South Sudan President Salva Kiir has called his deputy Riek Machar for talks before the situation gets out of hand.
An official from South Sudan Presidency says the two leaders have been talking on the phone since the conflict broke out last week.
“It is just that Riek’s camp has many who think they can beat the SPLA. So they are impeding talks,” a highly placed source said.
Machar has been in hiding for days since SPLA air force bombarded his home in Gudele killing hundreds of his soldiers.
Kiir calls him for talks
At a press conference in the capital Juba Thursday, President Kiir said he spoke to Machar in the morning.
Kiir said that he requested that they have a face to face meeting to resolve issues facing the nation.
“I assured him and personally guaranteed his safety and protection.”
But Machar refused telling the President he doesn’t want to meet.
“Still there is resistance that he thinks that his ministers are not secure, they cannot be safe. I told him these people are in the hotels and their hotels are known. If there is anybody hunting for them he can find them,” Kiir said.
“So this is what I also gave to his excellencies, I gave them that assurances, that I am ready to protect Dr. Machar if he comes to where I am. And I am ready to protect any minister of the IO and any senior officers who may feel that they are vulnerable. I have been with them for a long time and I don’t want any more bloodshed in South Sudan. This is all that we talked about and this is what I wanted to tell you.”
Machar leaves capital
Meanwhile, Machar has left the capital Juba together with his troops, and is said to have set camp on the outskirts of the city.
He says he is not planning for war.
“We had to move away from our base (in Juba) to avoid further confrontation,” Reuters reports Machar’s spokesman James Gatdet Dak as saying in Nairobi.
Dak also said he was in contact with Machar’s forces. “He is around the capital. I cannot say the location.”
Gatdet Dak said Machar would stay away from Juba until ceasefire details were worked out.
“He is not returning to the bush, nor is he organising for war,” the spokesman said, calling for an outside force to be deployed to act as a “buffer” between Machar and Kiir’s forces.
The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission Chairman Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana, chartered a flight to arrive in Juba today for crisis talks with Kiir and ministers of the SPLM-IO who are still in Juba in an effort to salvage the peace deal after days of clashes in Juba that last until Monday.
African Union Envoy Alpha Konare, former president of Mali, accompanied Mogae.
Mogae told press they came to consult with Kiir about the recent events and to persuade him that he should persist and persevere in his desire for peace.
“We want Dr. Riek Machar and his colleagues to know that we would like… the leaders of South Sudan to meet and discuss the issues – not only the recent events, but also the factors behind the recent events and also incidents of violence that have been happening in the country as a whole.”