December 18, 2016 (PRETORIA/NAIROBI)- South Sudan rebel leader, Riek Machar has rejected President Salva Kiir’s call for national dialogue in the war-torn nation, describing the move as “bogus”.
- First Vice-President Riek Machar (L) and President Salva Kiir (R) listen to the national anthem following a ceremony during which Machar was sworn in on April 26, 2016. (Phot AFP/Samir Bol)
In an interview with the Associated Press (AP) from South Africa, Machar said there must be peace talks to end the civil war before any such dialogue, as announced by the president, takes place.
Last week, President Kiir announced an inclusive dialogue which he says will be led by “eminent personalities” accepted as credible, genuine and trusted by all rival parties in the young nation.
Addressing members of South Sudan’s Parliament in the capital, Juba Wednesday, President Kiir asked for forgiveness for all the wrongs he could have committed.
"National dialogue in my view is both a forum and process through which the people of South Sudan can gather to redefine the basis of their unity as it relates to nationhood, and sense of belonging," said the South Sudan leader.
"In the light of national endeavor, I am calling upon all of you to forgive one another, enter dialogue with one another in your personal capacities, embrace yourself," he added.
However, although the South Sudanese leader did not mention Machar’s name in the speech, he insisted that armed groups opposed to his government will be represented at grassroots level.
Tens of thousands have been killed in South Sudan’s civil war, and more than a million refugees have fled the country. The United Nations recently warned that South Sudan is at risk of genocide as fighting escalates in the southern Equatoria region of the country.
Meanwhile, South Sudan’s former political detainees have welcomed President Kiir’s “belated” call for a national dialogue.
“We are happy that he has finally listened to the yearning of the people of South Sudan for dialogue and broader engagement to resolve the current conflict, heal and reconcile our nation,” Kosti Manibe, a member of the ex-detainees, said in a release.
He said meaningful dialogue will be possible if, and only if, certain principles are adhered to as has been suggested by many experts and those concerned South Sudan’s current situation, citing transparency and public participation; credibility of the convener (preferably an institution with political and moral clout); the agenda to address the root causes of the conflict; clear mandate that appropriately tackles structure, rules and procedures; and agreed objectives and outcome of the dialogue.
“We encourage all the political actors and stakeholders to come up with their view on the dialogue being proposed,” said Kosti.
“In the end, our objective is to pull our country out of the present quagmire and put it back on the track of state and nation building on new basis,” he added.