South Sudan’s rebel leader says his group will ratify the recently signed peace agreement on Tuesday as part of efforts to restore peace and end the country’s nearly two year long conflict.
Former Vice President Riek Machar told VOA he is committed to the full implementation of the agreement. But he said he has petitioned mediators and regional leaders about the government’s continuous violation of the peace agreement signed by both parties.
“My team will be ratifying this most likely on the 8th (of September) and the cease-fire has not been holding. So we need the cease-fire to hold first and a workshop conducted for the permanent cease-fire and security arraignments, then after that we can kick off the second phase of forming the transitional government of national unity,” he said.
President Salva Kiir signed the agreement 15 days later than originally scheduled after expressing reservations about stipulations in the accord, which he said undermines South Sudan’s sovereignty.
So far, both sides have accused each other of violating the cease-fire agreement but Machar said the administration is to blame for endangering the accord.
“I can’t say I am satisfied because the government has been breaking the cease-fire. It has not stopped its offensive despite the fact that the government declared a cease-fire. So, this is not satisfactory,” he said.
Machar called on South Sudanese and the international community to pressure the administration in Juba to ensure a full implementation of the cease-fire agreement.
“I have complained, I have protested on the violations done by the government, and I have written to IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] leaders and those who witnessed the peace agreement.”
Machar’s comments came after reports that the U.N. Security Council was considering imposing sanctions following accusations of attacks that could endanger the peace agreement. Machar denied his rebels violated the accord.
“We have done nothing [wrong] we are only defending ourselves. The government has barges on the Nile [and] they were attacking our positions. We responded, we sunk some of the barges. The government is using helicopter gunships for the last four days, and also occupying our bases and we don’t see any reason for such,” Machar said.
“The U.N. sanctions should be targeting the government because they are the ones on the offensive. They are the one violating the cease-fire agreement,” he said.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called President Kiir to discuss the cease-fire violations. A State Department spokesman said: “President Kiir confirmed to the Secretary that he is committed to the implementation of the peace agreement and the cease-fire.”
A workshop to discuss the cease-fire, and how security in the country will be maintained during a 30-month transitional period, was postponed late last week, and a South Sudan official said a new date will be announced as soon as possible.
Both the government and Machar’s SPLM-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) insisted that they are not to blame for the delay.