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S. Sudan Rebel Leader To Raise Peace Plan Issues at AU Summit

FILE - South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar poses for a photograph as he is interviewed by The Associated Press about the situation in South Sudan.
FILE - South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar poses for a photograph as he is interviewed by The Associated Press about the situation in South Sudan.

South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar is taking his campaign against President Salva Kiir’s plan to create 28 states to the African Union Thursday.

Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, secretary for foreign affairs of the SPLM-in Opposition, said Machar will attend the African Union summit in Addis Ababa from January 28-31 to urge the African leaders who are guarantors of the August peace agreement to tell President Salva Kiir to drop his creation of 28 states.

“We wanted to make sure that the peace is implemented. We will be engaging with many leaders in Africa, especially the guarantors of the peace agreement. So most of the key guarantors of the peace agreement will be in the AU summit, and we will be engaging them to make sure that they pressure President Salva [Kiir] to revoke his creation of 28 states because the agreement is talking about 10 states only, not 28,” Gatkuoth said.

Creation of new states

In a decree in October, Kirr announced the creation of 28 new states, up from the 10 previous ones.

Kiir said his decision was guided by South Sudan’s Transitional Constitution. He also said one purpose of the new states is to decentralize power, placing resources closer to the rural population while at the same time reducing the size of the national government.

Rebels leaders have said the division of South Sudan into 28 states will bring about more community unrest because it takes away land from one tribal group and gives it to another.

Machar, a vice president-designate in the country's soon-to-be formed national unity government, returned from the Ugandan capital, Kampala, Tuesday where he urged Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to tell the South Sudanese president to scrap his 28 states decision because it is hindering implementation of the peace agreement.

Seeking new chapter

Gatkuoth said Machar told the Ugandan leader that the rebels wanted to start a new chapter of peace and friendship, and also asked Museveni to continue to play the important role he has been playing in the peace process.

“You know, if it is not because of President Museveni, Salva Kiir would not have signed the [August peace] agreement. If you recall, [President] Salva signed the agreement nine days after Dr. Riek Machar signed agreement in Addis Ababa,” Gatkuoth said.

Museveni sent Ugandan troops to South Sudan at the start of the conflict. Withdrawal of the troops had been a key demand of the rebels during negotiations to end the conflict.

A panel of U.N. experts Tuesday released a report calling on the Security Council to impose sanctions on both Machar and Kiir for their roles in the country’s civil war.

Gatkuoth said Machar had no role in the violence cited in the UN report.

“You definitely need to know that when the war started Dr. Riek was running for his life. He was almost killed, more than 11 ambushes on the way. Myself, I was captured and arrested, taken to court and tried accused of making a coup. But at the end the court of Salva Kiir acquitted us, declaring that there was no coup. So, Dr. Machar had no role in instigating this violence,” Gatkuoth said.