South Sudan's opposition leader Riek Machar says he will return to Juba in April to form transitional government with President Salva Kiir

South Sudan's opposition leader Riek Machar
South Sudan's opposition leader Riek Machar (TRT World and Agencies)

Riek Machar, South Sudan's opposition leader who has had a long feud with President Kiir said on Monday that he will return to the capital, Juba, to form a transitional government of national unity with the president.

Kiir's spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, said that Machar's return was a significant step towards the implementation of a peace deal signed in August, to end the conflict that started in late 2013.

"I am therefore confirming the date of my arrival to be April 18 and thereafter form with President Kiir the Transitional Government of National Unity and hold the Transitional National Council of Ministers," Machar said in a letter to the head of the body monitoring the implementation of the peace deal.

The opposition leader sacked Kiir as vice president in 2013, in a move exacerbating a political dispute that erupted into fighting in December between soldiers loyal to both leaders, reopening ethnic rifts between Kiir's Dinka group and Machar's Nuer.

Violence has killed thousands and displaced more than 2.3 million people to across South Sudan after Machar and his supporters left the capital.

Members of the SPLM/A-In Opposition (IO) forces allied with South Sudan's former rebel leader Riek Machar gather outside capital Juba, April 7, 2016
Members of the SPLM/A-In Opposition (IO) forces allied with South Sudan's former rebel leader Riek Machar gather outside capital Juba, April 7, 2016 (Reuters)

The United Nations Mission in South Sudan brokered a peace deal between sides of conflict with the United States and other powers, a statement said on Wednesday, which helped Machar's SPLM/A group transport 802 military and police officers to Juba, including two generals.

Under pressure from the United States, the United Nations and other powers, the sides signed an initial peace deal in August and agreed to share out ministerial positions in January. The deal has broken down repeatedly.

Machar said in February that he would return to Juba and take up his former position of vice president only if the capital was demilitarised and some of his soldiers were also allowed to return with him.

The government spokesperson Michael Makue welcomed the arrival of dozens of soldiers from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) over the past two weeks, citing the importance of the development as a "beginning of the real implementation," according to some analysists.

"We should not be just blind folded that the return of Rick Machar is the return of the second Messiah to complete all these messes that is around," said Dr Sunday Okello, an associate professor at the African Union Institute of Peace and Security Studies.

"No! We will still have problems in South Sudan maybe can be contained," he added.

"They have to start trusting each other again and trust is supposed to be earned; you cannot just sign on a paper. They have to sit together and start saying 'enough is enough'"

The conflict hit South Sudan's oil exporting economy, its currency has weakened, inflation has spiralled and oil revenues have dropped due to falling production and falling world prices.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies