South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir has named his arch-rival Riek Machar as vice-president, after fighting for more than two years of civil war.
“I, Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic of South Sudan, do hereby issue this Republican Decree for the appointment of Dr. Riek Machar Teny as the first vice President of the Republic of South Sudan,” the decree issued late on Thursday night said.
The appointment was agreed as part of an August 2015 peace deal, which has been repeatedly broken.
Machar, who was vice-president from 2005 until he was sacked in 2013, and who has yet to return to Juba since fleeing when war broke out in December 2013, welcomed the decree.
“It is welcome news because it is a step forward in the implementation of the peace agreement,” Machar told AFP, speaking from Ethiopia. It was not immediately clear when Machar would travel to Juba to take up his post.
Civil war erupted in December 2013 when Kiir accused his former deputy Machar of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the poverty-stricken, landlocked country along ethnic lines.
The two leaders come from the south’s two main ethnic groups, Kiir from the Dinka people and Machar from the Nuer, tribes that are themselves split into multiple and sometimes rival clans.
Fighting continues, and the conflict now involves multiple militia forces who pay little heed to paper peace deals, driven by local agendas or revenge attacks.
Both the government and rebel sides have been accused of perpetrating ethnic massacres, recruiting and killing children and carrying out widespread rape, torture and forced displacement of populations to “cleanse” areas of their opponents.
Despite clashes and repeated failure to meet a string of deadlines in the August deal, both Kiir and Machar have said they remain committed to the peace deal.
Kiir and Machar are former rebel leaders who rose to power during Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war between north and south, after which South Sudan seceded in 2011 to form the world’s youngest country.