Juba, South Sudan - Setting up a unity government in South Sudan has been further delayed, a setback in efforts to end a brutal conflict that has killed thousands of people over the past two years.
Despite missing key deadlines, warring parties were scheduled to establish a transitional government after a peace deal was signed by President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar in August.
But the progress has been slow.
Al Jazeera spoke to Riek Machar of the armed opposition Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM/A IO) about the efforts to implement the signed peace deal.
|Riek Machar, rebel leader in South Sudan
Al Jazeera: Government officials we've talked to allege you are the one holding back the process of forming a unity government. What's your response?
Riek Machar: First of all, I'm not holding back the process. We were engaged in the process of incorporating the peace agreement into a constitution. There have been differences over this issue and particularly over the new 28 states. We are saying that the creation of 28 states is a violation, and this violation must be corrected first.
I think that IGAD council of ministers have now changed the sequence of the road map to the formation of the transitional government of national unity. We will now form the government after Juba is demilitarised and our troops go in. So the sequence is slightly changed, we think this is good.
We will prepare ourselves and our troops to go to Juba to form the joint integrated security force. In total 2,910 of our troops will be going to Juba and the government will have nearly 3,000 troops, then the rest will go out of Juba. After that, we can start forming the government of national unity.
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Al Jazeera: And what is the time frame for this?
Riek Machar: If we get assistance from the international community to take our troops to Juba it should take a maximum of three weeks.
Al Jazeera: The matter of the 28 states - has that been resolved?
Riek Machar: If we take the IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development) communique, the 28 states issue will be shelved until a month after we form the government of national unity. We will together discuss the need of having 28 states, maintaining the 10 that are already in place, or finding a middle ground. I think it's no longer an obstacle to the formation of the transitional government of national unity, nor is it any more an obstacle in trying to have an agreed draft for the constitution.
Al Jazeera: There's so much mistrust between your side and the government. How will you govern a country with such division.
Riek Machar: I don't think there is what you call mistrust. There are disagreements. There was disagreement over the 28 states. Sometimes there's different interpretation of the text of the agreement. This I can't say to be mistrust.
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Al Jazeera: Every time progress is made, a new condition comes up. South Sudanese are frustrated. Will there be further stumbling blocks?
Riek Machar: I think you are a good judge and you know what's wrong. If the government introduces 28 states 39 days after the peace agreement was signed by them, that is clearly creating an obstacle to the implementation of the peace agreement. In actual fact for the past three weeks, the discussion was over this issue. The lack of progress on the constitution was because of this issue.
Al Jazeera: Can you assure the people of South Sudan that you will not go back to Juba with more conditions, and you will, together with the government, form this transitional government they've been waiting so long for?
Riek Machar: I want to be in Juba. I want the government of national unity to be formed as soon as possible. All we need is to ensure that the obstacles that were creating difficulties for us are removed. There should be no reason to delay the formation of the transitional government of national unity. Once Juba is demilitarised - the troops that are supposed to take over the security of the city are deployed from both sides - then I will be in Juba. Juba is my home.
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Source: Al Jazeera