JUBA, Jul 14 – South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir called on arch-rival Riek Machar on Thursday to meet for talks to salvage peace after days of intense gun battles in the capital Juba.
“I don’t want any more bloodshed in South Sudan,” Kiir said, speaking in public for the first time since fighting erupted on Friday. “I want Dr Riek Machar, the first vice president of the republic, to be near me, so we can chart the way forward.”
Kiir spoke at the bullet-scarred presidential palace, standing alongside ceasefire monitoring chief Festus Mogae, a former Botswana president, and African Union special envoy Alpha Oumar Konare, a former president of Mali.
He called for Machar to meet him for talks to save the peace deal but acknowledged the deep mistrust that led to days of intense fighting that has left hundreds dead.
“I talked with Dr Machar today, in the morning, and I asked him to come, but it was difficult for him to accept,” Kiir said, adding that he did not know Machar’s exact whereabouts but that neither he nor his allies were in any danger.
“If there was anyone hunting for them, they could find them,” Kiir said. “I am ready to protect Dr Machar if he comes.”