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Kiir Absent as South Sudan Rebel Chief Meets Regional Leaders

Montage of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir (L) and former vice president turned rebel leader Riek Machar. Mr. Kiir was absent when Machar met Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2013, with the presidents of Sudan and Uganda.

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir was notably absent Wednesday when rebel leader Riek Machar held talks in Khartoum with Sudanese President Omar al Bashir and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on the recently signed peace deal for South Sudan, officials said.

The two heads of state and Machar discussed the recently signed peace agreement for South Sudan, and, particularly, the clauses covering security arrangements, including the withdrawal of foreign forces, James Gatdet Dak, a spokesman for Machar's SPLM-in-Opposition movement, said.

The Ugandans have been looking for an exit sign that does not include Salva Kiir. He is a bad partner; it's a bad marriage.
Angelo Izama, Ugandan analyst

Uganda sent troops into South Sudan to support Mr. Kiir's government against forces led by Machar when the young nation plunged into conflict in December 2013.

Ugandan independent analyst Angelo Izama said Mr. Kiir's absence from the meeting in Khartoum indicated that the "marriage" between the South Sudan government and Uganda has gone sour.

"The Ugandans have been looking for an exit sign that does not include Salva Kiir. He is a bad partner; it's a bad marriage," Izama said.

"Kiir has been taking an increasingly high line and inflexible tone despite signing the peace agreement" late last month, Izama said. "He has become an unstable partner."

Izama and Gatdet said the meeting in Khartoum was called by Mr. Museveni. Izama said Museveni asked to meet with Bashir and Machar because he wants to "stop the bleeding of the national resources of Uganda."

"The war is very expensive. Uganda is going into an election. Money is a problem for both the government of Uganda and the government of South Sudan," and international pressure is mounting on Uganda to pull out of South Sudan, Izama said.

"I think Museveni is basically laying the ground for the withdrawal of his troops, and relieving that pressure on the government of Uganda," he said.

None of the parties to the talks commented on the outcome of the three-way meeting.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the South Sudan In Focus radio program.