Riek Machar, South Sudanese rebel leader, has been sworn in as the country’s Vice President, in a move to end his 28-month conflict with President Salva Kiir.
A UN-operated Radio Miraya and journalists at the airport said on Tuesday in Juba that Machar was sworn in immediately after flying to the capital Juba from Gambella in Ethiopia on a UN plane.
They said during the swearing-in ceremony witnessed by President Salva Kiir, Machar thanked the president for appointing him and called for the full implementation of the peace agreement the two had signed in August.
He said his swearing-in was expected to open the way for the inauguration of a transitional unity government, which would draft a new constitution.
“I hope that with my return, those remaining obstacles will be resolved, I want peace to prevail,’’ said Machar.
The vice president had already been expected to land a week ago, but his arrival was delayed by disagreements about the number of troops and weapons that would accompany him.
Machar was preceded by the rebels’ top commander Simon Gatwech Dual, who arrived in Juba on Monday.
Dual was accompanied by nearly 200 troops who would provide security for Machar.
He said the troops came in with 20 machine guns and 20 rocket-propelled grenades.
The troops would join more than 1,300 rebel troops who had arrived in Juba earlier as part of the peace deal.
Machar had fled the capital in December 2013 when a power struggle pitting him against Kiir turned violent.
He was recently staying in Ethiopia, from where he travelled to the South Sudanese border town of Pagak in order to return to Juba.
Machar already served as Kiir’s vice president once before, after South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, until Kiir sacked him in 2013.
The UN said the conflict has displaced more than 2 million people, with more than 5 million facing food insecurity, marked by widespread atrocities and has ignited ethnic hatred.
It noted that the peace agreement signed in August had not entirely stopped the fighting and its implementation was delayed.
The UN and the United States had mounted pressure on Machar to return to Juba without delay.