December 30, 2013 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s former vice-president Riek Machar has said his group welcomes regional leaders’ calls for cessation of hostilities, but warned that the involvement of the Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni in the conflict, could further fuel it.
- South Sudan’s former vice-president Riek Machar (Getty)
“We are ready to ceasefire immediately to stop the bloodletting once the Government of Salva Kiir reciprocates”, partly reads the rebels statement signed by Hussein Mar Nyuot.
“We call upon the AU [African Union] and the IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] to restrain Ugandan Government from fuelling the conflict by sending troops and war planes in support of the Government of Salva Kiir,” it adds.
Machar’ response comes in the wake of Tuesday’s deadline for a ceasefire between his forces and those loyal to government as agreed upon by IGAD leaders at Friday’s summit held in Nairobi, Kenya.
The Ugandan leader, on Monday, said the rebels were only given four days to comply with the agreement or face “defeat”.
“We gave him [Machar] four days and [agreed that] if he doesn’t [comply with the agreement], then we shall have to go for him. That is what we agreed on”, Museveni told reporters in Juba.
Museveni, a close ally of Kiir, also admitted that he sent Ugandan troops to “help restore hope” in South Sudan, confirming his military’s involvement in the conflict. He did not, however, elaborate on how the region intends to defeat a rebellion, which has quickly spread to the country’s key towns.
But Machar’s group, in a statement, warned that any aggression from the Ugandan army could compromise IGAD’s attempt to broker a peace deal between the conflicting parties.
“If not stopped, the UPDF’s aggression may compromise IGAD attempt to remain instrumental and neutral in bringing an end the crisis in South Sudan,” says the statement extended by Sudan Tribune.
Machar said he was committed to peaceful means of resolving the conflict, which has taken an ethnic dimension since it started on 15 December in the capital, Juba.
He however expressed concerns about the safety and security of about nine senior politicians detained by the country’s leadership in connection with the violent incident, which has claimed more than 1,000 lives and left tens of thousands homeless.
“We are worried about the safety and security of our comrades detained by Salva Kiir. We call on AU and IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government to bring pressure to bear on the Government of Salva Kiir to release unconditionally all the eleven politicians detained in Juba”, further says the statement.
The former vice-president and his group maintained the incident had nothing to do with a coup attempt, describing government allegations as “not acceptable”.
Diplomats and the international community view dialogue as the only way of resolving the worst-ever outbreak of conflict in the country since its independence in July 2011.
It however remains unclear what dimensions the conflict would now take ahead of Tuesday’s ceasefire deadline given by regional leaders from the IGAD countries.