October 12, 2016 (KHARTOUM) - South Sudan’s former first vice-president and armed opposition leader, Riek Machar, said President Salva Kiir is responsible for the renewed violence in the capital, Juba, and the collapse of the August 2015 peace agreement the two leaders signed to end 21 months of civil war in the country.
Machar made the public comment to reporters in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on Wednesday for the first time after arriving in Khartoum at the end of August. He gave the statement to reporters at Khartoum airport as he was leaving for South Africa to receive further medical treatment.
The opposition leader who fled Juba following street battle which started at the palace on 8 July and in his residence on 10 July between his small number of troops and huge number of forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, narrated to journalists how the violence erupted that forced him to cross into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
On 17 August, United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo airlifted him from the South Sudan-DRC border to inside the neighbouring country. He was subsequently transferred to Khartoum for medical treatment.
He told reporters at Khartoum airport upon his departure on Wednesday that he was heading for South Africa for further medical examinations, saying he would meet his personal doctor.
However, Machar didn’t specify his next destination after South Africa. The opposition leader pointed out that he arrived in Khartoum from the DRC seeking medical treatment after President Omer al-Bashir agreed to host him in Sudan.
He thanked the Sudanese people and government, President al-Bashir and the doctors who treated him, saying he regained his full health.
Machar pointed that the Politburo of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) has met and taken a number of decisions on the ongoing developments in South Sudan, saying they noticed the lack of initiatives to rescue the peace agreement.
“Until yesterday we haven’t seen any regional or international or African Union initiative to rescue the agreement,” he said.
The opposition leader further said they believe the peace deal and the government had both collapsed since July events, stressing the present government in Juba is not the transitional government of national unity but a “new regime installed by Salva Kiir.”
Machar accused President Kiir of declaring war on him and his forces, saying they will now organize a resistance even to overthrow him from power.
“We seek to achieve a political and peaceful solution for the issue … Salva has declared war against us and we would resist and organize ourselves to resist the government even if that will lead to overthrowing it,” he said.
“Salva is the one who started violence against us at the [presidential] palace and he continues until today to attack our forces … major clashes are ongoing now in Equatoria, Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal and we are not responsible for it … the political solution is our first option,” he added.
He said Kiir lured him to the palace in order to assassinate him and that he was not aware of the plot.
He described how the clashes erupted on 8 July, saying “I was invited by President Kiir for a meeting in the presidential palace to discuss state matters but didn’t know there was a plot to assassinate me.”
Machar added that clashes between his guards and Kiir’s forces erupted 45 minutes after the meeting had convened and continued for about an hour, saying Kiir’s forces stopped their plot after they realized that we may all get killed.
He added that a meeting between him and Kiir was scheduled to be held in the next day but the latter postponed it.
“After that we were surprised by a two-day attack against the area where we are located … I was in constant contact with the President of the Republic, and I told him that we must stop these clashes, but he insisted on taking our sites in Juba by force,” he explained.
“Following these developments I called for a meeting and decided to withdraw my troops … I went south towards [Yei] Equatoria … we were being hunted down by ground troops while warplanes continued to bomb our sites …I walked on foot for 37 days until we arrived in the DRC where I contacted the government via some governments in the region and I also contacted the U.N. and asked them to help us leave for a safe zone,” he further narrated.
Barely five years after its independence from neighbouring Sudan, South Sudan has descended into civil war in December 2013. Tens of thousands of South Sudanese civilians were killed and more than 2 million displaced.
Last year, Machar and Kiir signed a peace accord to end nearly two years of violence. The deal created a transitional government to last for 30 months in which Kiir was to remain President and Machar as first vice president.
However, clashes erupted again last July between the two rivals forcing over 200,000 people to flee the country, bringing the number of South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring nations to over 1 million.