SPLM splinter group elects S. Sudan's Machar as leader

ADDIS ABABA – A breakaway group from the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) has elected sacked vice president Riek Machar as its leader.

According to a statement the group sent to Anadolu Agency in Addis Ababa, the so-called "SPLM/A in opposition" group said it had elected Machar as its chief at its consultative conference, held from April 15 to 18 in a rebel-held area of Unity State.

The statement said that political party representatives, community leaders and civil society figures had taken part in the conference.

The statement went on to call for the restructuring of South Sudan's government, the establishment of a federal system, judicial independence and public sector reform, among other things.

The SPLM/A fought Khartoum in a bitter civil war that ended with a 2005 peace treaty that opened the door to the secession of South Sudan in 2011.

Differences between Machar and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir erupted into all-out conflict last December, with both of the former allies claiming to represent the SPLM, which had fought for the country's independence.

Since last December, when Kiir accused Machar of standing behind a failed coup attempt, the country has been shaken by violence.

The nascent country remains in the grip of on-again, off-again violence despite a cessation of hostilities agreement signed by the warring rivals in January following weeks of peace talks in Addis Ababa.

A second round of talks is set to resume in the Ethiopian capital sometime later this month.

The conflict has already claimed more than 10,000 lives, with the U.N. estimating that some one million South Sudanese have already been displaced by the ongoing turmoil.

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