By Deng Machol
Juba – South Sudan President Salva Kiir granted a general amnesty to rebels in South Sudan’s civil war, including his former deputy Riek Machar, days after signing a power-sharing agreement in the latest effort to end a five-year civil war.
This also comes a day a rights organization said authorities in Africa’s youngest country should also free its unarmed critics.
South Sudan’s president has granted amnesty to armed opposition leader Riek Machar and all rebel groups
The amnesty order was read out on state-run television late on Wednesday evening, three days after president Kiir, SPLM-IO leader Machar and the heads of other groups signed a revitalized power-sharing peace agreement in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on August 05, 2018.
I declare republican order number 14 for the year 2018 for the grant of general amnesty to the leader of SPLM-IO Dr Riek Machar and other estranged groups who waged war against the government of the republic of South Sudan,” read the order broadcast by the state media late Wednesday.
South Sudan has descended into another civil war in 2013 after the political row between president Kiir and Dr. Machar that has killed tens of thousands, forced 2.5 million population to flee their homes and created Africa’s largest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide and ruined the country’s oil-dependent economy.
The conflict has often been fought along ethnic lines. This is the second agreement after a similar peace deal signed in 2015 fell apart a year later in deadly clashes that saw Dr Machar flee into exile.
Dr. Machar was freed this year from house arrest in South Africa where he had been held since fleeing South Sudan in 2016.
As part of the power-sharing deal, Kiir will remain president and Machar will return to the country as the first vice president, one of five vice presidents, a similar agreement fell apart in July 2016.
President Kiir also ordered the army to allow unrestricted access to humanitarian agencies to respond to massive humanitarian needs across the country and to respect the ceasefire.
SPLM-IO is the largest of the rebel groups fighting Kiir’s government, and fighters allied to it control several areas in South Sudan. Whereas other anti-government groups have also emerged, some of which have fought against each other.
Despite the agreement that Kiir and Machar signed over the weekend in Sudan, the working relations between the two principals remained fragile.
The SPLM-IO spokesperson Lam Paul quoted said president Kiir was in no position to grant amnesty to anyone after overseeing the atrocities and multiple cease-fire violations committed by his troops.
“Salva should instead seek for forgiveness from Dr. Machar in particular and South Sudanese in general,” Paul told AP.
Paul further added that the amnesty will only be genuine once Kiir observes all the conditions agreed upon in the deal signed on Sunday.
“Machar can only come to Juba after the pre-interim period when the unified forces are deployed in Juba and other major towns in South Sudan,” Paul said, quoted by Reuter.
However, observers said that this may give Machar much confidence and other rebels a genuine reason to return to the country without the fear of the repetition of the 2016 incident.
Multiples of citizens said a lot still is needed such as the genuine cessation of hostilities and ending the war of words among the warring parties.
The United States last month said it was “skeptical” the two men whose rivalry has been so destructive could lead the way to peace under the new agreement.
South Sudan’s government insists things will be different this time, with government spokesman Michael Makuei saying last week that Machar has “learned the hard way.”
However, the warring parties leaders from the sides of the conflict are seem to end the war because they have run out of money and they need cash to continue hold on power. For instance, if oil flow increases, and more money goes into economic, then they will find a good reason to abandon the war and to enjoy the profits for peace.
Machar’s troops are expected to go to cantonment sites for training to be unified with the government army.
Although, the implementation of peace takes a lot of time than signing a piece of paper, the two principals and other parties’ leaders have committed themselves to implement the peace deal.
The analysts described it as ‘a good gesture toward trust building that will enhance the smooth and genuine implementation of the recently signed power – sharing deal.’
Deng Jacob, resident in Juba, said it demonstrated the ability to forgive and to be forgive and that means, it can forge a room for forgiveness [if president implemented it] amongst the South Sudanese and may paved to the reconciliation process in the country.