Africa in the news: South Sudan peace ceremony and South African Airways update

FILE PHOTO: A South African Airways Airbus A320-200 aircraft (bottom) arrives as a Kenya Airways Boeing 737-800 aircraft prepares to take off at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, March 8, 2017. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo - RC1E35E6C420

South Sudan rebel leader returns to Juba for peace ceremony

On Wednesday, South Sudan hosted a ceremony to mark the implementation of a new peace agreement between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar signed earlier this year. The ceremony held in Juba, the country’s capital, saw Riek Machar return to the country for the first time since 2016. He fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2016 after violence broke out in the capital. Speaking at the ceremony, Machar reaffirmed his commitment to peace and announced that the new agreement will lead to the creation of a federal government. As part of the peace process, President Salva Kiir announced the release of two political prisoners who had worked for opposition leader Riek Machar.

South Africa’s finance minister suggests shutting down state airline

This week, South Africa’s Finance Minister Tito Mboweni suggested that the country should shut down loss-making national carrier South African Airways, which received a fresh injection of 5 billion rand ($350 million) last week as part of the government’s mid-year budget update. Speaking at an investor conference, Mboweni noted that the airline is “loss-making, we are unlikely to sort out the situation, so my view would be close it down.” Further explaining his position, he highlighted that there is likely little private sector interest in investing in the airline. The airline has been unprofitable since 2011 and has regularly required government guarantees to continue operating. According to the “Financial Times,” the airline has required $2 billion in government bailouts over the past few years.

In other aviation news, Kenya Airways began operating its non-stop direct flight between Nairobi and New York this week. The direct flight is expected to boost trade between the two countries particularly in perishable items including horticulture products from Kenya.