South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir is in Ethiopia’s capital for the first face-to-face talks with rebel leader Riek Machar to try to end four months of conflict and avert a possible genocide.
Kiir sacked Machar as deputy president in July, reigniting their long-running political feud. Clashes between their rival army factions erupted in the capital on December 15 and spread across the impoverished country, killing thousands of people and uprooting more than a million.
A ceasefire signed by the rival groups in January has been largely ignored by both sides.
Machar arrived in Addis Ababa on Thursday.
“The president has arrived for the talks,” said a member of the government’s delegation at the talks referring to Kiir.
Several members of the delegations from both sides were gathered at Addis Ababa’s Sheraton Hotel, where Machar was also staying, according to diplomats. The talks were set to take place later on Friday at the presidential palace.
The conflict has increasingly taken on ethnic dimensions, pitting Kiir’s Dinka people against Machar’s Nuers, while crippling the South Sudanese economy and slashing its economically vital oil output by a third.
The United States, other world powers and African neighbours, which welcomed South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in 2011, have piled pressure on the two men to halt the violence that threatens the stability of the world’s newest country.