July 16, 2016 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s leader, Salva Kiir has called for direct talks with first vice-president, Riek Machar, saying he detests further bloodshed in the young nation.
- President Salva Kiir greets First Vice President Riek Machar before to start a meeting at the South Sudanese presidency in Juba on 3 June 2016 (Photo Moses Lomayat)
President Kiir said he and the opposition leader should talk to salvage peace.
The South Sudanese leader has now dispatched Nhial Deng Nhial, his special envoy and an adviser on foreign affairs to the African Union summit in Rwanda, with an assurance to regional and global leaders about his commitment to talks with his rival.
"I don’t want any more bloodshed in South Sudan," stated Kiir.
"I have been ready to resume talks on the issues we were discussing before this thing [violence] erupted. We were left with few things to conclude the discussions so that we begin with the implementation [the August 2015 peace agreement]", he added.
The president was speaking for the first time since his forces clashed at the presidential palace with those loyal to Machar last week, leaving more than 270 soldiers from the two sides dead, officials have confirmed.
The head of Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), Festus Mogae and the African Union special envoy, Alpha Oumar Konare stood alongside President Kiir.
President Kiir also vowed he would provide protection to Machar and his forces, citing the amnesty he had issued after declaring ceasefire as a guarantee for the security of his deputy and his forces.
"Nobody is hunting for him and his forces. If he comes, I will protect him. He will stay with me if feels he is not safe staying alone", he said.
Meanwhile, Machar claimed the fighting that erupted between his bodyguards and Kiir’s forces in the capital was calculated to kill him.
The ex-rebel leader told BBC Focus on Africa on Friday after abandoning his base in the outskirts of Juba, that he is “around Juba” but would neither disclose his location nor return to town to meet the president until the security issues were addressed.
Machar was responding to the call by President Kiir to meet him.
The country’s first vice-president, however, said he feared for the lives of his officials and for himself after the incident, adding he was also worried about the safety of his ministers currently inside Juba.
“We have a pending meeting, he as president and me as vice president. And also if it were a normal situation, we would meet, but the incident that took place on the 8th [July] in the State House is a very despicable incident, where there was a shootout, and a dog fight, when we were in a meeting,” Machar told the London-based station.
“To me that was a calculated plan to kill me,” he added.
Machar, who also leads an opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, said he was willing to return back to Juba, but after a third force is deployed the South Sudanese capital to take charge and ensure safety and no return to violent confrontations.
He said he could not trust Kiir’s assurance to protect him and his officials.
“That is why the IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] Council of Ministers decided that there should be an intervention force, third force, that be deployed in Juba and Juba be demilitarized,” he said.
Machar said he was now waiting for the outcome of a proposed meeting in Juba of the chiefs of defence forces from the region on how to tackle security in Africa’s newest nation.