Juba, Feb 23 (IANS) Rival leaders in South Sudan have formed a coalition government, in a step towards ending a bloody civil war that has left 10,000s dead and millions displaced.
Leader of the opposition Riek Machar was inaugurated as the country’s first vice president in a ceremony here attended by foreign leaders of the region.
Machar and President Salva Kiir have led the main sides of the civil war, which broke out in 2013.
They shook hands and made promises that it would be a new beginning for the young nation, Efe news reported.
Kiir said it was “the official end of the war, and we can now proclaim a new dawn”.
He added that the peace is “never to be shaken ever again”.
He said he had forgiven Machar and asked for his forgiveness in return as well as amnesty between their two communities.
Kiir said forgiveness is a “difficult issue” but stressed the country must reconcile with the past and “give the future a chance”.
Machar thanked Kiir for “working for peace” after taking office, ending a wait to form a national unity government which was due to take place in May but was repeatedly postponed.
He said he hopes to lead the implementation of the peace agreement and improve the country’s economy and living conditions for citizens.
Machar added that he appreciated the efforts of other countries in the region to stop the war and achieve peace in South Sudan.
At the end of his speech, Machar emphasized the opposition’s commitment to work with Kiir to implement the text and “the spirit” of the peace agreement.
Three other vice presidents also took their oaths on Saturday, James Wani Igga and Taban Deng Gai, who held the same positions in the government dissolved on Friday, and Rebecca Nyanding Garang.
Nyanding Garang called on the citizens of South Sudan to support the new transitional government for peace and stability and asked the country’s leaders to work to achieve those aspirations across the country.
The rest of the members of the new coalition government were expected to assume their positions on Saturday, although last-minute meetings were continuing on the day.
Machar’s appointment was announced on Friday through a presidential decree that was communicated to the population via state public media.
With the inauguration of the new government, in which the opposition will have nine ministers and Kiir will have 26, the main point of the peace agreement between the disputing parties will be fulfilled.
There were still several issues to be resolved in the agreement, including the administrative distribution of states in the country, the formation of a new army and security mechanisms for leaders of the different disputing sides.
South Sudan, the youngest country in the world, gained independence in 2011 and descended into civil war in 2013 which has destroyed its economy and is estimated to have killed 400,000 people and displaced millions of others.