South Sudan President Salva Kiir has barred his rival and former deputy, Riek Machar, from attending the national dialogue that opened today at Freedom Hall in the capital, Juba.
Running under the theme: “Redefining the basis of our unity and sense of common purpose through the national dialogue”, the dialogue aims at reconciling the warring parties and ending their grievances peacefully, without resorting to violence.
To that effect, President Kiir on Monday directed the government troops [SPLA] to ceasefire across the country as a show of goodwill and commitment to peace.
“I direct security forces to provide an environment for people to participate in the dialogue including opposition.”
“I’m once again declaring a unilateral ceasefire and direct SPLA commanders to observe it,” he said.
Kiir said the ceasefire was so that they can facilitate the dialogue and delivery of humanitarian assistance.
“As a gesture of goodwill, I have directed for the review of cases of political prisoners so that they can be released.”
He called on the opposition leaders to embrace the spirit of national unity and join the dialogue, saying the opposition forces were invited to come and participate and many of them came.
“Everybody is welcome to participate in the dialogue, except Riek Machar,” Kiir clarified.
He said if Machar has a delegation, they can come but himself is not allowed to set one foot in the capital.
Over the weekend, Sudan Tribune reported that members of the armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO) had trashed reports saying they replaced their leader Riek Machar with his wife, Angelina Teny.
Social media was awash with news that Angelina Teny had allegedly been appointed acting chairperson of the armed opposition movement, a reported that was rejected by Machar’s press secretary, Lam Kuei Lam.
Meanwhile in Juba, Kiir challenged those who question his intentions to give the newly sworn in steering committee the benefit of doubt.
“A mad man entered J1. In the morning, he demanded for clothes saying he is President. We have a problem in South Sudan,” Kiir managed to joke.