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Riek Machar: Peace is the only option for South Sudan

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South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar says peace is the only option for stability in the country and urged President Salva Kiir to re-commit to the implementation of the peace agreement they both signed in 2018.

Machar made the comments during the opening of his  Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) political party’s conference.

The remarks come as a panel of United Nations experts revealed that they believe South Sudan’s latest peace effort has stalled.

The panel of experts said it was told by senior leaders of Machar’s party that the first vice-president has been ”locked out of the government’s decision-making process” and that Kiir’s faction has monopolized government policies, gave opposition ministers “ceremonial roles” and constantly failed to meet deadlines.

“While government officials have attributed the stagnation of the peace agreement to the spread of COVID-19, multiple sources within the government, including ministers and aides close to the president, told the panel that the lack of implementation is a consequence of political disagreements,” the experts’ said in the 56-page report circulated Tuesday.

Machar said there had been “violations” of the peace agreement and a “lack of political will” from some parties.

But he insisted the SPLM-IO was committed to the peace plan’s implementation.

“We are optimistic and, I repeat, we are optimistic that peace shall prevail.” Mr. Machar, told the delegates during the opening of the sixth national conference of SPLM-IO in the capital, Juba, on Tuesday.

According to the experts, forces backed by Kiir and Machar have violated the latest cease-fire agreement. They said the formation, training and redeployment of unified forces called for in the peace agreement “has not progressed.” And they warned that inaction on peace has led the chains of command in armed groups to fracture, with some units prepared to return to conflict and some of Machar’s commanders defecting with their soldiers to the government side.

Political and security disputes within Kiir’s coalition have also contributed “to conflicts that have killed and displaced civilians” in the eastern Jonglei and Greater Pibor administrative area, the panel said.

The panel recommended that the Security Council continue the arms embargo against South Sudan and take measures to improve its implementation.

It said “tangible steps” to implement the peace agreement have often required consistent pressure from the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the regional bloc that mediated South Sudan.

But since the government was formed in February, the panel said, “the lack of unity within IGAD has limited the needed high-level engagement” and Ugandan forces have continued to enter South Sudan, clashing in Eastern Equatoria with government forces in violation of the arms embargo.

It urged the region to focus on implementing the peace agreement.

Story compiled with assistance from the Associated Press and wire reports.

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