South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar said President Salva Kiir should resign and dissolve his government at midnight Wednesday, when the country’s 2011 transitional constitution is set to expire.
Machar called on Kiir to make way for a new government.
“We want people to know that the regime in Juba is illegitimate and therefore dealing with that regime is just like dealing with a regime that has made a coup and practically it has made a coup against the people. He has usurped the power of the people to deny them the right to elect their leaders," Machar told VOA Wednesday.
A political fallout between the two leaders spiraled into interethnic violence in December 2013 that has killed tens of thousands of people, despite several cease-fires.
The two sides have been engaged in slow-going peace talks under the mediation of the East African regional bloc IGAD, but have made little headway toward a lasting deal.
Machar said he is optimistic progress may be made with a new iteration of the group called IGAD-Plus, which includes the African Union, the United States and other major international powers.
“We are waiting for the IGAD-Plus to sit and show us the road map of how the peace process is going to continue," he said.
Machar spoke to VOA after a news conference where he said that if Kiir would not give up power, South Sudan's people have the right to topple his regime.
FILE - South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, left, and South Sudan rebel commander Riek Machar exchange documents after signing a cease-fire agreement during the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Summit on the case of South Sudan in Ethiopia.
However, government officials have accused Machar and his supporters of stalling on a peace deal.
'Work to stop war'
At an event in the capital, Juba, Kiir said Wednesday, "It is not me alone who will stop the war, but it is all of us in South Sudan that should work to stop the war."
The United Nations has accused both sides of committing human rights violations during the conflict, including the forced recruitment of child soldiers.
Fighting has also pushed communities to the brink of famine and displaced more than 1.5 million people within the country.
South Sudan declared independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011.
Some material for this report came from Reuters.