I saved Machar's life even though he intended to kill me, claims Kiir

President Kiir said he was forced to act as Machar‘s human shield as he (Machar) boarded the presidential limousine.

South Sudan‘s President Salva Kiir recounted how he saved the life of his rival Riek Machar last month when war broke out in Juba.

In an exclusive interview with KTN‘s Jeff Koinange Live on Wednesday night, the president re-enacted the events of July 8. He even took Mr Koinange round the palace as he described how he arranged for the evacuation of Machar from the presidential palace.

President Kiir said he was forced to act as Machar‘s human shield as he (Machar) boarded the presidential limousine. The two had been holed up in the palace as fierce gun battle between Machar‘s forces and Kiir‘s presidential guards raged on outside on July 8, triggering a crisis that would see hundreds killed.

Mr Kiir was forced to give Machar his presidential limousine because Machar's vehicles had been destroyed in the fighting.

"I took him from here. The car was parked here. So that if one of the men shoots, it will hit me first, to cover him. I was the one who opened the door of the car and let him in," said Kiir.

Kiir explained that he had no intention of harming Machar, but instead accused his then first vice president of planning to kill him. The president explained that his cancellation of a council of ministers meeting that was to take place on the morning of July 8 had probably saved his life and prevented the world's youngest nation from plunging into a worse crisis.

"Machar had planned that while we were in the council of ministers meeting, his men would come and open fire and I would die. And if I had died and he survived, he would declare himself president," the Head of State claimed in the interview at his presidential palace in Juba.

"Dr Machar was armed with a pistol," Kiir alleged. The president explained that he had asked Machar and his second vice president James Wani to come to the palace to help calm tensions. It followed an incident the previous day when Machar's bodyguards had attacked security forces at a checkpoint, killing four and a civilian doctor.

Kiir went on: "Riek Machar was in my hands here if I was just to grab his pistol and shoot him, who would have believed me? They would have condemned me that I lured him into the palace and killed him. I did not lure him to come and kill him. He had the intention to come and kill me."

The president said throughout the clashes he ensured that he did not leave Machar alone in the room because he feared some of the enraged presidential guards, who had lost their comrades in the fighting, might have turned on him.

"The next challenge was how to take Machar to his house. That is why I remained. I did not allow him to remain alone because they (presidential guards) were very angry people. Those who might have lost their relatives in the action, some have lost their very good friends. So it was a mixed feeling and you will never know who would do what... I remained with him to assure him, at least to give him courage," added Kiir.

He said he offered his presidential limousine because Machar's motorcade of "ten or 11" cars had been destroyed in the fighting.

"My official car was brought from behind the fence. It was bloody but this is the car that Dr Machar had to leave in," said Kiir.

"But am happy that I saved his life. I protected him. If he comes back and accepts to stay he will remain like a South Sudanese citizen. I will allow him," he added.

Kiir said on the morning of July 8 that Machar was hesitant to attend the meeting, arguing that he was afraid to pass through the checkpoint: "But an officer he called assured him of his security as the first vice president."

But on arrival at the checkpoint, Machar stopped and demanded escort officers from the Joint Military Council (made up of Kiir and Machar forces). The officers further advised that he would be allowed to go into the palace compound with his motorcade consisting of about 11 vehicles but his bodyguards would remain.

"But while we were inside, forces left in his residence came in a convoy of 20 Toyota pick-ups full of soldiers and an ambulance full of arms. They started spreading outside in a fighting formation," says Kiir.

He recalls a colonel who came from the ambulance and asked soldiers (in the Nuer language) if they had they guns cocked and ready to fire: "...and abused them for being cowards. One of my bodyguards was even shot for questioning the colonel's intentions, which prompted his colleague to shoot the colonel."

"That was the beginning of everything," he said.

The clashes coincided with the country's fifth independence anniversary. He said that he held no grudge against the rebel leader - who has since been replaced as first vice president - and would accept him back should he decide to do so, but warned that he would fight him with military force if need be.

But Kiir insists that he has not ordered any arrest warrants for Machar and neither is he looking for him for talks on peace.

"There will be peace... but that will be the peace where such people like Dr Machar and his characters should not be part of," said Kiir.

The president however insists that the intervention by IGAD and EU was not warranted in his country for purposes of peace.

"Who are they coming to protect the civilians from? There is no need for foreign troops. Our army is now more disciplined," argued Kiir.

"I am a member of UN, IGAD and AU but they never invite me. So to come to someone's house without invitation, you are simply an intruder."

Kiir said there were already more than enough foreign troops amounting to over 12,000 comprising UN forces.

"We do not need them. If they want to sponsor peace, let us talk. Implementation of the agreement cannot be done by force," said Kiir.