South Sudan President Salvar Kiir has reinstated his one-time ally turned foe Riek Machar as the country’s vice president to stem a fresh civil war.
His decree came on Thursday soon after a UN Monitoring report highlighted atrocities committed by troops loyal to both Kiir and Machar in a conflict that has been running since 2013.
“I, Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic of South Sudan, do hereby issue this Republican Decree for the appointment of Dr Riek Machar Teny as the first vice President of the Republic of South Sudan.” The appointment was part of an August 2015 peace deal preceded by numerous others that were repeatedly broken.
But there are fears the move might not solve the underlying problems beleaguering the nation and provide a solution to the deeply fractured country plunged back into bloody conflict just after emerging from years of liberation struggle.
Others though say the reaching out by Kiir is a chance for the country to go back to peace and for its now battered economy to recover from the damage inflicted by the conflict.
“This is a positive move. My only regret is that it did not happen earlier. The nation needs to remain hopeful that it will get back on track,” Rebecca Garang, wife of South Sudan liberation hero John Garang told The Standard on Saturday.
Mrs Garang said although mistrust continues to fester, the two should work together for the sake of the nation.
“They have to understand that peace does not belong to two individuals but for the whole nation. They must find a way of working together,” she said.
Before this recent reappointment by Kiir, none of the previous agreements between the two sides had been honoured. Machar, on his part has since accepted the reappointment terming it “a move in the right direction.”
“The appointment is in the right direction.... It was a surprise to me,” he said in an interview with the BBC.
He however deflected any blame on his part over the bloodshed and atrocities committed during the conflict.
“Being responsible for the troops doesn’t mean you are responsible for violation... Do you want the war to continue or want to bring peace? We are judged by the people of South Sudan and not the United Nations,” he said when asked about his role in the civil war.
Both the government and rebel sides have been accused of perpetrating ethnic massacres, recruiting and killing children and carrying out widespread rape, torture and forced displacement of populations to “cleanse” areas of their opponents.
“The Commission found that most of the atrocities were carried out against civilian populations taking no active part in the hostilities. Places of religion and hospitals were attacked, humanitarian assistance was impeded, towns pillaged and destroyed, places of protection were attacked and there was testimony of possible conscription of children under 15 years old,” reads part of a report released by the African Union investigators on the 6th of January.
The two leaders come from the south’s two main ethnic groups, Kiir from the Dinka people and Machar from the Nuer, tribes that are themselves split into multiple and sometimes rival clans.
Machar told the BBC that he would formally take up his position in government in three weeks’ time, but only if he gets international support to demilitarise the nation.