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South Sudan opposition welcomes dialogue move

1 min 8Approximate reading time

South Sudan's opposition on Friday welcomed President Salva Kiir's call for "national dialogue" to restore peace after three years of civil war, but said the veteran leader could not lead the process. 

Ex-vice president Riek Machar's SPLM/A IO party "welcomed the national dialogue as a way of achieving peace, but it must not be led by President Salva Kiir," said a statement from spokesman Nyarji Roman.

On Wednesday Kiir launched what he called a "national dialogue" open to all, pledging to guarantee the safety of all sides taking part, including people currently abroad, some of whom oppose the government.

In a speech designed to build bridges, he notably asked citizens to "forgive all the mistakes" he may have made but did not hide the fact that violence has returned in recent weeks.  

His address came after South Sudan on Thursday began a fourth year of a war which has killed tens of thousands and forced over three million to flee their homes.

The conflict erupted with fighting on December 15, 2013 between rival army units, nurtured by political and ethnic tensions fueled by the rivalry between Kiir and his former vice-president Machar.

After violent clashes in Juba in July, which marked the failure of a peace accord signed in August 2015, Machar fled the country. At the end of September he called for a resumption of armed conflict, before going into exile in South Africa since then.

Most recently fighting has spread in particular to the Equatoria area, where numerous ethnic atrocities have been reported.

UN experts reported at the start of the month that "ethnic cleansing was under way in several regions of South Sudan.

Observers expect that fighting will increase with the arrival of the dry season, with both sides having prepared by hiring -- sometimes by force -- new soldiers.

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