South Sudan: Machar Sworn in as First Vice President

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South Sudan’s armed opposition leader Riek Machar has been sworn in as the country’s First Vice President following his return to the capital.

Machar arrived in Juba on Tuesday, eight days after he was originally scheduled to return. The returning opposition leader was promptly sworn in as First Vice President after his arrival, as set out by the terms of a peace deal signed between President Salva Kiir and himself. Now the pair are tasked with creating a transitional government in the country, nine months after the deal was initially signed.

 

Machar welcomed back to Juba

After a series of delays, Machar was welcomed back to Juba by long-term rival and new peace partner President Kiir on Tuesday. He was sworn in at a televised event where President Kiir addressed the nation and apologised for the impact South Sudan’s war has had on its people.

“I repeat our apology to the people of South Sudan for the situation we, the leaders, have created,” he said. “You have been patient throughout the duration of this current crisis. Though the road ahead will still continue to have challenges, but we are committed and determined to move our country forward.”

International powers have also welcomed the news of Machar’s return and swearing-in as vice president. The US State Department’s deputy spokesperson, Mark Toner, described it as “a second chance to reclaim the promise that this young nation deserves”. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called it a “new phase” for South Sudan’s struggling peace process.

 

South Sudan hopeful once again

For many the mood has changed in South Sudan now that Machar’s return has been made official and a transitional government becomes a genuine possibility.

The return of Dr Machar will change many things,” Chotlith Jany, a youth leader, told Al Jazeera. “People believe that all the fighting that took place, all the suffering … will end.”

Not everyone will be quite so optimistic, though – especially those who have been caught up in violence after countless failed peace agreements. It’s still not clear how much authority the country’s reunited leaders will actually have over various armed groups – particularly those that weren’t involved in last August’s peace deal.