Newly sworn in South Sudan first vice president Riek Machar says he is ready to work with president Salva Kiir.
“I will cooperate with the president… I want to underline my desire to start a new page with the president,” Machar said after being sworn in at the presidential palace in Juba on Tuesday evening.
Earlier, the chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission and former Botswana President Festus Mogae received Machar at the Juba Airport.
Mogae also sat with Machar, Kiir and second vice president James Wani Igga before the swearing-in at State House.
As JMEC chairman, Mogae had brokered the compromise proposal for Machar’s return, and he earlier helped to facilitate the compromise between the government and SPLM-IO over how they will divide up the ministries in the new transitional government.
JMEC is the body established by the August 2015 peace agreement for overseeing and monitoring implementation of the peace deal itself.
Machar called for “unity” after more than two years of civil war.
“We need to bring our people together so they can unite and heal the wounds,” said Dr Machar.
“I am very committed to implement this agreement so that the process of national reconciliation and healing is started as soon as possible so that the people can have faith in the country that they fought for, for so long.”
Calls for refugees to return home
He called on people living inside UN protection camps to give the government time to create a plan for their return home.
While addressing a crowd of supporters in the Jebel Kujur area of Juba, Machar said that after the formation of the national unity government the new government will discuss together and with the UN about what should be done.
“Your homes are either destroyed or occupied by other people,” he said.
Machar pointed out that people have lived in congested camps for long and that there are signs of trauma among the people.
He said the situation requires intervention by the new government, UN and the international community to repatriate people to their places of origin.
The return process needs a ‘program’, he proposed.
Humanitarian access to rural areas should be prioritised, he said, and nation-building will start so that those in the refugees camps in the neighbouring countries like Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan will be attracted to return.
“If I said to you know, ‘Come out and go back to your places’ – maybe that place has been taken by somebody else. Maybe somebody is living there. So give us the opportunity that we talk in the national unity government to resolve this issue and then later we’ll come talk to the people in the protection camps,” Machar cautioned.
Many residents of the UN protection camps, particularly those in Juba, have been living there since December 2013, when the civil war started. Thousands of others in Bentiu arrived during a government offensive in Unity State in mid-2015.
Some protection camps, known as PoCs, are ethnically mixed – with both Shilluks and Nuers at the Malakal PoC, for example – while at other sites the population is almost entirely ethnically Nuer.