Tuesday, December 31, 2013

South Sudan Ousted Vice President Ready for Talks

South Sudan rebel leader ready for talks

January 1, 2014 International

JUBA-UNITED NATIONS. — South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar said yesterday he was sending a delegation for peace talks with the government and was not yet ready for face-to-face talks with President Salva Kiir. Machar also ruled out an immediate ceasefire, saying this “needed to be negotiated” and that in the meantime the rebels would continue to fight.

“Our forces are still marching on Juba, there is no cessation of hostilities yet,” Machar said, speaking by satellite telephone from an undisclosed location inside South Sudan.

“That is what the delegation is going to Addis Ababa to discuss and to negotiate.”

He said troops loyal to him had recaptured the town of Bor yesterrday, some 200 kilometres north of the capital Juba.

Machar said he was not yet ready for face-to-face talks with Juba’s leadership.

“It depends on how the negotiations go,” he said.

“I will follow later, once the negotiations have resulted in a cessation of hostilities. It depends on if and when that is achieved,” he added.

“We did not ask for this battle, it was forced upon us,” Machar said, again dismissing Kiir’s allegations that he started the fighting by attempting a coup.

Machar is sending a three person team of senior leaders, including Rebecca Garang, a respected Dinka leader and widow of former South Sudan’s founding father John Garang.

The other two in the delegation are Taban Deng Gai, a former governor of oil-rich Unity state, large parts of which are under rebel control, and Hussein Mar, former deputy governor of Jonglei.

But he also demanded Juba release several key leaders arrested following the outbreak of fighting on December 15, especially Pagan Amum, the former secretary-general of the ruling party.

“They must release the prisoners,” Machar said, adding that Amum was needed to head the rebel delegation at any peace talks.
Meanwhile, the African Union has said it will impose “targeted sanctions” over violence in war-torn South Sudan, where two weeks of fighting is feared to have left thousands dead.

The pan-African bloc’s Peace and Security Council said in a statement it would “take appropriate measures, including targeted sanctions, against all those who incite people to violence, including along ethnic lines”.

The AU, meeting in Banjul in The Gambia on Monday, expressed “Africa’s dismay and disappointment that the continent’s newest nation should descend so quickly into civil strife, with the potential of rapidly deteriorating into ethnic clashes and a full-fledged civil war”.

The AU called on all sides to “immediately and unconditionally cease hostilities”, and said it would work with IGAD to prepare sanctions.

The UN Security Council on Monday also urged all parties in South Sudan to immediately cease hostilities and engage in “direct talks without preconditions” to peacefully resolve the ongoing crisis.

“The members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern at the situation in South Sudan, in particular the devastating impact of the crisis on South Sudan’s civilian population and the continuing threat to civilians,” said a press statement issued here by the 15-nation body.

The statement came after the Security Council was briefed via videoconference by the secretary-general’s special representative in South Sudan Hilde Johnson and commander of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Maj. Gen. Delali Johnson Sakyi.

In the statement, the Council repeated its call for “an immediate cessation of hostilities and for President Salva Kiir Mayardit, former Vice President Riek Machar and other political leaders to engage urgently in direct talks without preconditions.”

— AFP-Xinhua.

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