January 14, 2014 (NAIROBI) - Former South Sudanese vice-president turned rebel leader, Riek Machar, said his troops would not stop fighting unless Juba releases the political detainees and the Ugandan forces are withdrawn from the country.
- South Sudanese army soldier stands near belongings thrown on the street of Malakal town, Dece 30, 2013 after retaking the town from rebel fighters. (Photo Reuters/James Akena)
Regional mediators flanked by the US special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan met last Saturday 11 January with Machar, attempting to persuade him to support a draft agreement for the cessation of hostilities which remains the immediate concern for the international community before political talks.
We "will not sign a ceasefire with the government unless foreign troops of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), which he added are "now taking part in the fighting for president Salva Kiir are withdrawn from South Sudan and the political detainees allied to him are released", he told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
"If such demands are met," Machar said, “only then can the two sides further discuss the root causes of the political misunderstandings which internally originated from the ruling party of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)", he emphasised.
No progress was noticed Tuesday in Addis Ababa in the ongoing talks between the two delegations, as the government of president Salva Kiir refuses to release the 11 political detainees including former SPLM secretary general Pagan Amum, Deng Alor, former minister of cabinet affairs, Oyai Deng Ajak, former minister for national security among others.
Machar said the detainees are member of his negotiating team for the next step of the talks. The current delegation in Addis Ababa is led by the former governor of Unity state Taban Deng.
The fighting between the two rival groups of the SPLM started on 15 December when units of the presidential guards clashed on the basis of their ethnic groups in which the Dinka fought against the Nuer.
The violence fitted the Dinka against the Nuer, although thousands of Nuer soldiers are believed to be fighting on the side of President Kiir including their commanders such as the army Chief of General Staff, Gen. James Hoth Mai, the SPLA sector II commander in Upper Nile state, Gen. Johnson Gony Biliu, besides other generals like Gen. Bapiny Monytuil and Gen. Pul Jang in Unity state.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday renewed his call on the South Sudanese parties to stop fighting and to "engage constructively with the IGAD led negotiation process".
He reaffirmed the strict impartiality of the United Nations adding that the reinforced mission in South Sudan will continue actively to protect the affected civilians.
The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, discussed the South Sudan conflict with the Vatican secretary of state, cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin during a meeting held in Rome on Tuesday.
"There is a large Catholic population in South Sudan. President Kiir, himself, is Catholic, and I think that our efforts over the last days could be augmented by the efforts of the Holy See (the Vatican) with respect to trying to end the violence and bring about a peaceful resolution", Kerry said after the meeting.