South Sudan's President Salva Kiir has reappointed rival Riek Machar as first vice president, in a move that appears aimed at ending a civil war that began more than two years ago.
The decree by the president, announced Thursday, fulfills an important condition of a peace agreement reached in August but repeatedly violated. It basically restores the presidency to where it was before fighting erupted between supporters of the two men in December 2013, after Kiir fired Machar.
Speaking to VOA from the Egyptian capital, Cairo, Machar expressed joy over his appointment.
"I first want to thank the president for taking this bold step so that the agreement can be implemented,” Machar said. “My feeling is that we have no way out except to implement the agreement.”
South Sudan is the world's youngest country, winning independence from Sudan in 2011. Fighting between government forces and Machar's rebels has been especially brutal on civilians.
Both sides are accused of having perpetrated ethnic massacres, recruited and killed children, carried out widespread rape and torture, and forced displacement of populations to "cleanse" areas of their opponents.
The war has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than 2 million from their homes, while pushing parts of the population into famine conditions.
Machar said international community and regional leaders should continue to help the South Sudanese people recover from the effects of the two years of violent conflict.
"We will propagate [our appeal] in the international community to assist South Sudan to raise from the ashes of this war,'' he said.
A report released last month by a United Nations panel that monitors the conflict in South Sudan said that Kiir and Machar were still completely in charge of their forces, and were therefore directly to blame for killing civilians and for other actions that warrant sanctions.
VOA’s John Tanza contributed to this report.