South Sudan embattled opposition leader Riek Machar who fled the country two months ago, says there is need for a process to revive the peace deal signed last August.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency in Johannesburg this week, Machar said there was a need to return to peace and form a national unity government.
“President Salva Kiir started the war in July, breaking the peace agreement,” Machar said, accusing this of leading to the collapse of a tentative administration.
Machar said he hoped the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) — a regional body which had led the South Sudanese talks process — might play a role in reviving it.
He claimed Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni recently called him for a meeting, saying he wanted to see a political process revived.
The war between President Kiir’s mostly ethnic-Dinka forces and rival Nuer — led by Riek Machar — ran from December 2013 until a peace deal was reached in August last year.
Tens of thousands of people were killed and more than two 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 Taban Deng, a member of his camp, as first vice president.
Machar said it was important for peace to be immediately restored in South Sudan to allow for the return of displaced civilians and create a conducive environment for investors.
He said his rebel group was still willing to negotiate with Kiir.
Machar travelled to South Africa this month from Sudan for medical checks. When asked by Anadolu Agency about his health, he said he was fine: “I am here for checkups. I already had treatment in Khartoum,” he said.
‘I have a role to play’
He also refuted comments made this week by President Kiir claiming he had no role to play in the country’s politics and should not return before elections in 2018.
“President Kiir does not determine my role, but only the SPLM-IO [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition],” he said.
Machar maintained he had an important role to play in his country because he was part of the peace agreement.
“President Kiir should not be given too much power in implementing the peace agreement because it was not signed between two friends but rather two enemies,” Machar told Anadolu Agency.
When asked if he was afraid of being assassinated if he returns to Juba, Machar said: “Well, if there is a new process, leaders will be given protection. I was almost killed last time [in July]” he said.
He said the process of holding elections is outlined in the peace agreement which involves reforms and transitional justice in the country.
He also denied claims by the South Sudan government that his troops have been burning buses and attacking civilians on the country’s highways.
“We don’t kill civilians or burn buses, but there is a war going on and it’s unfortunate that there are civilian causalities,” he said.
He regretted that many of his fellow countrymen had been displaced from their homes and became refuges.
Asked if elections were held in a peaceful and transparent manner, would he win, he said “definitely yes,” adding that Kiir’s regime has collapsed.