LATEST: Machar becomes South Sudan vice-president and urges unity

Various Sources, Tuesday, April 26/2016;

IN SUMMARY:
South Sudan won independence in July 2011 after decades of conflict with Sudan’s government in Khartoum, with Machar serving as vice-president from then until July 2013 when he was sacked by Kiir.

South Sudan’s rebel chief Riek Machar finally returned to Juba on Tuesday and was sworn in as vice-president of the world’s newest country, calling for “unity” after more than two years of ferocious civil war.

“We need to bring our people together so they can unite and heal the wounds,” said Machar, greeted by ministers, diplomats and the release of white doves as he stepped out of a UN plane, after a week-long delay that had threatened a long-negotiated peace deal.

Machar, who was originally due back on April 18, headed immediately to the presidential palace to be sworn in alongside his longtime arch rival, President Salva Kiir.

Kiir, who shook the hand of Machar and called him “my brother”, said they would “work immediately” to set up a unity government.

“I am very happy to welcome and warmly receive my brother Dr. Riek Machar,” Kiir said. “I have no doubt that his return to Juba today marks the end of the war and the return of peace and stability to South Sudan.”

South Sudan won independence in July 2011 after decades of conflict with Sudan’s government in Khartoum, with Machar serving as vice-president from then until July 2013 when he was sacked by Kiir.

His delay in returning to Juba under the terms of an August 2015 peace deal had infuriated the international community after months of negotiations spent on getting the rivals to return to the city and share power.

“I am very committed to implement this agreement so that the process of national reconciliation and healing is started as soon as possible, so that the people can have faith in the country that they fought for, for so long,” Machar said on being sworn in.

Ensuring they work together in a unity government, and that the thousands of rival armed forces now in separate camps inside the capital keep their guns quiet, will be an even bigger challenge.

Deep suspicion

In New York, UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the Security Council that Machar’s return “should open a new chapter for the country. It should allow the real transition to begin.”

The United States and the United Nations had mounted pressure on Machar to return to Juba without delay.

“The scope of future US engagement in helping South Sudan confront the country’s security, economic and development challenges … will depend on the parties demonstrating commitment to work together to implement the agreement,” the US State Department said in a statement.

Both sides remain deeply suspicious, and fighting continues with multiple militia forces unleashed who now pay no heed to either Kiir or Machar.

Machar’s return had been stalled by arguments that at one point, in a country awash with weapons, came down to a dispute about just over two dozen rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns that the force guarding him were allowed to have.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than two million driven from their homes in the conflict, which has reignited ethnic divisions and been characterised by gross human rights abuses.

The economy is in ruins, over five million people need aid and over 180,000 people are crammed into UN peacekeeping camps, too terrified to venture outside the razor wire fences for fear of being killed.

Tensions are high, and the days ahead will be critical.

“We need the guns to stay silent and give people time — both as official warring parties and as individuals — with one another in coming days,” said Casie Copeland from the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank.

Suffering is on an epic scale. Parts of the country, especially the devastated oil producing northern Unity region, have been pushed to the brink of famine.

There are huge expectations Machar’s arrival means the myriad of problems will be solved swiftly — but there will be no quick fix.

Machar’s Interview with Al Jazeera: The Future of peace in South Sudan
Al Jazeera: The matter of the 28 states – has that been resolved?

Riek Machar: If we take the IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development) communique, the 28 states issue will be shelved until a month after we form the government of national unity. We will together discuss the need of having 28 states, maintaining the 10 that are already in place, or finding a middle ground. I think it’s no longer an obstacle to the formation of the transitional government of national unity, nor is it any more an obstacle in trying to have an agreed draft for the constitution.

Al Jazeera: There’s so much mistrust between your side and the government. How will you govern a country with such division.

Riek Machar: I don’t think there is what you call mistrust. There are disagreements. There was disagreement over the 28 states. Sometimes there’s different interpretation of the text of the agreement. This I can’t say to be mistrust.

Al Jazeera: Every time progress is made, a new condition comes up. South Sudanese are frustrated. Will there be further stumbling blocks?

Riek Machar: I think you are a good judge and you know what’s wrong. If the government introduces 28 states 39 days after the peace agreement was signed by them, that is clearly creating an obstacle to the implementation of the peace agreement. In actual fact for the past three weeks, the discussion was over this issue. The lack of progress on the constitution was because of this issue.

Al Jazeera: Can you assure the people of South Sudan that you will not go back to Juba with more conditions, and you will, together with the government, form this transitional government they’ve been waiting so long for?

Riek Machar: I want to be in Juba. I want the government of national unity to be formed as soon as possible. All we need is to ensure that the obstacles that were creating difficulties for us are removed. There should be no reason to delay the formation of the transitional government of national unity. Once Juba is demilitarised – the troops that are supposed to take over the security of the city are deployed from both sides – then I will be in Juba. Juba is my home. END

4 Comments

  1. Gatdarwich says:

    It’s now time to bring the perpetrators of the December 15, 2013–Nuer massacre in Juba to book period
    It’s time for true Justice–AN EYE FOR AN EYE, otherwise, there won’t be permanent peace in South Sudan full stop

  2. Beek says:

    His uniform itself is very very good for his supporters.

  3. Mabor says:

    Dr Machar is right because trust can be built. So the issue of 28 States will not derail peace implementation. If Mr Machar and Mr Kiir want this country to be in peace, then all these obstacles should be resolved amicably. It’s good the two men described themselves as brothers yesterday in Juba, which demonstrates a good gesture.

  4. Deng says:

    For the sake of peace I welcome their reunion however, I am equally disappointed for the shame, the massive lost of innocent lives and the destruction of property they have created. I don’t really know what their innocent victims could say now if they see these two murderers reunited again and began to call themselves brothers, shame on you criminals!!

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