, our region, and the entire African continent,” he said.

Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera, Zambia’s Hakainde Hichilema, Namibia’s Nangolo Mbumba, and Central African Republic’s Faustin-Archange Touadera also attended the launch that took place after an African Union agricultural summit earlier in the day.

Kenyan President William Ruto gives an address during the launch...

Kenyan President William Ruto gives an address during the launch of high-level peace talks for South Sudan at State House in Nairobi, Kenya, on Thursday, May 9, 2024. Credit: AP/Brian Inganga

U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer welcomed the talks.

“The United States applauds Kenya’s commitment to regional stability and support for peace in South Sudan,” the U.S. Embassy in Kenya wrote on X, after the launch.

The chief mediator in the South Sudan peace process, Lazarus Sumbeiywo, exuded confidence that the talks would resolve the outstanding issues.

“After this launch, we plan to engage in sustained and continuous mediation to ensure a speedy and comprehensive resolution of the issues, so long as the parties go along with the plan,” he said.

Africa heads of States and delegations, pose for a photo...

Africa heads of States and delegations, pose for a photo during the launch of high-level peace talks for South Sudan at State House in Nairobi, Kenya, on Thursday, May 9, 2024. High-level meditation talks on South Sudan were launched in Kenya with African presidents in attendance calling for an end to a conflict that has crippled the country's economy for years. Credit: AP/Brian Inganga

South Sudan remains fragile despite the 2018 peace agreement, which is yet to be fully implemented. The country is expected to hold elections in December but key issues including a unified security force are yet to be resolved. The opposition has been calling for a speedy implementation of the agreement to pave the way for free and fair elections.

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