South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar returned to the capital Juba on Tuesday, April 26, to be sworn in as vice president in an effort to end the civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people and forced more than 2 million from their homes.
"I'm happy to be back," Machar told reporters at the airport. "The war was vicious. We have lost a lot of people in it and we need to bring our people together so that they can unite, reconcile, heal the wounds, the mental wounds that they have."
"Peace is the only choice for us to relieve our people from the undeserved suffering associated with armed conflict enforced upon them,” said South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, following the ceremony.
“I believe this is the only way to return South Sudan to the path of peace, stability and prosperity."
The conflict erupted in December 2013 after a power struggle between Kiir and Machar, his former deputy. The peace agreement, signed in August 2015, calls for a 30-month transitional period, during which the Transitional Government of National Unity, comprised of representatives from the government, the opposition, the Former Detainees, and other political parties, will preside, leading to elections in 2018.
"This is clearly an important step for South Sudan,” said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.“After months of delay and obstructionism, both sides compromised to make this happen. It's the best hope that South Sudan has had in a very long time."
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said: “It is important now for South Sudan’s leaders to take additional steps ... form the Transitional Government of National Unity, to make progress on the core agenda of the peace agreement, according to the timeline that was established by the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission.”
The United States will continue to press South Sudan’s leaders to take those steps for the good of their country and its people.