South Sudan is committed to peace and will not return to civil war, the country’s vice president said in a meeting with his South African opposite number late Tuesday.
“We are implementing peace because we have no other option than having peace,” Taban Deng Gai said in a statement released following the meeting with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in Cape Town.
“More violence is not an option in Africa or South Sudan.”
Deng added that elections could be held within the next 30 months.
“The country is peaceful now,” he said. “There is no crisis. Deputy president, the government is running now — we have a united government.”
Ramaphosa, who was involved in negotiations to end South Sudan’s 2013-2015 civil war, invited Deng to South Africa to brief ministers on his country’s political situation.
The war between President Salva Kiir’s mostly ethnic Dinka forces and rival Nuer led by Riek Machar ran from December 2013 until a peace deal in August last year. Tens of thousands of people were killed and more than 2 million were displaced during the violence.
In April, Machar returned to Juba to join a unity government led by Kiir but after fighting broke out between the factions in July he fled the country and was replaced by Deng, a member of Machar’s camp, as first vice president.
Speaking about Machar, Deng said: “Riek is impatient‚ he is not waiting for elections. He sees himself as a president-in-waiting. He is seeing himself a parallel president.
“So if he has removed himself from all those difficulties‚ if he goes back to Juba a peaceful person‚ then he is welcome to Juba. Otherwise‚ we are telling him the option is not going back to war.”
Deng called on South Africans to invest in oil-rich but impoverished South Sudan.
“There are huge resources in oil and other minerals,” he said. “South Africa has the technology — they have the capacity to help us tap into those resources so that people can move forward with developing their country.”
Ramaphosa “welcomed that guns have gone silent” and said a team had been set up to work on “matters of mutual interest”.