High expectations as Kiir joins Riyadh summit
President Salva Kiir arrived in Saudi Arabia ahead of the Saudi-African Summit slated for Friday, during which he is expected to hold sideline meetings on regional security and economic cooperation.
President Kiir departed for Riyadh from Juba yesterday morning and arrived in Saudi Arabia in the evening to prepare for the summit, one of its kind, that will bring together various African heads of state to pursue their various national interests.
According to the Presidential Press Unit, Kiir’s visit to Riyadh will enable him to engage his peers on how to address regional challenges ranging from security to political stability and the economy.
“[Issues] will revolve around supporting joint action, enhancing political coordination, addressing regional security threats, facilitating economic transformation through research, and the local development of new energy solutions, while bolstering cross-sectoral cooperation,” the PPU noted.
By Thursday evening, Reuters had reported that the Nigerian President, Bola Tinubu, would attend the summit among other leaders.
Reports from the Saudi Arabian press revealed that Riyadh had already started inroads into the continent by signing agreements worth 2 billion riyals ($533 million) with African countries, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan stated during the Saudi-Arab-African Economic Conference in Riyadh.
“We are working with partners to support Ghana and other countries regarding their debt,” Jadaan said, according to Reuters.
Speaking at the same conference, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman revealed that they had signed preliminary agreements with African countries such as Nigeria, Senegal, Chad and Ethiopia on energy-related cooperation.
The summit comes against the backdrop of regional politics that have been instigated by the war in Gaza, involving Israel and Hamas fighters.
The summit is seen as an opportunity for Saudi Arabia to strengthen its political, economic, and social ties with Africa.
“Saudi officials said the event reflects the Kingdom’s keenness to consolidate its relations with the African continent, which is one of the most important axes for the future of the global economy,” the PPU noted.
“It also comes as an extension of the Kingdom’s efforts to enhance economic cooperation and coordination and benefit from the available investment opportunities.”
President Kiir, who is in the company of many national ministers, is also expected to champion the discussion on the country’s concern for regional security, particularly the Sudanese conflict.
Both Sudan and Saudi Arabia have been independently pursuing a ceasefire in Sudan.
Last month, Juba hosted the signatories of Sudan’s Juba Peace Agreement signed in 2020 to bring peace to Sudan post-removal of former leader Omar al-Bashir.
It is during this meeting that the parties resolved that President Kiir should invite the allies of Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, who leads the Sudan Armed Forces, and Gen. Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti), who commands the Rapid Support Forces, for a ceasefire talk.
Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is teaming up with the US to pursue a ceasefire between the two warring factions. In May 2023, the two countries, through the Jeddah Declaration, managed to strike a short-term ceasefire and humanitarian arrangements to bring peace to Sudan. However, the truce was short-lived after both sides breached it.