Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni warned South Sudan’s rebel chief Riek Machar to comply with a ceasefire deal ending Tuesday or face action by regional nations.
The world’s youngest nation plunged into chaos on December 15 when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy of mounting a coup, sparking deadly violence believed to have left thousands dead.
Regional leaders at the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have set December 31 as a deadline for face-to-face talks between Kiir and Machar.
“We gave Riek Machar some four days to respond, and if he doesn’t we shall have to go for him, all of us (IGAD), that is what we agreed in Nairobi,” Museveni told reporters after meeting Kiir in Juba.
Museveni did not clarify if his threat involved military action by regional nations in support of the government, but Ugandan troops deployed in South Sudan days after the fighting began, both to support Kiir and to help evacuate its citizens.
“The AU (African Union) bans all coups so when we had some problems here… we sent some forces here under Salva Kiir to see how we can help to restore order, it’s solidarity,” Museveni added.
“People here have suffered. Don’t you see the suffering here? I want to congratulate General Salva for defeating these fellows in the town here.”
While the government has said it was willing to observe a ceasefire, Machar – who was sacked as vice-president in July – has made demands including the release of his arrested political allies before committing to a truce.
The IGAD deal agreed in Nairobi on Friday said only that leaders would “consider taking further measures” if hostilities did not cease within the timeframe.
Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom both flew into Juba Monday for fresh talks with Kiir for a “follow-up on the decisions of the IGAD summit”, he said in a statement.