S. Sudan's Machar urges rival Kiir to seek peace

In an exclusive interview, sacked South Sudanese vice president Riek Machar called on President Salva Kiir to stop the fighting and engage in dialogue with a view to resolving the conflict in the war-torn country. He also accused Uganda of aiding Kiir's forces and waging a war on the people of South Sudan.

S. Sudan's Machar urges rival Kiir to seek peace

World Bulletin / News Desk

Riek Machar, the sacked South Sudanese vice president who is accused of leading an uprising against president Salva Kiir, criticized a recent decision by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African trade bloc, to deploy a military force in the country, warning that such a move could worsen South Sudan's already tense situation.

South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when Kiir accused Machar of attempting to overthrow his regime.

The conflict has already claimed more than 10,000 lives, with the U.N. estimating that some 3.7 million people in South Sudan are now "severely food insecure" while around one million have been displaced by the violence.

Following weeks of IGAD-sponsored peace talks in Addis Ababa, the two sides signed a cessation of hostilities agreement in January.

Some observers say the current deplorable situation in South Sudan was fundamentally caused by an unbridled lust for political power, both on your part and that of Salva Kiir. Is this true?

This is not true and has no grain of truth in it. It is not a personal matter, nor a power struggle that divided us into what we are in.

We ended up in a doctrinal-type fundamental difference. For me and us, the question is not "Who leads the country" but, on the contrary, "How do we lead our nation?" This is what made me run up against solid-wall opposition from Salva Kiir.

Tragically, Salva Kiir has hijacked the whole nation, its wealth, the army and the SPLM [the Sudan People's Liberation Movement]. At this point in our history, Salva Kiir is equal to South Sudan.

On my part, I had tried to talk him out of his authoritarianism. He refused, and I knew we could not go merrily on as before. He brutally turned against me.

Is this the entire story?

This man, Salva Kiir, concocted a story of a coup d'état and imprisoned those he planned to detain without trial. The others vanished [amid] his brutal and coldblooded killings. He devised "If you are not with me, you are with them"-type cleaning of his opponents.

The most overriding issue, like I said, is a strategic difference that set us apart. As you know, the people of South Sudan won independence through perseverance and dauntless courage.

The owner of the land and its wealth, our people, deserve constitutional order, the rule of the law, free and fair elections. But in his [Kiir's] view, the first thing is to create a nation – a country, free elections, democracy, human rights are not defining issues for the nation. He [Kiir] is and proved to be a dyed-in-the-wool authoritarian.

Kiir has repeatedly blamed you for the mess in South Sudan and accused you of corruption. What is your response to these claims?

You are not well informed and your information is incorrect. Salva Kiir, thus far, did not accuse me of embezzlement. The embezzlers are in his camp, not with us. We stand for the democratic transformation of South Sudan.

Your forces appear to be in retreat. What is the current status of your forces on the ground?

Our forces are fighting in typical guerilla tactic. We have not retreated from any of our positions and areas of control. We have the mobility and can attack at the time and place of our choice.

If they do not encroach on our territories, we remain where we are. The truth is that Salva Kiir has no army. It has disintegrated. It is a combination of Uganda's army and Sudanese armed groups.

But the agreement between South Sudan and Uganda allowing the latter to deploy troops was made while you were in power. Sudanese opposition forces, meanwhile, had been your comrades.

The agreement was inked between Kiir and [Ugandan President Yoweri] Museveni behind us. We do not [didn't] know it.

The infamous coalition between Kiir and Museveni has an enduring consequence between the brotherly nations. Now, Uganda is aiding Kiir and fighting against the people of South Sudan.

The Ugandan army has to withdraw before it is too late to tell the horrible crime they are committing against our people. This is the most chastening experience I know.

You seem to have an inexhaustible supply of arms, ammunition and money. Where does it all come from?

We are in an open space. Our in-and-out is visible to anyone. You guys, who faced difficulties reaching here, must have observed the level of life here.

This is the fight of the people. We often get our arms and ammunition from the armies of Uganda and Salva Kiir. The people provide us with daily bread.

How are you finding IGAD-sponsored peace talks in Addis Ababa?

We are grateful for their relentless efforts in the resolution of the conflict. IGAD had played a significant role in brokering peace between South Sudan and Sudan.

It was a remarkable conclusion of the three-decade liberation war we had waged against the occupying force of Sudan. The current mediation by the bloc [IGAD] is riddled with real conflicts of interest, which is threatening the peace talks to crumble.

This is the case of Uganda. It is openly at war against us and the people of South Sudan. And this nation also sits with other mediators as a peacemaker.

This is a most self-defeating double life – that is, Uganda pretends to be part of the IGAD peace effort and at the same time fights against us on the battlefronts.

It is due to this self-defeating institutional contradiction that IGAD has abysmally failed to condemn and stop Uganda's air force from bombing us. Peace requires a remedy to this case.

Uganda's involvement is anti-peace, hooked to the peace-loving people and governments of IGAD.

So how do you view IGAD's mediation efforts?

Within the fundamentals of what I have already said, we wholeheartedly accepted the bloc's mediation. Comprehensive negotiation settlement is in our interest. Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya – all members of IGAD, with the exception of Uganda, are trustworthy brokers.

I know they are a lot of virtual tested-by-fire diplomats. However, IGAD must get absolute freedom from the negative influence of Uganda. They have to decide about Uganda.

The mediation process should shut on Kiir and Museveni. This is imperative in our view. IGAD's last decision was favorably biased in the interest of Kiir and Museveni. We are not happy.

Why do you reject the deployment of IGAD's Protection and Deterrence Force?

Accepting the decision on the deployment of IGAD's force is but legalizing the presence of Ugandan occupation forces in South Sudan. We do not do this. If we do accept, the Ugandan army will invade us en mass.

As a party to the conflict, you agreed to uphold January's cessation of hostilities agreement – but you aren't. Is that right?

We agreed to a cessation of hostilities. They began the violation of the cessation of hostilities. They were not the party to peace.

For our part, we are in a war situation. We are defending ourselves and communities from the Ugandan army. They are on our land and we will continue to fight until the last man.

In the agreement, it was stated that the Ugandan army would withdraw from our country. This did not happen. Moreover, we agreed that detained SPLM/A [the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army] leaders shall be released.

Seven of them were released, but this is [due to] personal involvement of the Kenyan president. Still, there are five innocent heroes of the liberation struggle detained without fair trial.

One of them, Peter Adog, is under house arrest. So, my dear, the agreement is not implemented, but the double-speakers accuse us of violating the agreement.

The crisis appears to be moving towards a civil, ethnic war, and to this end you have armed civilians. Why?

The blame knocks at the doors of Kiir and his lieutenants. They created fears that if they do not take up arms, their lives and properties were in danger. Today, we have a militarized society.

Can you tell me about Juba and the public?

Juba is a city of Salva Kiir. It is effectively transformed into an open-air concentration camp. There are two camps, overcrowded, with over 70,000 citizens internally displaced.

Yesterday, I talked to U.N. Special Representative Held Johnson and I proposed that he transfer them to another camp. I cannot speak of death. It looks like a routine, humanly way of natural life.

The economy is already in tatters. We control the oilfields, and the farms in the eastern part of the country are deserted because able people have fled the country.

You said Kiir, Uganda and the Darfur opposition are all allied against your forces. But I don't understand why the government of Sudan, which is fighting a bloody war against the Darfur opposition, would join Kiir's camp.

We have good brotherly relations and trust with the government of Sudan. We know for sure the Sudanese government is determined to be a middle-of-the-road peace broker.

I am taken aback by the decision of the Darfur opposition to join Salva Kiir. As we know, they were officially complaining about the lack of justice in Sudan. They left their demand and are fighting against South Sudanese people. They have shown their true motives.

Going back to the peace talks, do you hope to take part in the Addis Ababa negotiations?

Why not? We believe, as I said over and again, in dialogue. This is why we have delegated men of high test to the Addis Ababa conference.

If you could write a letter to Salva Kiir, what would you say?

Stop fighting. Political brinkmanship has consequences. One million South Sudanese are now refugees. Kids, the aging, the vulnerable are sheltered in the jungle and let us stop the fight.

Give a second chance to peace.

AA

Last Mod: 05 Nisan 2014, 10:06
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