JUBA, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- The South Sudanese government said Monday that exiled rebel leader Riek Machar was welcome to participate in the upcoming national dialogue on condition that he denounces rebellion against the government.
President Salva Kiir's spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told Xinhua in an interview in Juba that the national dialogue initiated in December last year by Kiir will be open to all armed groups willing to abandon rebellion.
"If he (Machar) denounces violence he will participate in national dialogue," Ateny told Xinhua.
The war-torn country has seen its social fabric threatened due to more than three years of conflict, with the United Nations warning of possible genocide, citing reports of ethnic targeted killings in the restive Yei town.
"National dialogue is for those who are ready to put down guns and not those pursuing violence. Anybody who is armed is not ready for dialogue," Ateny revealed.
Machar, who is exiled in South Africa, has criticized Kiir's call for national dialogue, saying it was worthless without resuscitating the fragile peace agreement signed under the auspice of regional body Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
Machar was replaced as First Vice President by his former chief negotiator Taban Deng Gai in the transitional unity government after he fled the capital during renewed clash in July last year.
Machar's SPLA-In-Opposition (SPLA-IO) party split into two with Gai leading a breakaway faction in Juba.
Several unknown armed groups who pay little heed to paper deals also continued to wrack havoc in the Equatoria and Upper Nile regions.
Some analysts have said that without Machar's SPLA-IO, the national dialogue meant to unite and reconcile the warring factions will fail to achieve its objectives.
South Sudan has been shattered by civil war which broke out in December 2013 after President Kiir accused his former deputy Machar of plotting a coup. Machar denied the accusation but then mobilized a rebel force.
A peace deal signed in August 2015 led to the formation of a transitional unity government in April, but was again devastated by fresh violence in early July, 2016.
Tens of thousands of South Sudanese have been killed, with over 2 million displaced and another 4.6 million left severely food insecure since December 2013. Enditem