Angelina Teny, Sudan People's Liberation Movement In-Opposition HARDtalk


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Angelina Teny, Sudan People's Liberation Movement In-Opposition

Zeinab Badawi speaks to Angelina Teny of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement In-Opposition and husband to former vice president Riek Machar.


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Welcome to HARDtalk, with me, Zeinab Badawi.

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The people of South Sudan have known little peace for many decades,

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and independence in 2011 has brought them nothing but war,

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increasing poverty and starvation, and suffering.

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Tens of thousands have died, and more than 3 million have been

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forced to leave their homes in the past three years.

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The United Nations says, "The current spate of fighting

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amounts to ethnic cleansing, and could spiral into genocide."

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The main rebel group is headed by the former Vice President,

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Riek Machar, who is now in exile.

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My guest today is his wife, Angelina Teny, who is a senior

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member of the movement.

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How much responsibility do they bear for the suffering in South Sudan?

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Angelina Teney, welcome to HARDtalk.

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Thank you very much.

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The situation in South Sudan is dire.

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What are you hearing about what's going on on the ground?

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Well, you said it is dire.

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The humanitarian situation has reached a level of catastrophe.

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The war is escalating even further, and the economic situation,

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what we could say is it is no longer on a free fall,

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but rather it has crashed the country.

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So, in a nutshell, you can say that the situation for the normal

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citizen, for the person there, is really one of desperation.

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The United Nations humanitarian chief, Stephen O'Brien,

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says that 6 million people, that's half of the population,

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are in need of humanitarian assistance.

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5 million are in danger of starvation.

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3 million have been forced to leave their homes.

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A million refugees, 2 million internally displaced people.

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Who do you think is responsible for this?

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Well, I can say that we are responsible for ending it,

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and this is where the responsibility...

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We'll all come to that, about ending it, but who do

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you think is behind all this?

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I would say the way our president, President Salva, led the country has

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really led to this situation, because what had happened

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is that our country, just before starting,

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from 2011, was turned into a police state.

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So dissenting views are really not accepted.

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Then, when members of the ruling party, the SPLM, tried to start

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a dialogue within the party in order to recreate a vision and a direction

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for the country, the President did not welcome that.

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You claim President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, but I have to put it

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to you that your husband, Riek Machar, who is the main rebel

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leader, has been a significant player in South Sudan

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for three decades.

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He's been a Vice President, on and off, for 15 years,

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and he has to share the blame for the situation that the people

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of South Sudan find themselves in today.

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Well, definitely I cannot say that he has been out of the system.

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He has been in the system in South Sudan, but what you have

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to know is that my chairman, when he decided to actually raise

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the concerns that our country was facing, that is what brought

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the fallout, and that is what actually led President Salva

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to introduce violence, in order to rest finally peaceful

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dialogues within the party and within the country.

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You're talking about the recent fallout that the two men

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had last year?

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Yes.

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About that one, not just from 2013, because you know we've been engaged

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in trying to, during the interim period, really to ensure

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that the referendum succeeds.

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While we were doing that, President Salva was also

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asserting his dictatorship.

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Our disagreements started...

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He was elected, and your husband, Riek Machar, you were referring

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to the referendum in 2011 that brought independence to South Sudan,

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has been an ally, a deputy to him.

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But let me just carry on my train of thought for you,

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which is that Riek Machar must share the burden of responsibility

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for what's going on.

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South Sudan analyst, former deputy defence minister

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Majak D'Agoot refers to the gun class in South Sudan,

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"Sectarian warlords, like Riek Machar, who have

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historically used violence, channelled through appeals to ethnic

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nationalism, to hijack the state for personal gain."

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Well, I would dispute that as an accurate statement,

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because also Majak, as you know, is another politician from South

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Sudan...

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But he has been allied to your...

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However, I want to establish the fact that my husband,

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or let me say my chairman...

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Chairman of the SPLM-in Opposition.

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..has been on records all the time trying to correct the situation,

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trying to introduce institutional reforms, systems of governance that

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will ensure a democratic transformation, and this is actually

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what brings the fallout between the leaders.

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OK.

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I want to make it...

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I am not here to say that there aren't many abundant

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criticism of President Salva Kiir's government.

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There are many, from the international community,

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from within South Sudan.

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But I am talking to you, as a senior member of

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the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition.

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If there are issues to put to the government of South Sudan,

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we on HARDtalk will do that when we talk to them.

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But if I may just continue with putting to you some

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of the criticisms that are made about your movement.

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So, you say that civilians are being killed on the basis

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of tribal affiliations, but there are reliable reports that

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rebel forces of your opposition movement, or affiliated

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with your movement, have also killed and raped civilians.

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What is your response to that?

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If you go back to the records, including even the UN report,

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you will find since when we officially established the SPLM-IO

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in April 2014, that those those incidences have,

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in one way or another, what ever that had happened before

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that we have investigated, and we have actually addressed,

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since that, our movement has not made it a policy,

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and therefore, you will not find that there are incidences actually

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attributed to us since we established organised.

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Well, I'll give you one.

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Sorry to interrupt you.

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Human Rights Watch says in October 2016, rebels claiming affiliation

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with Riek Machar ambushed a convoy of cars and trucks carrying

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civilians fleeing Yei, killing mostly Dinka.

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The Dinka, of course, are the tribe of President Salva Kiir -

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according to the CIA World Factbook, about 36%

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of South Sudan's population.

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Then Nuer tribe, from which you and your husband

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hail, about 15%.

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I know the figures are disputed, that they are the most recent

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ones we have.

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Anyway, the point is that Dinka were killed, mostly,

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in this incident in Yei.

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An 11-year-old boy said, "They started to shoot,

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and I lay down.

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Others fell on top of me.

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The rebels then burned the truck, killing dozens of occupants inside."

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We have come across that.

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Actually, my chairman has directed an investigation if these are people

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truly affiliated to us, because our people on the ground

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are under orders, with clear and specific instructions,

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that they are not fighting a war with anyone.

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Rather, they are resisting the onslaught from the government.

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So that incident that has been attributed

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by the Human Rights Watch, we have investigated.

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Our forces on that part of South Sudan have actually denied

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any responsibility, or being part of it.

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I give you another example.

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Have you done anything about this?

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The United Nations Mission, UNMISS, in South Sudan,

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said in a very detailed report in 2014, "Pro-Riek Machar forces

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sacked the oil town of Bentiu in April 2014, killing hundreds

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of civilians, notably in the mosque, the hospital, the market

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and surrounding areas."

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Definitely, actually, the ICRC has done a report

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and we have a commission, and we have actually made the report

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public, and the people that were identified by the ICRC

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were brought to book by...

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The International Committee of the Red Cross, yes.

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I could go on and on, actually.

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I don't want to keep on doing that, but there are...

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You know, UNMISS, the United Nations mission, says there are reasonable

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grounds to believe that violations of international human rights

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and humanitarian law have been committed by both parties

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to the conflict.

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I would not deny absolutely to say nothing had happened,

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that I would say it is not a policy, and we are very determined

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to always, when something like that happens, it is addressed,

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it is investigated, and the culprits are actually brought to account.

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Because...

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War is tragic.

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Yes, it is tragic, but we, as a responsible organisation,

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don't believe you should allow people who do that to get

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away with it.

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UNMISS, the UN, is urging both sides to control their forces.

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Can you control your forces?

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We have, because if you go back to the incidences of the Juba crisis

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on July 8th, you would find that the way the SPLM-in-Opposition

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conducted themselves, you would find civilians telling

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you that we have actually got directives and protections,

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and we have shown what to do and where to go, and so on,

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whereas after we'd withdrawn, the catastrophe that happened

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in Juba after that, well, everybody knows

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about it, the killings...

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You are talking about the active combat that broke out in July last

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year in the South Sudanese capital, Juba, between Salva Kiir

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and Riek Machar's forces.

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But I have to say to you that you did not emerge without criticism

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from that situation.

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Human Rights Watch again said, "Regardless of the intentions

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of Machar's forces, of going into civilian sites,

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the impact of the manoeuvre was to endanger the thousands

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of civilians who were sheltering in these UN protection sites,

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and that would constitute a war crime of using human shields."

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And they also said, "Any Dinka civilians who remained

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in the town risked death."

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So you raised one example of what went on there in July,

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and I'm saying to you, again, that the forces

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of the SPLM-in-Opposition had not emerged unscathed.

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Well, we tried to withdraw...

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Given that our side was very close to the UN protection site,

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this is where the whole battle actually took place.

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So we had no way of withdrawing other than through that route,

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because the UN is very close.

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But what ever your intentions were, you endangered civilians.

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I think it is worth explaining that, as the conflict research

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American Alan Boswell, based in Kenya, writing a book

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about South Sudan, says," I think you have to different wars

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going on in South Sudan.

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You have a fight between President Salva Kiir

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and Riek Machar's coalitions over who will be king,

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but there are a bunch of smaller groups in South Sudan who are waging

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war against the kingdom itself."

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So we accept that there are a range of different perpetrators

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and unnamed militia groups and so one, but the fact does

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remain, and I ask you again, what do you say to the criticisms

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that forces of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition

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have committed some of these atrocities against civilians -

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rape, looting, killing, violence, that you yourself had condemned?

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What do you say?

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We are saying that, as a movement, we do not condone any of this.

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Even when we were negotiating the agreement, the agreement

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and the resolution of the conflict in the Republic of South Sudan,

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we stood very firm, and we are on record.

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We fought for the inclusion of transitional justice.

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Actually, we say justice and accountability.

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And this is still the cornerstone.

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And this is because we feel that we must end impunity,

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and we must make people who actually commit crimes against other human

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beings must be made accountable.

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Including anybody from your...

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Including your chairman, your husband?

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We call for it, we call for it because we feel that it is needed.

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It is what will end the situation in South sedan.

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It will end impunity, and we say it without exception.

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Without exception?

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Including your husband?

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We say it without exception.

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Right.

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Just on this point of genocide, which is a very, very important one,

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because Adama Dieng, the UN Special Adviser

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on the Prevention of Genocide, said at the end of last year,

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after visiting South Sudan, "I was dismayed that what I saw

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confirmed my concern that there is a strong risk

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of violence escalating along ethnic lines with the potential

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to spiral into genocide.

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I do not say that lightly."

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I mean, is that a possibility?

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Our thinking is not even looming, but rather in progress.

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Already the Obasanjo report, which is the report

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by the Commission of the...

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The former president of Nigeria.

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..had already established that ethnic cleansing in Juba took

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place in 2013.

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In the span of one week, over 20,000 people were killed just

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because they belonged to an ethnic group.

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This was done by men in uniform, by government.

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Well, that's your accusation, and I'm sure it will be looked at.

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Now, when you come to this situation today, it is even worse,

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because it has spread.

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It is in Southern Unity, it is in Central Equatoria,

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it is in Western Equatoria.

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We have just walked from Juba, after July.

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And we have seen it with our own eyes, and it is a plan organised

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by the government.

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President Salva is on record saying that we will hand them

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down like rats.

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Well, as I said, we are not here...

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There are criticisms made about Salva Kiir,

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but I have to put it to you that you are parties to this conflict,

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and arguably, are fuelling a lot of the violence that

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you yourself condemn.

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For example, in September last year, your movement,

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the SPLM-in-Opposition, declared war on what it described

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as the "regime" in Juba, saying it wants to wage a popular

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armed resistance against the authoritarian and fascist regime

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of President Salva Kiir in order to bring peace,

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freedom, democracy and the rule of law in the country.

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We have not declared war.

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We said resistance.

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Armed resistance.

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Because there is already a war going on, because already the regime

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of Salva was already on offensive.

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But you are parties to the conflict.

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The evidence to that is that, unless you are telling us

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don't protect yourself...

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I have to say to you, but you know yourself,

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Angelina Teney, that there was widespread condemnation

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when that statement was made.

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The US State Department's spokesman, John Kirby, 28 September,

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said, "The US government strongly condemns Riek Machar's statement."

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A joint statement by the troika powers, the EU, Norway and the US,

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as well as other governments also condemned calls by the opposition

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leaders for a renewal of armed conflict.

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"Further fighting won't solve South Sudan's pressing political

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and economic challenges.

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It will only increase the suffering of South Sudan's

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people", they said.

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I could go on and on.

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It was widespread condemnation.

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I can tell you that if you saw the communique that we issued

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during that meeting, it talks about a political process

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that is needed for the resuscitation of this agreement.

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That statement of the resistance was actually the last point

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in that communique.

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So it was an option for the people of South Sudan to continue,

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to be defended from the onslaught that is going on.

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So our declaration is actually for a political process.

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It isn't.

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Look, that is not how it is being seen at all.

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Let me ask you this.

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I'm correcting you.

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The East African Group of Nations, known as EGAD, has said,

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on the 9th of December in a communique, "We call

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upon the SPLM-in-Opposition to renounce violence as a means

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of solving the problems of South Sudan."

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Do you renounce violence?

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We say, tell the government in Juba to stop the offensive,

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the pursuit of people based on ethnic affiliation,

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based on political affiliation.

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We say that if you hold the government to account,

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because the government in Juba gets encouraged with this statement,

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and they are being let off the hook.

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In fact, they are the one on the offensive.

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Whatever the opposition is doing, it's basically fighting

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back, to resist.

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So you won't renounce violence?

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You're saying you're resisting, but you use violence to resist?

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What else to we do?

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The other options are, you go to be a refugee,

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you go to be internally displaced, or you go to a UN protection camp,

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but if you find yourself, that there is a way you can fight

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back, these people will fight back, especially when there is no hope

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now, without any peace process in place.

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You talk about the peace process.

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Of course, there was a deal in August 2015, known

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as "the agreement" for a resolution of the conflict in South Sudan.

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You think that there is still a way forward by resuscitating that?

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Definitely.

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But there are also reports, as we had in October,

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that Riek Machar announced that that agreement was dead.

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It has collapsed.

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The agreement has collapsed.

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We feel that it needs to be renewed so that it is resuscitated,

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so that the people of South Sudan are given a chance again to start.

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Remember, we did take risks and we did go to Juba

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to implement that agreement.

0:19:180:19:29

Only even based on some of the UN reports, as you know,

0:19:290:19:32

President Salva started to introduce violence,

0:19:320:19:34

and we had to leave Juba under that fire.

0:19:340:19:36

Now we are still committed to a political settlement.

0:19:360:19:39

This political settlement, we believe that this agreement has

0:19:390:19:41

a lot of good things in it.

0:19:410:19:43

It any needs to be revived, to be reviewed, so that we can also

0:19:430:19:47

embark now on its implementation.

0:19:470:19:48

But really, you've been marginalised, you've been pushed

0:19:480:19:50

to the sidelines, Riek Machar, the leader

0:19:500:19:52

of the SPLM-in-Opposition.

0:19:520:19:53

We've seen Taban Deng appointed as the new Vice President.

0:19:530:19:56

The international community have lined up behind him,

0:19:560:19:58

and President Salva Kiir, rightly or wrongly, is being seen

0:19:580:20:01

as somebody that the international community can deal with.

0:20:010:20:03

Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana,

0:20:030:20:05

who chairs the joint monitoring and evaluation commission,

0:20:050:20:07

has said, I applaud Salva Kiir's leadership.

0:20:070:20:09

So you've been written out of the picture.

0:20:090:20:16

OK.

0:20:160:20:19

Has the war stopped?

0:20:190:20:20

The war hasn't stopped, but the international community has

0:20:200:20:23

lined up a between Salva Kiir and his new deputy, Taban Deng,

0:20:230:20:26

who is from the Nuer tribe, as you are.

0:20:260:20:30

You've just spoken about a genocide looming.

0:20:300:20:32

This is a report by the UN.

0:20:320:20:35

If that government was doing something that was good

0:20:350:20:38

for the country, definitely there would be no reports talking

0:20:380:20:40

about genocide in that country.

0:20:400:20:42

So, in a nutshell, the peace agreement has collapsed.

0:20:420:20:44

There is no agreement in place.

0:20:440:20:50

The government continues to pursue a scorched earth policy

0:20:500:20:53

for targeting civilians, for targeting those that

0:20:530:20:55

are dissenting voices.

0:20:550:20:55

Now the war has escalated even more.

0:20:550:21:01

So if the international community believe, and President Salva Kiir

0:21:010:21:04

believes, that by having Taban Deng as his deputy,

0:21:040:21:11

replacing the person appointed by the government,

0:21:110:21:15

will bring peace, we should have seen peace now.

0:21:150:21:25

Well, they are working on it.

0:21:250:21:26

In December last year, President Salva Kiir announced

0:21:260:21:29

a new national dialogue.

0:21:290:21:30

Again, the international community have said they will support this

0:21:300:21:32

national dialogue in any way that they can.

0:21:320:21:35

Why don't you join this national dialogue and renounce violence?

0:21:350:21:37

The national dialogue can never be a replacement for a peace process

0:21:370:21:41

that would end the war.

0:21:410:21:45

A national dialogue, you need a conducive environment

0:21:450:21:48

where people can actually freely speak.

0:21:480:21:49

Something that is absent now in South Sudan.

0:21:490:21:51

For you to join a national dialogue, you first of all must create

0:21:510:21:56

the environment whereby you have that space for everybody to be able

0:21:560:21:59

to express themselves.

0:21:590:22:01

And this is what we are saying.

0:22:010:22:04

Let's create that space by resuscitating the agreement,

0:22:040:22:06

and once the agreement is resuscitated, we will have

0:22:060:22:08

the environment, and the agreement now provides the road map

0:22:080:22:11

for the dialogue.

0:22:110:22:20

How can you do that when Riek Machar is in South Africa?

0:22:200:22:24

By the way, is he in exile?

0:22:240:22:26

Is he under house arrest in South Africa?

0:22:260:22:28

He's not under house arrest.

0:22:280:22:29

Under country arrest, as it were?

0:22:290:22:31

The South Africans themselves have answered and said he's not

0:22:310:22:33

under house arrest.

0:22:340:22:34

So why isn't he going around lobbying governments,

0:22:340:22:36

and you're doing it instead?

0:22:360:22:38

Because I'm a member of the movement.

0:22:380:22:40

Remember, I negotiated our security...

0:22:400:22:41

Sure.

0:22:410:22:41

But can he move around?

0:22:410:22:43

He can move.

0:22:430:22:43

Is he going to go back to South Sudan, not to Juba...

0:22:430:22:47

Definitely.

0:22:470:22:47

South Sudan is home.

0:22:470:22:48

But I really want to go back to...

0:22:480:22:50

He will go back?

0:22:500:22:51

Definitely.

0:22:510:22:52

Does he still think he's Vice President?

0:22:520:22:56

He's not Vice President, because there's no transitional

0:22:560:22:58

government of national unity in place.

0:22:580:23:00

The government in Juba is the regime.

0:23:000:23:02

Since the agreement has collapsed, that leaves you with a regime that

0:23:020:23:05

he's not part of.

0:23:050:23:06

Finally, in the last few seconds, a senior African statesman,

0:23:060:23:09

who is very aware of what is going on in South Sudan,

0:23:090:23:12

has told me that South Sudan will know no peace until both

0:23:120:23:16

Salva Kiir and Riek Machar quit the scene.

0:23:160:23:18

He's right, isn't he?

0:23:180:23:19

He's not right.

0:23:190:23:26

He's not right?

0:23:260:23:29

He's not right.

0:23:290:23:30

Because we, as in opposition, offer an alternative.

0:23:300:23:32

We have a programme in place that we believe we actually can

0:23:320:23:35

transform that country, and move it to the next level.

0:23:350:23:43

We know that President Salva Kiir cannot do that, because he has been

0:23:440:23:47

given many opportunities.

0:23:470:23:48

We try even to do it with him.

0:23:480:23:50

We even introduced, before the outbreak of the 2013 crisis,

0:23:500:23:53

a process of national reconciliation that would allow the South Sudanese

0:23:530:23:56

people to actually move on.

0:23:560:23:57

President Salva abrogated it.

0:23:570:23:58

Angelina Teney, we leave it there.

0:23:580:24:00

Thank you for coming on HARDtalk.

0:24:000:24:02

Thank you.

0:24:020:24:12

Zeinab Badawi speaks to Angelina Teny from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement In-Opposition. The people of South Sudan have known little peace for many decades, and independence in 2011 has brought them nothing but war, increasing poverty, starvation and suffering. The UN says the current spate of fighting amounts to ethnic cleansing and could spiral into genocide. The main rebel group is headed by former vice president Riek Machar, who is now in exile. His wife Angelina Teny is a senior member of the movement. How much responsibility do they bear for the suffering?