South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar in Kenyan talks

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (L) receives South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar at State House in Nairobi, Kenya - 29 May 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rebel leader Riek Machar (R) briefed President Kenyatta on mediation efforts taking place in Ethiopia

South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar has held talks with Kenya's leader in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

He was briefing President Uhuru Kenyatta on the latest moves to end the conflict in South Sudan where more than a million people have fled their homes since fighting erupted in December.

He signed a ceasefire agreement with his rival President Salva Kiir earlier this month, but fighting has continued.

Negotiations are aimed at forming a government of national unity.

There are unconfirmed reports that Mr Kiir may fly into Nairobi on Friday for further talks with his former deputy and Mr Kenyatta.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many thousands of people have taken refuge in UN bases in the country

Violence in the world's newest nation broke out in December when President Kiir accused Mr Machar, who he had sacked as vice-president in July, of plotting a coup.

Mr Machar denied the allegation, but then marshalled a rebel army to fight the government.

Analysis: Anne Soy in Nairobi

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has been tasked by the regional body Igad with personally mediating between President Kiir and Mr Machar. Those talks are have been adjourned until June.

Mr Machar now appears to be trying a different tack by going on a diplomatic mission to see regional leaders. President Kenyatta said South Sudan's former vice-president had briefed him on his meetings with Mr Desalegn. The rebel leader is expected to travel to Khartoum next to meet Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir.

Thousands have died in the conflict, which assumed ethnic overtones with Mr Machar relying heavily on fighters from his Nuer ethnic group and Mr Kiir from his Dinka community.

The fighting has left people unable to farm and with little access to food, aid experts say.

Nearly four million people in South Sudan, which seceded from Sudan in 2011, are now at risk of serious food insecurity, according to the UN.

Image caption Fighting erupted in the South Sudan capital, Juba, in mid-December. It followed a political power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his ex-deputy Riek Machar. The squabble has taken on an ethnic dimension as politicians' political bases are often ethnic.
Image caption Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.
Image caption Both Sudan and the South are reliant on oil revenue, which accounts for 98% of South Sudan's budget. They have fiercely disagreed over how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state - at one time production was shutdown for more than a year. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north.
Image caption The two Sudans are very different geographically. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.
Image caption After gaining independence in 2011, South Sudan is the world's newest country - and one of its poorest. Figures from 2010 show some 69% of households now have access to clean water - up from 48% in 2006. However, just 2% of households have water on the premises.
Image caption Just 29% of children attend primary school in South Sudan - however, this is also an improvement on the 16% recorded in 2006. About 32% of primary-age boys attend, while just 25% of girls do. Overall, 64% of children who begin primary school reach the last grade.
Image caption Almost 28% of children under the age of five in South Sudan are moderately or severely underweight. This compares with the 33% recorded in 2006. Unity state has the highest proportion of children suffering malnourishment (46%), while Central Equatoria has the lowest (17%).

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