Machar returned to the capital Juba, from his rebel headquarters Pagak, after over two years of rebellion against Kiir’s government.
“Personally I am very happy to welcome and warmly receive my brother Dr. Riek Machar Teny to Juba to be with us, and I have no doubt that his return to Juba today marks the end of the war and the return of peace and stability to South Sudan,” President Salva Kiir said on Tuesday at State House just shortly after Riek Machar was sworn in as the country’s First Vice President.
“Now that Dr. Riek has come and has taken the oath of office as the First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan, we will immediately proceed to establish the Transitional Government of National Unity,” he said. “This shall restore the confidence of our people and that of our international partners in our abilities as the leaders of this country to implement the agreement.”
Fighting broke out in December 2013 between Kiir and Machar supporters over a power struggle, shattering relative peace and stability across the country. Tens of thousands of people are believed to have been killed and over two million others displaced.
A regionally mediated peace agreement signed by Kiir and Machar last August – aimed at resolving the conflict – is yet staggering to take effect. But Kiir and Machar – up on meeting yesterday, where they shook hands and smiled to each other – said they will work to fully implement it. Machar also referred to Kiir as a brother.
“I wish that the security situation will be stabilised in the shortest possible time now that we are just about to form the Transitional Government of National Unity,” Machar dressed in an African casual wear upon his arrival at Juba International Airport said. He added “because stabilisation of the security really will bring out peace among our population, this is the challenge, and I hope my brother the President seizes.”
“I am also hoping that we would address the challenges of stabilising the economy because we all know a country which is coming out of war always has difficulties in the economic sector,” Machar said.
Machar also said that one of the challenges the Transitional Government of National Unity will need to address is resettling internally displaced persons (IDPs, who were affected by the conflict. Ensuring access for humanitarian agencies across the country, especially to areas worst affected, is another priority according to Machar.
Kiir too acknowledged challenges, including funding the implementation of the transitional government. The two politicians also appealed for the citizens’ support to their programmes.
Peace urgently required
Citizens across South Sudan embrace the return of Machar saying it signals an end to the current conflict and the economic hardships. Zackaria Bak Laurent is an internally displaced person, who since violence erupted in December 2013, resides at a United Nations camp in Juba.
“It means total peace has come to South Sudan. That is the only thing we have as IDPs here we are really very happy,” Laurent said. He thinks Machar’s return is expected to bring the situation in the country to back to normal. “There are a couple of things that are to be changed: first of all the rate of the dollar that – is one of the enemies killing us as South Sudanese.”
Another internally displaced South Sudanese currently residing inside the UN camp, Younes Tut answers similar to Laurent. “We hope that the coming of vice president [Riek Machar] to South Sudan should bring peace because all South Sudanese are suffering. There is now peace and we don’t want South Sudan to go into war again,” Laurent says.
Dire humanitarian situation
Aid agencies too say Machar’s return is a positive step towards the implementation of the peace agreement, especially the formation of the transitional government which has delayed for about four months so far.
“The transitional government is desperately needed to deliver lasting peace, reconciliation and justice for the people of South Sudan,” Zlako Gegic, Oxfams Country Director in South Sudan says in a statement.
Gegic says “the country’s leaders must now demonstrate their commitment to the deal and work urgently to end needless suffering for millions of South Sudanese facing a dire crisis”.
According to Oxfam, at least 2.8 million people are struggling to get enough food and over 2.3 million have been forced from their homes.