Kiir, Machar pledge to work together for peace in South Sudan
JUBA, South Sudan - Pre-independence hero cum rebel leader Dr. Riek Machar took oath as South Sudan's first Vice President on Saturday, in a peace deal that could end years of fierce fighting between Juba administration and critics.
But even before a truce was reached in Africa's youngest nation, both parties had to compromise on various aspects as they struggled not to violate the deadline.
This is the third time Machar is taking oath as Vice President, having also been sworn-in after independence in 2011 and in 2015, after a short-lived deal.
President Salva Kiir, who has been at loggerheads with Machar, presided over Saturday's function in Juba, briefly shaking hands as a testimony of the new approach to end hostility.
"I do hereby swear that I shall be faithful and bear diligence to the Republic of South Sudan," Machar said in his oath in front of a room packed, with diplomats and regional representatives.
The pair parted ways in 2013, plunging the country into ugly chaos which left over 400,000 dead and millions displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis, Sudanese Tribune reported.
But in 2015 they briefly called for a truce, which would later be abandoned as Machar fled to South Africa, until his return to Juba last year.
For his part, Kiir declared "the official end of the war, and we can now proclaim new dawn". Peace is "never to be shaken ever again", the president said, adding that he had forgiven Machar and asking for Machar's forgiveness, to applause.
He also called on their respective Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups to do the same, further affirming his commitment to reunite the badly divided poor nation.
The country had until Saturday, February 22 to form the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity [R-TGoNU], failure to which, most international partners would have recommended for various sanctions.
However, the unity deal paved the way for an expansion of the executive, a move that would further lead to the high wage bill in a country that is struggling to offer basic services to its people.
Others sworn-in were Second Vice President James Wani Igga, Third Vice President Taban Deng Gai and Fourth Vice President Rebecca Nyandeng, the widow of the late Dr. John Garang.
Chairman of Sudan's Sovereign Council Abdel-Fattah Al-Burhan and South Africa's Deputy President David Mabuza were at the ceremony, Al-Jazeera reported.
Before Saturday's historic agreement, Kiir folded over 22 states, leaving only ten as part of the agreement. In the future, rebel forces will be consolidated to the South Sudan army, Kiir said.
The US, which had already recalled its envoy to Juba, said: "While much work remains to be done, this is an important milestone in the path to peace."
It's expected that the two warring parties will hold on together for a while as they root for a homegrown solution that would pave way for polls.