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South Sudan Presidential Spokesperson Hails Regional Bloc

FILE - South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar (R) and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (L) exchange signed peace agreement documents in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, May 9, 2014.

Ateny Wek Ateny, South Sudan’s presidential spokesperson, says the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is being impartial in its efforts to resolve the country’s eight-month-old conflict. It pits forces led by former vice president Riek Machar against the government of President Salva Kiir. The fighting has left about 10,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes.

Ateny also rejected reports that Kiir’s government has been purchasing weapons to prolong the conflict saying the administration has yet to buy any since its last purchase six years ago.

“South Sudan has not used a single penny to buy any arms since 2008. The issues we are [focusing on] is how to tackle famine, how to bring peace back to South Sudan and how to rehabilitate the communities and to reconcile them,” said Ateny. “We are not looking for arms because the arms we purchased in 2008 are already enough to protect South Sudan for the next 10 years.”

Rebels loyal to Machar say the East African regional bloc’s mediation efforts are biased. They contend that the IGAD peace proposal to be signed by both warring parties solely favors Juba.

But Ateny said IGAD is doing its job since both representatives of the Kiir administration and the rebels are accusing mediators of bias.

He said Juba supports its efforts to end the violence.

“IGAD is now very impartial simply because we were complaining about IGAD being biased towards the rebels up to recently. Whenever the rebels attack our position after signing any document, IGAD comes out to say all the parties violated the agreement. Now the rebels are saying IGAD is biased towards President Kiir,” said Ateny. “The bottom line is IGAD might be doing its job because the two parties are complaining.”

The rebels have accused the government of paying lip service to ending the conflict after the administration repeatedly refused to ensure Ugandan forces withdraw – a key demand by Machar’s representatives at the peace negotiations.

But Ateny said Kiir has demonstrated his commitment to ending the conflict.

“President Salva Kiir alone cannot bring peace,” said Ateny. “So we urge the rebel leader to … begin now to seriously engage in peace. He will find President Salva Kiir very ready to bring peace to South Sudan because [he] doesn’t see this country going [forward] without [it].”