October 17, 2016 (KAMPALA) - South Sudan’s former First Vice-President, Riek Machar has vowed a return to the country, months after violent clashes forced him out of the capital, Juba.
- Machar speaks on a mobile phone after an interview with Reuters in Kenya’s capital Nairobi July 8, 2015
In an interview on BBC’s Hard talk programme, Machar said he was optimistic of negotiating a peace deal with South Sudan President Salva Kiir.
"I’m going to return to South Sudan,” he said from South Africa, adding, "Because President Salva Kiir doesn’t want democratic and transparent and fair elections to be conducted, he attacked us, he has restarted the war.”
Machar’s forces and those loyal to President Kiir clashed in Juba on the eve of the country’s Independence Day, leaving over 200 dead. The incident forced the rebel leader out of Juba, to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Khartoum for treatment.
Renewed violence in the young nation, aid agencies say, has forced over 100,000 civilians to flee into South Sudan’s neighbouring nations.
Machar, a signatory to the now fragile peace deal that led to formation of a coalition government, urged regional and African leaders to help in the restoration of South Sudan’s peace process.
"But I am hoping that wise leaders in the region, and in Africa and the rest of the world will throw up a political process which will bring about peace again, and the resuscitation of the peace agreement, and the reconstitution of the transitional government of national unity,” he told the London-based station.
The rebel leader said he was not warmonger, stressing that his troops only defended themselves against attacks from government forces.
KIIR CONDITIONS MACHAR’S RETURN
President Kiir said Machar would only be allowed to return to the young nation if he denounces violence and allows the current coalition government to implement the 2015 peace agreement.
“The region should stand with the transitional government of national unity to implement the agreement on the resolution of the conflict in the republic of South Sudan. This was the agreement they [regional leaders and friends] made themselves despite our observations but we accepted because we wanted peace and stability in this country," Kiir said Saturday.
He added, "And I believe the events of July should themselves be proof of concerns which South Sudanese were raising. If they want this agreement to be implemented, they should allow the current first vice president and his team to work with me and other leaders ready to cooperate to implement this agreement."
The South Sudanese leader was speaking at an occasion he hosted at his residence. A number of with senior cabinet members, security and high-ranking military officers attended the event, a few days after rumour spread that the president had "died".
President Kiir relieved Machar of his post, appointing the rebel’s ex-chief negotiator, Taban Deng Gai as the first Vice President in South Sudan’s interim government.
Machar has, however, described Gai’s appointment as "illegal".
The opposition leader has called for rapid deployment of the African Union-approved regional forces in order to salvage the peace agreement signed in August 2015.