South Sudan President Reappoints Rebel Leader as His Deputy

  • Appointment is keystone of peace deal seeking to end civil war
  • Machar says he hopes to return to capital within three weeks

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir reappointed rebel leader Riek Machar as his deputy, a key step in a deal to end a two-year civil war that’s killed tens of thousands of people in the oil-producing nation.

Kiir’s previous deputy, James Wani Igga, was moved to the post of second vice president and sworn in Friday in the capital, Juba. Machar served as Kiir’s deputy until he was fired in July 2013, five months before the conflict began. Under a peace accord signed in August, Machar will join the president in a 30-month transitional government, leading to new elections.

“Let us hope that Riek Machar responds very fast and we get the transitional government started,” presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said by phone from Juba. Machar told the British Broadcasting Corp. he hopes to return to Juba within three weeks once his supporters position their forces around the city as part of the agreement.

South Sudan’s conflict erupted in late 2013, sparked by a power struggle within the ruling party that led to a fracturing of the army and Machar assuming leadership of rebels mainly from his Nuer ethnic group. More than 2 million people have been forced from their homes, while the United Nations says 2.8 million urgently need food aid and at least 40,000 are on the brink of catastrophic famine.

Pumping Crude

Oil output in the nation, home to sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest reserves, has fallen by at least a third to about 160,000 barrels a day since the war began. Before the conflict, China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. pumped most of the crude.

Fighting with Machar’s rebels was focused around the northern states of Upper Nile, home to the still-operational Paloch fields, and Unity, where facilities have been offline for two years. Machar said his appointment “should start the process of confidence-building and trust,” in an interview aired by the BBC.

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