South Sudan’s former vice president Riek Machar has responded to President Museveni, accusing Uganda of fuelling the fighting in the world’s youngest nation. “We call upon the AU (African Union) and the IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development) to restrain the Ugandan government from fuelling the conflict by sending troops and war planes in support of the government of Salva Kiir,” a statement released to media said.
Dr Machar also welcomed regional calls for an end to the ongoing armed conflict even as forces loyal to him announced yesterday that they had re-captured the strategic city of Bor in Jonglei state.
Amidst unconfirmed reports of spreading ethnic killings, Dr Machar’s response came in the wake of Tuesday’s deadline for a ceasefire demanded by IGAD leaders at Friday’s Nairobi summit.
While in Juba on Monday, Mr Museveni warned Dr Machar to either agree to the ceasefire or face collective military action from IGAD member states. The rebels now say they are willing to talk, observing in their statement carried by the Sudan Tribune newspaper yesterday that: “We are ready to ceasefire immediately to stop the bloodletting once the government of Salva Kiir reciprocates.”
A seven-member body comprising Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan, IGAD is taking a lead role in trying to end the conflict through dialogue.
But Dr Machar’s group said in their statement that IGAD’s efforts could be compromised by the actions of the Ugandan army. “If not stopped, the UPDF’s aggression may compromise IGAD attempt to remain instrumental and neutral in bringing an end to the crisis in South Sudan,” the statement said.
Uganda government response
State House sources yesterday took the view that the South Sudan rebel forces are missing the point. Presidential Press Secretary Tamale Mirundi told the Daily Monitor that Dr Machar was misguided in attacking Mr Museveni in person.
Mr Mirundi said Dr Machar should have instead directed his response to IGAD which sent the Ugandan leader to Juba. “The President was conveying an IGAD message, Machar never attended that meeting and so Museveni was representing. However, the Rwanda genocide taught the world and the international community a lesson and therefore, they can’t just sit and watch when people are being massacred,” Mr Mirundi said.
“Taking on Museveni as a person will not help, it should be the summit telling Museveni that what you said while in Juba wasn’t what we told you to convey but not Machar,” he added. Thousands of people are reported to have either died or been displaced in the conflict which has taken on ethnic undertones, pitting the Dinka tribesmates of Mr Salva Kiir against Dr Machar’s Nuer people.
Mr Museveni on Monday is reported to have told journalists upon arrival in Juba that “we gave him (Machar) four days and agreed that if he doesn’t comply with the agreement, then we shall have to go for him.”
CONCERN OVER DETAINED POLITICIANS
Dr Riek Machar said he was committed to peaceful means of resolving the conflict. He, however, expressed concerns about the safety of several senior politicians detained by Mr Salva Kiir when the fighting broke out on December 15. “We call on AU and IGAD Assembly of heads of state and government to bring pressure to bear on the government of Salva Kiir to release unconditionally all the eleven politicians detained in Juba,” the statement reads.
Mr Machar and his group maintained that the conflict was not a coup attempt, describing government allegations to that effect as “not acceptable”.