South Sudan's rebel leader and former vice-president Riek Machar is offering a solution to end the ongoing civil war in the world's newest nation, his wife has told IBTimes UK. Angelina Teny made the comment during a conference – held at London's Chatham House 10 January – on prospects of peace in South Sudan.
The African nation gained independence from Sudan in 2011. However, it descended into war in 2013, when President Salva Kiir, of the Dinka ethnic group, fired his deputy and rebel leader Riek Machar from his cabinet.
Ethnic-related violence targeting Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups then spread,
An estimated 50,000 people have been killed, amid allegations of crimes against humanity committed by both sides, including rape, torture and the use of child soldiers. Millions are displaced and are facing severe food shortages due to a man-made famine.
Kiir and Machar have agreed on several peace deals – the last of which was signed in August 2015 – but have failed to control their troops, who have broken every ceasefire since 2014.
Machar, who leads the opposing faction Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO), fled South Sudan following deadly fighting in Juba in July. He was replaced by Taban Deng Gai, a former ally of his.
"Machar has been out of the county for months, but the conflict has not ended, it has intensified," she said.
"If people bothered to look into the records of how our chairman [Machar] has been conducting himself during the interim period, including the transitional period, you would see that he has always taken a risk to ensure there is peace and reconciliation in South Sudan," Teny, who was state minister of energy and mining in the Khartoum-based Government of National Unity, continued.
She also stressed that, although ethnicity is being used as a motive to prolong violence, it is not the underlying cause of the conflict. Teny also accused the governemnt of perpetrating ethnic-related violence against its people.
"In 2013, when the conflict broke, there were massacres against people of specific ethnic groups, carried out mainly by government forces. Now, people are fleeing areas controlled by government forces and relocating to rebel-held areas where the situation is a bit better and they can escape rape," she went on alleging.
IBTimes UK's exclusive interview with Machar:
"It is important to look at the root causes of the conflict. Take time and patience, and you will see that my chairman offers an alternative."
Like her husband told IBTimes UK in November 2016, Teny said SPLM-IO remained committed to the August 2015 peace agreement.
"SPLM-IO also calls for demilitarisation of majour towns as well as justice and accountability for atrocities committed. Since violence broke out in July 2016, there has not been a process to bring all warring sides to the table," she said.
"A national dialogue is important, but war must be stopped first, so that people – from all sides of the conflict – can sit and have an honest conversation,"Teny concluded.
Both the South Sudanese embassy in London and Kiir's press secretary have not responded to a request for comments on Teny's claims.
In December, Kiir called for a national dialogue to, "save the country from disintegration and usher in a new era of peace, stability and prosperity."
In his speech, the president did not mention Machar or any plan to bring perpetrators to justice. However, he called on both sides to immediately cease hostilities and prepare, "the ground for a more peaceful, secure and joyous Christmas and New Year."