October 5, 2016 (JUBA) - Top United States officials gave South Sudan’s first vice president, Taban Deng Gai a warn reception, in what is largely seen as a significant shift in seemingly strained bilateral ties between the two nations since conflict erupted in South Sudan in December 2013.
- Taban Deng Gai addresses delegates after he was sworn-in as South Sudan FVP inside the Presidential Palace in the capital of Juba, July 26, 2016 (Photo Reuters/ Jok Solomun)
Gai led a high powered government delegation to the United Nations in September, but used the visit as an opportunity to meet and hold sideline meetings with different world leaders, particularly officials in the U.S administration who showed their support for implementation of the reforms and governance championed by former first vice president, Riek Machar.
Gai was accompanied by high profile government officials, whose views are widely seen and assessed in the context of "anti-peace elements” and “war traders” at the expense of reforms and democracy. They included, defence minister, Kuol Manyang Juuk, former foreign affairs minister, Deng Alor Kuol, the minister in the president’s office, Mayiik Deng and several other low and high level diplomatic and civil servants.
The team also included the petroleum and mining minister, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, a former envoy to the U.S who played key roles in the armed opposition movement.
South Sudan’s presidential spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny said all programs and itineraries were arranged by officials at South Sudanese embassy in Washington.
Gai, according to Gordon Buay, one of the senior diplomats in the U.S, said the former had successfully concluded meetings according to the prearranged plan and was now travelling in the train returning to the headquarters of the United Nations in New York, where he and his accompanying delegation will return to South Sudan.
The visit of the first vice president Gen. Taban Deng Gai has been successful. He met and held successfully meetings with different South Sudanese communities.
"He met Luka Biong on Wednesday, Pagan Amum on Thursday. And on Tuesday he was scheduled to meet Susan Rice who extended him invitation. She is one of the top US officials in the white house. Her acceptance to meet with the vice president represents a significant step towards strengthening our relations with the US and our friends and allies in the west, in the region and in the world", Buay said Tuesday.
It was not immediately clear whether Gai had eventually succeeded to hold meetings with officials at the white house and whether or not the delegation representing Machar succeeded to meet top US officials in different capacities to explain their side of the story, about the conflict and the way forward.
Meanwhile the U.S security advisor, ambassador, Susan Rice expressed grave concern over the prevailing humanitarian conditions and continued fighting in South Sudan.
Rice, who met the South Sudanese first vice president, affirmed the U.S government’s strong commitment to the people of the world’s youngest nation.
The U.S. official, however, deplored South Sudan government’s role in obstructing the United Nations Mission in South Sudan’s operations and stressed the need for a rapid deployment of the regional protection force.