The rebel faction of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM-in-Opposition) led by the former vice-president, Riek Machar, has opened a liaison office in Kampala in order to promote relations between the rebel group and the Ugandan government.
The newly established office will coordinate diplomatic relations, as well as humanitarian, peace and reconciliation initiatives in Uganda aimed at realising a peaceful and sustainable solution to South Sudan’s ongoing crisis.
David Otim has been appointed as the principal representative for the SPLM/A in Opposition in Uganda, the political wing of the rebel group that has been engaged in an armed struggle with Juba since mid-December last year after a political rift in the country’s ruling party (SPLM) turned violent.
Speaking to journalists in Kampala on Monday, Otim said the initiative was the result of face to face talks last month between the Ugandan government and representatives of the opposition group.
Otim says Uganda’s hosting of thousands of South Sudanese refugees is a sign of the friendship and goodwill that exists between the two countries.
“We take this opportunity also to thank the government of Uganda and its loving people for extensively accepting to maintain its humanitarian corridor for refugees and internally displaced persons of South Sudan and respecting her international obligations on [the] responsibility to protect refugees, including South Sudanese residents irrespective of their political affiliation and beliefs,” he said.
Rebels have repeatedly called on the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which is mediating peace talks between the two warring parties in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to address the root causes of the crisis in order to achieve lasting reconciliation in the country.
“We further commend the support and encouragement [that] we have received from the IGAD member states [and] for the tremendous support for the peace
process in South Sudan,” Otim said, expressing particular appreciation for the efforts of the US, UK, Norway and the European Union.
“The SPLM/A [in Opposition] avails itself of this opportunity to call upon all sisters
and friendly countries and [the] international community to exert the genuine efforts that will address the root causes of the conflict,” Otim added.
The rebel faction has called on president Salva Kiir to step down, accusing him of instigating targeted ethnic violence after fighting broke out between rival units of the presidential guards in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, before spreading to other areas.
The fighting has largely pitted government forces loyal to Kiir against ethnic Nuer militia and dissident soldiers aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar, who was sacked last July.
Otim says the opposition’s struggle is based around protecting the rights of all South Sudanese people.
“This war is for the people of South Sudan. We are working very hard, even to liberate General Salva Kiir because he is stranded with power in Juba. We are trying to tell him (Kiir) that what he is doing is wrong. He must come to his senses; this country belong to all,” said Otim.
“We appreciate what [the] international communities are doing; they must give sense to the people of South Sudan if they want genuine peace in South Sudan. They must listen to South Sudanese people who are suffering on the ground,” he added.
Meanwhile, the rebel has criticised recent attempts by the South Sudanese government to expel foreign workers, accusing it of violating its obligations as a member of the East Africa Community, which allows citizens of members to trade and seek employment freely in the region.