South Sudan: Riek Machar Calls for Armed Fight Against Government
South Sudan’s former vice-president and rebel leader Riek Machar is calling for an armed struggle against President Salva Kiir’s government.
His remarks were issued in a statement over the weekend after a meeting in Khartoum, Sudan, between members of Machar’s SPLM-IO opposition party. His call for an armed uprising prompt fears that South Sudan could be on the brink of returning to conflict.
Calls for armed opposition
Senior SPLM-IO member Par Kuol says the call from Machar follows regular attacks against his party from government forces.
“We have been waging armed resistance since 2013 when this was imposed on us. We had suspended that until we were attacked recently in Juba. Be also informed that the government is launching attacks on our positions everywhere in the country. So, we are putting up resistance now,” he says.
However, presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny has condemned Machar’s actions, labelling the opposition leader a warmonger.
Machar the warmonger
“I actually read the statement and came up with the conclusion that Riek Machar will be Riek Machar.” Atney says. “He will never have anything better to offer to the people of South Sudan apart from war.”
Atney insists the country will not return to conflict, because “the people of South Sudan deserve more”. Meanwhile Kuol and his allies refute the notion of being labelled warmongers. So, while South Sudan hasn’t quite returned to war, the old habit of publicly shifting blame is back in full force.
It’s in the government’s interests for South Sudan’s fragile peace to hold. However, Machar’s position appears so untenable now that he has no place in the country’s hierarchy unless he can take it by force. Which pretty much brings us back to the same situation two years previous. Except the damage caused to people’s lives during that can’t be reset like South Sudan’s cycle of conflict.
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