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South Sudan ‘coup leader’ calls for removal of president

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-19

South Sudan’s former Vice President Riek Machar, accused of staging last week’s attempted coup to overthrow President Salva Kiir, on Thursday told FRANCE 24’s sister station RFI that he has called on the army to remove the country’s leader.

"He has to leave because he cannot unite the people, and he kills them like flies,” Machar said in the interview. “So I have appealed to the SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) and the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army) to remove Salva Kiir from the leadership of the country.”

The two politicians have locked horns since July, when then-vice president Machar was fired along with a string of other cabinet members. Machar responded by criticizing the leader’s track record and declaring his intention to run for president in the 2015 election.

The latest alleged coup attempt marks a significant development in a dramatic life shaped by the conflict and bloodshed that has haunted this troubled part of Africa.

On Sunday, fighting suddenly erupted in the capital of Juba between troops loyal to the two men, ending with Machar fleeing the scene with his fighters.

Since then, several clashes have rocked the world’s youngest nation and have prompted many civilians to seek shelter, especially around the central city of Bor, which has been overrun by troops loyal to Machar.

While Kiir yesterday stated he is ready to negotiate with his now arch-enemy, Machar told RFI that he is only prepared to discuss one thing: Kiir’s departure.

In the interview, Machar said he wants to avoid a civil war, favouring a peaceful solution to the conflict, but expressed a desire for a “palace revolution” in which the SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement) would force out the sitting head of state.

This scenario remains highly hypothetical, with Kiir appearing to have the bulk of support on the ground—but Machar is far from isolated.

Politically, Machar is backed by a faction of the army and has also joined forces with former warlord Peter Gadet, whose fighters recently forced Kiir’s soldiers out of Bor.

So far, the unrest appears to have spread to five of the country’s 10 states.

What looks to be a decisive factor in the conflict, however, is the attitude of Dinka military members, certain of whom no longer support Kiir.

But the influence of the Kenyan, Ethiopian and Ugandan diplomats, who are set to arrive in Juba to attempt mediation between the two men, should not be underestimated.

What is clear, however, is that Machar is not ready to give in. Unless Kiir leaves the presidency, Machar could repeat the experience of 1991, when he staged a failed coup against the founder of SPLM, John Garang, and some of his commanders, including Kiir.

The factional fighting between South Sudanese fighters reached a bloody peak in the mid-1990s, crushing hopes of a unified struggle against President Omar Bashir's government in Khartoum.

Those hopes were dashed in 1997, when Machar signed the Khartoum Peace Agreement, making him an assistant to Bashir in a stunning reversal of loyalties.

(FRANCE 24 with RFI)

Date created : 2013-12-19

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