South Sudan’s first vice president, Riek Machar, has together with his troops withdrawn outside of the capital Juba but is not planning a war, his spokesperson told Reuters News Agency.
Even though he would not tell the exact location of his boss and forces loyal to him, James Gatdet Dak who is currently in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi says Machar is neither returning to the bush or preparing for war.
“We had to move away from our base (in Juba) to avoid further confrontation,” he told Reuters, saying he was in contact with Machar’s forces. “He is around the capital. I cannot say the location.”
He is not returning to the bush, nor is he organising for war.
“He is not returning to the bush, nor is he organising for war,” the spokesman said, calling for an outside force to be deployed to act as a “buffer” between the rival forces.
Forces on the side of President Salva Kiir and his first vice have been engaged in intense street battles in the capital lasting five days, till a ceasefire on both sides was reached on Monday.
It was not clear what caused the latest rift between the two men who have long jostled for power, even before South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in 2011. The flare-up was apparently sparked on Thursday when Kiir’s forces stopped and demanded to search vehicles with Machar’s troops.
The combat led to over 200 deaths even though the United Nations representative to the country intimated to the Security Council that the number could be much higher.
Reuters further reports that the spokesperson stated that other demands from Machar’s side are the implementation of a joint command, an integrated armed force and a joint police force securing Juba, plus all issues laid out in a peace deal but not yet implemented.
Meanwhile, AFP reports that President Salva Kiir had on Wednesday promised to give amnesty to rebel fighters involved in the recent surge in violence.
South Sudan, Africa’s youngest nation descended into civil war in 2013 after Machar was fired from President Kiir’s government. The ensuing years led to heavy fighting which battered the country’s economy, killed thousands and displaced millions.
Dr. Machar returned to Juba in April this year to take up a new assignment as first vice president in a peace deal that was agreed in August 2015.
He subsequently joined a transitional government of national unity tasked to stabilize the country at the economic and security level; while restoring trust among the citizens to heal wounds and reconcile the people.
The recent violence has also lead to people fleeing their homes in fear that a civil war could return to the country. Foreign governments have been organizing evacuation of their citizens in the face of the violence.