London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Embattled South Sudanese President Salva Kiir announced on Monday a roadmap for ending the conflict that has ravaged the country since mid-December.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital, Juba, Kiir proposed an investigation into crimes and violations committed since December 15, 2013. He also proposed setting up a commission for achieving reconciliation and peace, and called for the return of South Sudanese citizens from the UN bases they fled to when the fighting broke out.
Kiir said he was committed to a peace process sponsored by Africa’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and claimed he wanted to bring the military conflict that erupted between him and former Vice President Riek Machar to an end.
The president also said he was not opposed to releasing prisoners affiliated with Machar, but only once legal measures against them were completed.
“Amnesty for political detainees is possible, but only after investigations end,” he said.
Kiir, however, rejected rebel calls for the Ugandan military units fighting alongside government forces in South Sudan to be withdrawn. Kiir defended their involvement, claiming they were deployed in South Sudan “under an agreement signed in 2005 within the framework of joint operations aimed at . . . [pursuing] rebels in Kampala.”
A Twitter account believed to be run by Machar said on Monday that there would not be a ceasefire until the Ugandan army pulled out of the country and anti-government detainees were released.
Kiir also hit out at the UN mission to Juba, which he accused of showing bias towards the rebels.
“The UN mission must be ashamed of its actions in South Sudan,” he said, adding, “It acts as if it were the government, and if Ban Kai-Moon wants [this to be] so, he has to declare that frankly.”
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, South Sudan Army spokesman Philip Aguer said that government forces had “recaptured the city of Malakal from rebels,” adding that the seizure of the strategic town marks the “beginning of the end” of the armed insurgency in the country.
Aguer claimed that rebels are being pushed out of major cities and are currently only in control of “tiny towns such as Akobo and Al-Nasser and some remote villages in the eastern Jonglei state.”
“It is premature to assert that the insurgency has ended or weakened,” he said, adding that “a few gunmen can undermine security in the country, a thing which neither the government nor the army accept.”