London–South Sudan’s former first vice president and prominent opposition leader Riek Machar is frank about his aspirations to rule the country despite it being difficult due to the country’s demography.
Machar who belongs to the ethnic Nuer group -the second largest tribe in South Sudan- leads an armed conflict against his rival Salva Kiir of the Dinka ethnic group.
Machar was vice president before and after South Sudan announced its independence, but he withdrew from the government following his dispute with Kiir and was dismissed in July 2013.
Four months later, Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup against him, which caused Machar to announce mutiny against the government.
Riek Machar led war for two years that ended with the peace agreement signed in last August, which soon collapsed when he returned to Juba and announced himself vice president. He was chased until he left Juba and walked for 40 days to the Congo borders.
Asharq Al-Awsat interviewed Riek Machar via phone to ask him about the latest developments and his plans after South Africa.
Riek explained that forces of Kiir chased him out of Juba, after which he walked for 40 days until he reached the border of Congo with several injuries. From there he went to South Africa where he began his treatment and continued it in Khartoum. He confirmed that he is healthy now and ready to leave, although he has postponed such a move.
When asked about the reasons for postponing his trip, Machar denied any international pressure. He explained that he was well received by the government of South Africa.
According to the former VP, some leaders of neighboring countries made statements that do not encourage peace. He mentioned that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is the only one who suggested a political peace agreement.
Yet, Machar doesn’t believe Museveni’s initiative is enough.
He denied the allegations saying he’ll head to Khartoum as well as rumors that he received funding from the Sudanese government.
The ex-VP told Asharq Al-Awsat that he will hold talks with several leaders of the region to discuss a peace agreement. He said that he wants peace and his political future can only be determined by him.
Both Ethiopia and Kenya refused to receive Machar because he announced armed rebellion against the government of South Sudan. Addressing those countries, Machar said that Kiir’s government still executes military operations against forces loyal to him.
Machar said that Americans made wrong assumptions and the war never stopped in South Sudan. He sent a delegation to Washington, where it held fruitful talks. He also added that Washington is now talking about the importance of achieving peace through a political process.
The former VP said he awaits the election of the new U.S. president who will definitely deal with South Sudan in a new way.
Machar rejected reports saying he’s planning for a war against Salva Kiir to retrieve his position. He added that he wants to achieve peace and seeks to implement the previously signed peace agreement.
Machar considers the peace agreement a comprehensive reform process that includes army, security, judicial system and economy.
A number of former prisoners called for putting South Sudan under international trusteeship. Machar rejected such a plan, saying South Sudan is an independent state. He believed that solutions can be reached through political dialogue.
Machar also called on the opposition to unify its entities and act effectively.
According to the politician, his popular movement did not participate in any ethnic cleansing operations and accused Kiir of forming an army of the Dinka group and banishing a number of ethnic groups.
He warned of the ramifications of such actions, adding that the government’s role is to unite people.
When asked about his willingness to stand before the court for the massacres in South Sudan, Machar said that he had suggested the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to handle this matter.
He added that the peace agreement stated that among others the court should include representatives from the ICJ.
The ex-VP confirmed that once the court is formed, he will attend if he were called for testimony.
When asked if he contacted Kiir recently and if there is a possibility for cooperation, Machar admitted that any contact between the two stopped after the Juba incidents. He said that the last call happened on July 15, but it all stopped when Machar realized that Kiir wanted to kill him.
The former VP concluded that he would cooperate with Kiir if the peace agreement was signed, because their dispute is not personal, saying it is against corruption.