Former South Sudanese first vice president Riek Machar
The African Union has called upon the South Sudanese government to include exiled rebel leader Riek Machar in the country’s peace negotiations, saying the talks need to be as inclusive as possible.
The former first vice president is currently holed up in South Africa where he went to seek treatment following clashes between his troops and those of President Salva Kiir in the capital Juba in July 2016.
“The national dialogue needs to take place as quickly as possible. It needs to be as inclusive as possible, because this is a South Sudanese problem which will be solved and has been solved before by South Sudanese” AU Commission spokesperson Ebba Kalondo said.
The South Sudanese government in August said it would consider allowing Machar back into the country, but he first had to denounce violence.
“If he denounces violence and decides to come to South Sudan and settle as a citizen, it’s his right, if he comes as a politician, he must renounce violence and come at a time when elections are about to happen and he accepts whatever we agreed upon,” Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth said.
Some regional states are said to be against the inclusion of the rebel leader in the peace talks, including IGAD states.
They argue that Machar has done nothing to stop the violence.
The AU however says it will not intervene directly to get him to the negotiating table. It wants IGAD, South Africa and Juba to make that happen.
The continental body is expected to issue a detailed assessment on the crisis at next week’s UN General Assembly.
South Sudan is currently ranked as Africa’s biggest refugee crisis, coming third worldwide after Syria and Afghanistan.