South Sudan's vice president expresses concern over ongoing peace talks

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — South Sudan ’s vice president said Thursday that peace talks in neighboring Kenya have failed to acknowledge the country's peace agreement established in 2018, alleging a new draft agreement is aimed at replacing the original peace deal.

Riek Machar in a protest letter to the talks' mediator said the draft established alternative institutions to replace or run in parallel with those established by the previous peace agreement. He added that the current peace talks should complement and not obliterate the original deal.

The former rebel leader signed an agreement with President Salva Kiir in 2018 that ended a five-year civil war that killed about 400,000 people. Machar and Kiir were on opposite sides in the war and Machar was appointed vice president after the 2018 deal. His group isn’t part of the current talks, which are for groups that were not included in the 2018 agreement.

Despite the peace deal, violence in South Sudan has continued, most of it attributed to rebel groups and warring ethnic groups.

The body mandated with monitoring the implementation of the 2018 peace deal raised concerns in May over the slow implementation of election related tasks with only a few months left until December elections.

Opposition groups that were not part of the 2018 peace agreement have been in talks in Kenya since May 9 aimed at bringing groups on board ahead of the December elections.

The talks have resulted in a draft agreement that recommends an extension of the transitional period to provide more time for election preparations.

President Kiir on Thursday received a progress report from government representatives in the ongoing talks with the government spokesperson telling media that participants in the talks are close to reaching a final agreement.