6 May 2014

South Sudan: President Kiir Accepts Interim Government With Riek Machar

Photo: /Julio Brathwaite/UN
Civilians displaced by fighting at a United Nations facility on the outskirts of Juba. Up to 13,000 civilians have sought refuge at UN compounds.

Juba — South Sudan's president, Salva Kiir, has accepted the formation of an interim government, which includes former vice-president turned rebel leader Riek Machar. A top aide said the president expressed his willingness on this new administration during Tuesday's meeting with the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki moon in the capital, Juba.

"The president has accepted that the government delegation at talks [in Addis Ababa] go ahead with all the discussions, including the interim arrangements," the aide told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.

"He wants this conflict to be brought to an end so that a new page is opened, if the formation of the interim administration with Riek and his group can bring peace and stability to the country," he added.

The South Sudanese leader also assured both leaders of his readiness for direct talks with the rebel leader as a way to resolve the ongoing violence in the new nation.

"He (Kiir) had accepted the formation of transitional government in these meetings and has already authorised the delegation at the negotiation to go ahead with all the discussions, including the interim arrangements," the presidential aide said.

READY TO END VIOLENCE

Meanwhile, Kiir said he was ready to remove any obstacle to bring peace in the country, reaffirming his willingness to directly meet his former deputy Machar.

"The priority now is to bring peace so that our people return to their homes. With our friends and the international community, we will work together to remove any obstacle to end this conflict. Our delegation at the peace talks has been given full mandate to negotiate in good faith so that they come with peace," Kiir remarked on Tuesday.

The head of state told journalists at a new conference after holding a high level meeting with the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, that his government was working hard to stop the fighting so that people could return to their homes.

"The priority of the government now is to stop this unnecessary war so that the people could return to their homes. The return of the people who have been affected by this conflict to their homes now is one of the main objectives and focus of the negotiation," said the South Sudanese leader.

"This is because we feel there would be serious disaster if we do not allow our people to cultivate now," he added.

Kiir said he was ready to travel to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to meet rebel leader Machar, even if the meeting took place soon after he met Ki moon.

"I have assured His Excellency [Ban Ki-Moon] that I am ready now to travel to Addis Ababa, to go and meet with Riek Machar, if he will accept to meet me," he said.

COOPERATION WITH UN MISSION

Kiir said he had also assured the UN secretary-general of his government's "continuous cooperation with UNMISS (UN Mission in South Sudan) authorities".

"The period we have spent with UNMISS under the leadership of Hilde F. Johnson was a fruitful time," he said.

"[She] has been working with us hand in hand and whatever happened during our crisis, these were misunderstandings but (there is) nothing that happens in human life that cannot be corrected," he added.

Meanwhile, the UN chief welcomed the president's decision to directly meet rebel leader Machar, describing it as a necessary step for the return of peace to the nation.

"I visited displaced persons ... The United Nations will continue to help them so that they will be able to return to their homes as soon as possible," he said. "For that to be possible there should be peace and security," Ban said on Tuesday.

The UN chief vowed to speak with Machar and urge him to find a political solution to the crisis in the country, through dialogue.

"Even though they may have some different political views, there is nothing which they cannot overcome," said Ban.

"They are the same people, same country - this is their country," he added.

Ban also called on both leaders and those in command of military units to fully protect the civilian population and also respect international humanitarian and human rights laws, adding that those who committed crimes would be brought to justice.

"The United Nations is behind the people of South Sudan, and that is why I am here," he said.

LIP SERVICE?

Analysts, however, expressed scepticism over Kiir's statements, with some arguing it was simply an attempt to diffuse mounting international pressure on his administration to stop military offensive against rebel fighters.

"There was nothing new in the statement I have heard today. The president as usual expressed readiness to bring peace but has that ever happened? We have heard similar and powerful statements before. It is one thing to say something and it is completely another to put into action. Our people have had enough rhetoric and political narratives without substantive action," a critic of the Kiir administration who spoke on condition of anonymity told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.

"The statements we have heard before were merely uttered for public relations. There was nothing serious about them," he added.

However, the country's deputy foreign affairs minister said Kiir's government had done everything possible to bring peace to the country, but that the rebels have never reciprocated on their part.

"The government has as a matter of principle made it abundantly clear that it is fully committed to working for peace and reconciliation so that our people live together as brothers and sisters. The visit of the United Nations secretary-general is therefore complimentary to the current efforts to end this conflict," said Peter Bashir Gbandi.

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