NEW: Ugandan president vows the region will help 'defeat' Machar if he doesn't agree to talks
African nations should have acted quickly with military support, President Kiir says
The White Army is loyal to South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar
African nations should have acted quickly to help quell the bloody fighting that has consumed parts of South Sudan this month, the President of the new country told CNN on Monday.
As soon as an attempted coup took place and violence broke out, “the original leaders and all African leaders should have come in with military support,” so that the rebels would be “crushed once and for all,” President Salva Kiir said.
However, he said, he did not ask them for help.
East African nations have set Tuesday as a deadline for the two sides to engage in talks.
If the other side, led by former South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar, does not agree to talk, then “we will fight,” Kiir vowed. “In both cases,” he said, peace “will be restored.”
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, at a news conference, said that if Machar does not agree to talks, the other countries will “go for him.” Asked what that means, he said, “defeat him.”
Machar could not be reached immediately for comment.
Machar is a longtime rival of Kiir. The men are from tribal clans. Kiir is from the Dinka tribe, Machar from the Neur.
Kiir accused Machar of trying to stage a coup. Machar has denied the claim.
Fighting broke out on December 15 in the capital city of Juba. It quickly spread across the country, with reports of mass killings that were lent credence by mass graves.
Militia persuaded to retreat
Government officials have persuaded an ethnic militia loyal to Machar to retreat from Bor, Rachel Nyedak Paul, the deputy information minister in Juba, told CNN on Monday.
An estimated 20,000 ethnic Nuer from the so-called White Army had been headed for the city, raising fears of more violence.
Paul told CNN that she and other officials who are Nuer and originally from the North Jonglei province – the same area where the White Army originated – had a series of phone conversations with leaders of White Army on Monday.
They told the leaders the current crisis was a political and not a tribal battle and told them to not get involved.
The youths in the White Army are known for the white powder they use to cover their skin as an insect repellant.
READ: South Sudan: What’s going on?
READ: South Sudan’s neighbors threaten to step in to end fighting
CNN’s Josh Levs contributed to this report.