By Benjamin Takpiny
JUBA (AA) - Sudan's newly created Sovereign Council kicked off peace talks Monday with rebel leaders in South Sudan's capital.
The discussions in Juba are aimed at ending Sudan's yearslong civil wars and come a month after the two sides agreed on a plan and a series of trust-building measures, including the extension of a ceasefire already in place.
South Sudan has offered to mediate between the parties to Sudan’s crisis since the unrest that led to the overthrow of longtime President Omar Bashir in April this year.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit, who is mediating the peace talks, called on regional leaders to join hands to restore peace in Sudan.
“The absence of peace in Sudan affects the whole region in restoring peace and stability,” Kiir said while opening the peace talks.
“We must work together to bring peace in Sudan. The time has come in Africa to address our differences and come up with a possible solution for restoring peace and stability,” he said.
Kiir called on the region to stop supporting negative forces, saying supporting such forces had caused many people to flee the country in search of a safe haven.
“If we stop supporting negative forces, it will lead to stability in the region.
“It’s time to stop the conflict and put all our efforts into development. Our people have suffered enough, and it’s time to restore peace and stop chasing away our people that used to stay in dirty refugee camps,” he added.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni urged Sudan’s government and opposition to put national identity above everything without discriminating against other people.
“If you want to save your country, stop wasting time and move forward with what you are doing, like peace, without delay.
“Managing a society is like being a doctor; once you misdiagnose the patient, the patient will never get cured. So leaders are like doctors. Those mistakes and misdiagnoses must end,” he said.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed urged the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an eight-country trade bloc in Africa, to support the peace process in Sudan for lasting peace to be achieved.
El-Hadi Idris Mustafa, a leader of the Sudan Revolutionary Front alliance of rebel groups, called on Sudan’s government to stop the war and focus on peace.
“We are committed to opening a new chapter and bringing peace to Sudan,” he said.
Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan, chairman of Sudan’s ruling Sovereign Council, also called on Sudanese opposition groups to negotiate in good faith and bring lasting peace to the country.
The chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement of the North, Abdelaziz Adam El Hilu, said they want this peace to bring an end to 63 years of conflict in Sudan.
He said several rounds of peace talks had failed in Sudan and led to crises because of identity politics and religion, which are threatening the majority of the people and led to conflict in the country.
Kiir first offered to host talks between the Sudanese government and armed opposition groups in November last year.
This followed former President Bashir’s successful mediation of South Sudan peace talks in Khartoum last September.
According to the government, Kiir’s mediation efforts are aimed at finding a way to end the civil war in the Blue Nile and Darfur regions.
The states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan both have large ethnic minority populations that fought alongside the South Sudanese during their country’s 21-year civil war.
The opening of the Sudanese peace talks was witnessed by regional leaders including Uganda’s president, Ethiopia’s prime minister and Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly.