Machar to at­tend peace cer­e­mony in South Su­dan

The Gulf Today - - MIDDLE EAST -

JUBA: South Su­dan’s rebel leader Riek Machar will re­turn to the cap­i­tal Juba this week to take part in a peace cer­e­mony, a spokesman said on Tues­day.

It will be the irst time Machar has set foot in the city since he led two years ago un­der a hail of gu­nire when an ear­lier peace deal col­lapsed.

Lam Paul Gabriel, a spokesman for Machar’s SPLM-IO rebel group, said the leader will “travel to Juba for the peace cel­e­bra­tion” due Wed­nes­day.

Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir, Machar’s for­mer ally turned bit­ter en­emy, as well as some re­gional heads of state are also ex­pected at the cer­e­mony to pub­licly wel­come the most re­cent peace agree­ment, signed in Septem­ber.

Machar’s pre­vi­ous homecoming, in April 2016, was put off by wran­gling over how many body­guards he could bring with him and what weapons they would carry, but Gabriel said this time Machar would be ac­com­pa­nied by only around 30 po­lit­i­cal ig­ures.

“We are wor­ried for his se­cu­rity in Juba, but the truth is here: we are for peace, and what we are try­ing to do is build trust. So that is why he is able to leave his forces be­hind and just go with politi­cians,” Gabriel said.

South Su­dan’s civil war be­gan in De­cem­ber 2013 when Kiir ac­cused Machar — then his deputy — of plot­ting a coup.

The conlict has split the coun­try along eth­nic lines and seen mass rape, the forced re­cruit­ment of child sol­diers and at­tacks on civil­ians. It has caused one of the world’s deep­est hu­man­i­tar­ian crises.

Sev­eral cease­fires and peace agree­ments have so far failed to end the fight­ing that has killed an es­ti­mated 380,000 peo­ple, up­rooted a third of the pop­u­la­tion, forced nearly two-and-a-half mil­lion into ex­ile as refugees and trig­gered bouts of deadly famine.

Un­der pres­sure from the United Na­tions, the United States and other Western donors, Machar and other in­sur­gent fac­tions signed a peace deal with the government in Au­gust after a string of failed talks and ac­cords.

Machar led to neigh­bour­ing Demo­cratic repub­lic of Congo in 2016 months after an ear­lier peace deal col­lapsed.

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