August 5, 2014 (WASHINGTON) – South Sudanese president Salva Kiir reiterated on Tuesday accusations against rebel leader Riek Machar, saying the latter was not in full control on his fighters and expressed readiness to end the country’s nearly eight month conflict.
- President Salva Kiir with US secretary of state John Kerry as they hold a bilateral meeting at the US-Africa Business Forum in Washington on 5 August 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Jim Bourg)
President Kiir, currently in Washington to participate in the three-day United States-Africa summit focused on business and trade promotions, met US secretary of state John Kerry, the senate foreign relations committee chairman, Robert Menendez and Ed Royce, the House foreign affairs committee chairman.
Speaking to the press after meeting Kerry, the South Sudan leader said his government finds it difficult to implement the cessation of hostilities agreement signed on 23 January with rebels, adding they recommitted to this deal on 9 May and 10 June without tangible results.
“I always say that Riek Machar is not in control of what he calls his army. And so each commanders in different areas are operating on their own,” Kiir stated at a joint media briefing with Kerry.
“If peace was to be brought to South Sudan today or tomorrow, I will be happy because the people who are dying on both sides are my people,” he further said, emphasising that he remains the president legitimately elected by “all the people of South Sudan”.
The two warring parties have repeatedly accused each other of breaching the cessation of hostilities agreement as the peace process has now stalled over who can participate in the direct negotiations.
On Tuesday, however, US officials stressed on the need for South Sudanese leaders to end clashes, to ensure unfettered humanitarian access in the war zones and to commit to the IGAD-led process in order to reach a peace deal and to form a transitional government by 10 August.
Kerry described the meeting with president Kiir as “timely”, given that South Sudan was suffering the fate of being the most food-insecure nation in the world as a consequence of “manmade” circumstances.
“There is a struggle going on, which has been going on for some time, in which innocent civilians are caught up. And president Kiir has agreed along with the former vice president Riek Machar to negotiate, and ultimately to engage in the creation of a unity transition government,” said Kerry.
That transition government, the US secretary of state stressed needs to be negotiated, acknowledging the contributions of neighbouring Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia in efforts to bring the conflicting parties together to achieve peace.
“So our hope is that we can have a discussion today that helps to clarify the road ahead, to try to minimize the violence,” stressed Kerry.
REBEL LEADER BLAMED
The US secretary of state said rebel leader Machar should stick to the agreed ceasefire, which he broke after he “took his troops back into a violent status”.
"And he [Machar] needs to understand the importance of living by the agreements. In my conversations with the prime minister of Ethiopia, who made it clear this is his judgment also, he needs to understand the international community is going to be impatient with those breaches”, said Kerry.
Congressional leaders Menendez and Royce called on both parties to the South Sudanese conflict to recommit themselves to a lasting peace for the sake of the suffering population.
“We are gravely concerned by the continuing crisis in the world’s newest nation, where over a million people are displaced and a man-made famine looms. We are deeply disappointed by South Sudan’s terrible slide backwards into violence and hunger, and stand in solidarity with the South Sudanese people, whose lives now depend upon constructive actions from their political leaders," the two leaders said in a joint statement issued Tuesday.
The congressional leaders specifically urged Kiir to immediately halt all military operations in his nation and uphold the cessation of hostilities agreement, ensure unfettered humanitarian access for the United Nations mission and aid organizations, and fully commit to ongoing negotiations convened by the International Governmental Authority on Development.
They pressed for Kiir to lead the effort to reach an agreement for a transitional government by the 10 August deadline and to establish credible accountability measures for those who have committed atrocities, so that national healing might begin.
The SPLM-in-Opposition on Tuesday renewed its demand for direct talks with the government, saying that the other stakeholders should have a consultative role and not to be directly involved as it is set by the mediation.