ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — South Sudan's rebel leader said Saturday that he has accepted his appointment by President Salva Kiir as vice president and will return to the country to take up the position when adequate security arrangements are made.
Riek Machar called for the demilitarization of the capital, Juba, adding that the first phase of integrating government and rebel forces should be done before his return.
"We as a movement have welcomed of the issuance of the decree that appointed me as the first vice president of the Republic of South Sudan," Machar told reporters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Implementation of the peace agreement signed in August stalled because Kiir ordered the creation of 28 states from the existing 10, undermining a power-sharing provision in the accord that gave Machar's side control of two of the original states.
Sporadic fighting has continued between government forces and rebels in some parts of the oil-producing East African country.
Machar had been Kiir's deputy until July 2013, when his firing triggered a political crisis that later boiled over into a rebellion following a violent split among the security forces in Juba. Some of the fighting was along ethnic lines, and both sides have been accused of carrying out serious human rights abuses.
The U.N. welcomed Machar's appointment and urged him to return to Juba, the spokesman for the secretary-general, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters.
Despite the peace accord, both sides continue to seek new weapons, according to a report released last month by a U.N. panel of experts.