S Sudan rebel leader vows to take key oil fields

2014-04-15 12:45
South Sudan President Salva Kiir. (File, AFP)

South Sudan President Salva Kiir. (File, AFP)

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Upper Nile - The leader of South Sudan's rebels has vowed to attack the capital Juba and target crucial oil fields, warning in an exclusive interview with AFP that the civil war will not end until the country's president is removed from power.

Former vice president turned rebel chief Riek Machar branded his arch rival, President Salva Kiir a "dictator" and said he saw "no reason for power sharing".

The comments came as the conflict in the world's youngest nation enters its fifth month, and amid warnings of looming famine and floundering peace talks.

"If we are to remove the dictator, Juba is a target, oil fields are a target," Machar said late Monday in a secret location in Upper Nile state, one of South Sudan's key oil producing regions.

Ethnic dimension

"We are only resisting a regime that wants to destroy us," Machar said, adding he still hoped a moribund ceasefire deal signed in Ethiopia in January "will be respected by both parties."

The conflict in South Sudan has left thousands dead and forced around a million people to flee their homes since fighting broke out on December 15 in the capital Juba, before spreading to other states in the oil-rich nation.

The fighting is between soldiers loyal to Kiir against mutinous troops who sided with Machar, who was dismissed as vice-president in 2013. The conflict has also taken on an ethnic dimension, pitting Kiir's Dinka tribe against Machar's Nuer people.

Seated in a plastic chair in his basic camp - a dozen mud huts on flat grasslands - the 62-year-old Machar said he was willing to hold face-to-face talks with Kiir, but also that he saw little point.

"What would we discuss? You are a discredited leader, you have committed massacres, I hope he accepts that," Machar said.

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