March 15, 2017 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan’s armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO) led by former Vice President, Riek Machar downplayed on Wednesday Juba’s call to designate group as “negative force” and instead called on president Salva Kiir regime to denounce violence and seek a political settlement to the conflict.
- Rebel fighters greet one another at a rebel camp in South Sudan’s Jonglei state on 1 February 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
South Sudan government on Sunday called on regional leaders and the world to designate the armed opposition as a "negative force".
Members of parliament representing both the upper and lower houses in South Sudan have reportedly been lobbying the regional bloc, IGAD member states who participated at the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to accept their push seeking to designate, Machar-led opposition group as a "negative force".
Juba further requested for more intelligence and security support from regional countries to squash opposition activities that threaten regional peace and stability.
South Sudan further commended efforts by Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan for isolating rebel leader and encouraged to isolate more elements of the group.
"The statements issued by the government in Juba calling for the region to designate our gallant freedom fighters as negative force is uncalled for", Peter Oyoyo Kleto, the SPLM-IO deputy representative to Tanzania told Sudan Tribune in an email.
“These are statements coming from people who are suffering from what to do. It is the government forces that should be designated by the region and the world as a negative force,” said Kleto.
He argued that government forces are responsible for raping of women, burning of homes, looting of properties and carrying on serious offensives on our forces across the country and should rather be designated as a negative forces..
“Our forces are only defending themselves and you know self-defense is a right. Our forces are fighting for democracy, justice, equality and prosperity for all; therefore, it would be a grave mistake for the region to designate such a force as a negative force” he added.
Juba said the SPLM-I0 should be labeled as a "negative force" hence their forces have continued fighting while a national dialogue is declared which Juba believes is the only way to attain a lasting political solution to South Sudan’s political crises.
This is not the first time for Juba to make calls on region and the world to designate the opposition group as negative force.
In July 9, 2015 when South Sudan was marking Independence Day Anniversary the country’s then Vice President, James Wani Igga, made similar calls however his calls weren’t given much attention.
Various international organizations and panel of experts have clearly called for a political process to revive the peace agreement.
The opposition group says the group under Machar leadership has majority of support inside and outside the country and any attempt to sideline him will be disastrous and will not return genuine peace to the country.
Kleto said SPLM/A-IO under leadership of Riek Machar has from day one advocated for a peaceful settlement to the conflict so as to end the suffering of the people once and for all.
The opposition official accused the government of only interested in military solution to the conflict.
He further held President Kiir’s government responsible for the collapse of the August 2015 peace deal, which the South Sudanese leader signed with his former First Vice-President, Machar.
“The regime in Juba should put the interest of the national above their personal interests otherwise a sustainable peace will be difficult to be realized,” Kleto said.
Kleto called up on president Kiir to join the “wise voices” that are calling for a political process to revive the August 2015 Agreement arguing that agreement addresses the root causes of the conflict if implemented in spirit and letter.
South Sudan gained independence in 2011 following decades of hard fought gorilla struggle. The country plagued in to a civil war in December 2013 after President Kiir accused his former deputy turned rebel leader, of attempting a coup, allegations he the latter denies.
Ethiopia hosted the peace negotiations between South Sudan government and rebels between January 2014 and August 2015.
The war has displaced more than South Sudanese flee their home country.
Ethiopia alone hosts over 380,000 South Sudan refugees who currently are being sheltered at different camps in Gambela region.