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Riek Machar Announces South Sudan 'Resistance' Movement

FILE - A July 26, 2013 photo shows former South Sudan VP Riek Machar speaking to the media to announce he will run for the presidency in 2015 against President Salva Kiir, who sacked Machar and his cabinet this week, Juba, South Sudan.
South Sudan's former vice president says he has formed a "resistance" group that will fight the government to ensure democracy and good governance in the war-battered country.

"We decided to organize a resistance against the regime," Machar told VOA in a telephone interview from an undisclosed location.

"So, yes, if you heard troops in Upper Nile, in Jonglei, in Unity States, in Equatoria saying what I am saying, yes, we are now an organized resistance against the regime," said Machar.

The resistance group, called the SPLM/SPLA -- an amalgam of the name of the ruling Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the South Sudanese army -- wants to see democracy, pluralism, free elections and good governance take hold in South Sudan, Machar said.

Riek Machar announces South Sudan resistance movement
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Machar went into hiding in mid-December when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy of mounting a failed coup against him, which the government said kicked off weeks of bloodletting across the country.

Machar has denied trying to oust the president in a coup. In his interview with VOA, he insisted that he and others in the ruling SPLM merely wanted to democratize the party.

"The struggle in the SPLM is a struggle of people who want the SPLM to be a democratic movement," he said.

Machar was fired from his post of vice president in July, when Kiir reshuffled his entire cabinet. Since then, the former vice president has been a vocal critic of Kiir, saying he has "dictatorial tendencies" and vowing to challenge him for the leadership of the SPLM ahead of general elections in 2015.

But he said he did not launch his resistance movement in order to better position himself for a run for the presidency.

Riek Machar on running for president of South Sudan
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Machar invited the 11 SPLM leaders who were detained when the unrest broke out to join his resistance movement against Kiir.

Seven of the 11 have been released, under the terms of a peace agreement signed 11 days ago by the two sides in South Sudan's conflict. But the government said it has enough evidence to charge the four other detainees and three more political leaders who fled when the fighting broke out -- including Machar -- with treason.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, flanked by seven South Sudanese detainees released to his custody, speaks to reporters in Nairobi.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, flanked by seven South Sudanese detainees released to his custody, speaks to reporters in Nairobi.
​Machar said that he wants an end to the fighting in South Sudan so that the country can focus on much-needed development. But Kiir has forced his hand, and is forcing war on the people, he said.

"I myself am tired of war... I share the views of people who say, 'We do not want any more war. We want our people to reconcile. We want our people to develop and catch up with the rest of the world.' But Kiir Mayardit is forcing this on us... Therefore, the people have the right to resist," Machar told VOA.

Riek Machar: "Kiir is forcing this on us."
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Foreign observers have described the peace deal signed by the two warring sides as shaky, and a spokesman for Machar said Monday that government forces violated the agreement over the weekend when they attacked Machar's hometown in Unity state and other towns held by the anti-government forces.

Talks to reconcile the warring factions in South Sudan are due to resume on February 7th.
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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the South Sudan In Focus radio program.