United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called for the prosecution of perpetrators of human rights violations in South Sudan, and some observers are calling for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators.
Machar also says he backs the prosecution of those who commit gross human rights abuses and crimes against humanity in South Sudan’s ongoing conflict. He blames President Salva Kiir for the ongoing conflict.
“Salva Kiir should go to the ICC,” said Machar. “He has targeted one ethnic group. He has embarked on ethnic cleansing resulting in the Juba massacre.”
The violence in South Sudan erupted after President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, accused former vice president Riek Machar, a Nuer, of attempting a coup. Macher, who is in hiding, denied the accusation.
“There was no coup d’état,” said Machar. “I am committed to a democratic process. It is Salva Kiir who did not want the democratic process in the party, nor does he want to go for the elections in 2015... There was no plan at all for a coup.”
But, Machar says measures including monitoring systems would have to be agreed upon by the two parties in order to ensure both sides adhere to the ceasefire calls.
“The two teams are in Addis [Ababa], they have not yet agreed on an agenda,” said Machar. “Normally, cessation of hostilities is agreed upon and a monitoring system for verification is also agreed upon. So those who are demanding it are jumping the gun. The negotiating teams need to agree on it.”
There are news reports that forces loyal to Machar are marching towards South Sudan’s capital, Juba. But, Machar says troops from the national army have also been heading towards areas under his control.
“There are troops that are allied to Salva Kiir that are marching northwards in an attempt to capture Bor. So, we definitely would match them and we would march southwards,” he said.
The African Union has called on both sides to create the space to enable humanitarian agencies to provided assistance to the victims of the violence. Machar says he agrees with the call.
“The areas which are under our control are open for humanitarian access so that people are served. We have said that publicly, that we would give access to all the humanitarian workers so that they can provide services to the people,” said Machar.
Clottey interview with Riek Machar, South Sudan's former Vice President
At the scene
Heavy fighting reported at S. Sudan army barracks in Juba, Yei
- A South Sudan army soldier mans a machine gun, that has been mounted onto a truck, as it drives through a street in Malakal town, 497 km (308 miles) northeast of capital Juba, December 30, 2013 (REUTERS/James Akena)
Representatives for President Salva Kiir and ex-vice president Riek Machar took part in opening ceremonies for talks on Saturday.
Ethiopian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said the two sides would begin face-to-face negotiations in Addis Ababa on Sunday, following days of delays.
Mufti said several items would be high on the agenda.
"Definitely cease-fire will be on the top of agenda, then the issue of opening humanitarian corridors, the issue of releasing detainees and other issues," he said.
Mufti said negotiators were anxious to find a resolution to the fighting, which has left more than 1,000 people dead.
"All sides are feeling the need, the urgency, for a cease-fire and everything else," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that Washington would support those seeking peace, but would work for international pressure against those who used force to gain any advantage. Kerry said negotiations must be serious - not a "gimmick."
South Sudan's unrest began in mid-December, when renegade soldiers attacked an army headquarters. President Kiir accused former vice president Machar of a coup attempt.
On Saturday, there were reports of heavy fighting near Bor, the rebel-held capital of Jonglei state, which government troops have launched an effort to reclaim.
Earlier, forces loyal to Machar said they were preparing to advance from Bor to the national capital, Juba. But in a Friday interview with Britain's Telegraph, Machar said his forces would hold back on attacking the capital in hopes of achieving a "negotiated settlement."
The French News Agency said explosions and automatic artillery fire rattled a government district in the capital on Saturday.
The talks in Ethiopia are being mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African regional bloc.
EU Horn of Africa representative Alexander Rondos, who is at the meeting, said the responsibility to find a solution to the conflict rested in the hands of South Sudan's political leadership.
"The leadership of South Sudan, the entire political leadership, needs to find a resolution," he said. "there are no alibis, only they can find that solution. And they must do everything to help the negotiators from IGAD to find that solution and very quickly," he said.
Machar said Wednesday that President Kiir was responsible for much of the unrest. He said peace could not be achieved under the president's leadership.
Witnesses said some of the violence was ethnically motivated, with supporters of Kiir, a member of the Dinka tribe, and supporters of Machar, from the Nuer tribe, targeting each other.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.