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S. Sudan’s Machar Sworn in as VP

S. Sudan’s Machar Sworn in as VP

Saturday, 22 February, 2020 - 12:30
FILE PHOTO: South Sudan's ex-vice President and former rebel leader Riek Machar flanked by President Salva Kiir Mayardit address a news conference at the State House in Juba, South Sudan February 20, 2020. REUTERS/Jok Solomun
Asharq Al-Awsat

South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar was sworn in as first vice president on Saturday, formally rejoining the government and opening a new chapter in its fragile emergence from six years of war.


"I do hereby swear that I shall be faithful and bear diligence to the Republic of South Sudan," Machar said in his oath in front of a room packed with diplomats, the leader of Sudan, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and other regional representatives.


The world’s youngest nation slid into civil war in 2013, two years after winning a long-fought independence from Sudan, as supporters of President Salva Kiir and Machar clashed. Numerous attempts at peace failed, including a deal that saw Machar return as vice president in 2016 — only to flee the country on foot months later amid fresh gunfire.


Intense international pressure followed the most recent peace deal in 2018.


Exasperation by the United States, South Sudan’s largest aid donor, and others grew as Kiir and Machar in the past year pushed back two deadlines to take the crucial step of forming the coalition government. But with less than a week before the latest deadline Saturday, each made a key concession.


Kiir announced a “painful” decision on the politically sensitive issue of the number of states, and Machar agreed to have Kiir take responsibility for his security. On Thursday, they announced they had agreed to form a government meant to lead to elections in three years’ time — the first vote since independence.


Even as citizens breathed a careful sigh of relief, aid groups, analysts and diplomats warned of major challenges ahead. In a likely sign of caution, no heads of state aside from Burhan, attended the swearing-in.


“While much work remains to be done, this is an important milestone in the path to peace,” the US Embassy said in a message of congratulations.


Tens of thousands of rival forces still must be knitted together into a single army, a process that the UN and others have called behind schedule and poorly provisioned.


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