South Sudanese president rejects opposition calls to step down

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President Salva Kiir

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has rejected demands by several groups that he should step down as a precondition for ending more than four years of civil war in the east African nation.

“The people who are fighting with us have very unreasonable conditions to make peace,” president Kiir said on Tuesday evening during an occasion to mourn the country’s fallen army chief, James Ajongo who died in Egypt last week.

“They want me to sign the agreement and then step down immediately. What is my incentive in bringing peace if it is peace that I will bring and then I step aside? Nobody can do it,” the South Sudanese leader said.

An alliance of eight opposition groups who are part of South Sudan’s peace negotiations early this month called for president Kiir to resign as part of the peace deal.

The groups also demanded that president Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar who now leads an opposition group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO), be excluded from the unity government.

But Kiir has dismissed the demands as being unreasonable.

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

The UN estimates about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.

A peace deal signed in August 2015 between the rival leaders under United Nations pressure led to the establishment of a transitional unity government in April 2016, which was shattered months later by renewed fighting in July.

The next round of peace talks spearheaded by the East African bloc, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) was scheduled to be convened in Ethiopia on April 26, but IGAD last week postponed the negotiations to a date yet to be announced.

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