Many questions remain unanswered about the recent clashes between government and the armed-opposition forces loyal to First Vice President Riek Machar.
In this telephone-interview, carried out after the recent outbreak of violence and before the ceasefire was declared by Kiir and Machar a week ago, Machar speaks about his relationship with Kiir and why, in his opinion, violence started again.
These excerpts are part of an interview originally conducted and filed in Arabic and translated to English:
Q: How do you describe your relationship with President Salva Kiir Mayardit?
A: Before the situation worsened, my relationship with the president was that of partners and colleagues working together to implement the peace agreement. Our social relationship was good. I attended the wedding of the President’s daughter and gave a speech during the ceremony.
Q: How can this relationship remain good after all that has transpired?
A: We will go beyond all that and build trust. We will overcome doubts, in order to restore things to the way they were, for the benefit of the people of South Sudan.
Q: Can you tell us how the conflict renewed from your point of view, in spite of what you describe as a good relationship between the two of you?
A: Since our return to Juba, government forces continued to harass our troops. At that time I issued strict instructions to our troops to show restraint and not to fall prey to those provocations.
However the situation developed and three of our officers were killed in cold blood. This of course led to an increase in tension. In an incident on July 7, government forces tried to arrest some members of my troops, which led to confrontations between the two sides.The third incident was on Friday, July 8, while we were conducting a National Security Council meeting to discuss these developments.
We heard the sound of gunfire outside the State House. Clashes evolved on the morning of Sunday, July 10. Government forces attacked our troops and used heavy fire. Our troops repelled the attacks and stopped the incursion of government forces.
Q: Will you leave the capital of the Republic of South Sudan, Juba?
A: I will not leave Juba and I am determined to implement the peace agreement in order to achieve peace and stability. I demand from my forces to be disciplined, not to respond to provocations and to hold on to peace, for the country’s stability and security.