The man who nobody wants

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

More car­toons on­line at

South Su­dan rebel leader uses sta­tus as guest of SA to con­tinue desta­bil­is­ing role in his own coun­try from afar

RIEK MACHAR is the South Su­dan rebel leader who has be­come the man nobody wants. But just as South Africa took on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of “look­ing af­ter” former Pres­i­dent Jean Ber­trand Aris­tide from Haiti when he had nowhere else to go and Marc Raval­o­manana, the de­posed pres­i­dent of Mada­gas­car who was barred from re-en­ter­ing his coun­try, the gov­ern­ment has gra­ciously agreed to host Machar as a “guest of the state”.

Machar is not be­ing de­tained in South Africa as some have al­leged, and is free to move around un­der the pro­tec­tion of South African se­cu­rity per­son­nel, meet peo­ple, and is be­ing pro­vided ac­com­mo­da­tion and meals by the state.

But the South African gov­ern­ment is un­der no il­lu­sions about Machar’s dodgy deal­ings as South Su­dan’s most prom­i­nent rebel leader and former vice-pres­i­dent, and the desta­bil­is­ing role he con­tin­ues to play in South Su­dan, even from as far afield as South Africa. But with none of the gov­ern­ments in the east African re­gion pre­pared to ac­cept him on their soil, and even Nige­ria for that mat­ter, South Africa has been asked by gov­ern­ments in the re­gion to as­sist by al­low­ing him to stay in South Africa as a “guest of the gov­ern­ment”.

What pre­ceded Machar’s en­try into South Africa was a July 8 bloody gun battle be­tween his forces and those of South Su­dan Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir, which left hun­dreds dead.

Two days later, Kiir’s forces launched a mas­sive as­sault on Machar’s po­si­tions, bomb­ing his house and forc­ing him and his fol­low­ers out of the cap­i­tal city, Juba. Machar then fled South Su­dan, first to the Congo, then Khar­toum and ul­ti­mately South Africa.

Main­tain­ing Machar in a safe house is also a way to keep his move­ments un­der wraps and min­imise the trou­ble he is able to con­tinue stir­ring up in South Su­dan. Machar has been based in South Africa since Oc­to­ber last year.

He had come to the coun­try in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity for med­i­cal treat­ment, but af­ter two weeks he told the gov­ern­ment his life was un­der threat from men oper­at­ing at the be­hest of Kiir, and asked for pro­tec­tion.

South Africa obliged, and from mid-Novem­ber last year he was placed in a safe house.

While un­der gov­ern­ment pro­tec­tion, Machar has at­tempted to con­tact former apartheid mil­i­tary per­son­nel, from the then SA De­fence Force (SADF), who now op­er­ate as con­trac­tors on the con­ti­nent. The aim was to give mil­i­tary in­struc­tions to his forces in South Su­dan. A num­ber of SADF mem­bers have fea­tured as se­nior mil­i­tary com­man­ders in Machar’s rebel army.

One is the re­tired Colonel Wil­liam End­ley, who served as a se­cu­rity ad­viser to Machar un­til his de­ten­tion about a year ago by the South Su­dan gov­ern­ment. End­ley, who holds the hon­orary ti­tle of ma­jor-gen­eral in Machar’s rebel army, is be­ing held in a no­to­ri­ous prison com­plex known as Blue House. It is also al­leged that Machar has been in con­tact with a Joburg-based pi­lot from the former SADF who has been in­volved in drop­ping sup­plies to Machar’s forces in the then unity state be­tween 2013 and last year.

The gov­ern­ment has ex­pressed its dis­plea­sure with Machar’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion with se­nior mem­bers of his forces, as it claims he has been is­su­ing mil­i­tary in­struc­tions, at­tempt­ing to in­flu­ence the sit­u­a­tion on the ground. Ac­cord­ing to South African gov­ern­ment sources, Machar has been ap­point­ing mil­i­tary gov­er­nors in ar­eas where he has in­flu­ence. He is ac­cused of treat­ing South Africa as a base from which to con­tinue his in­sur­gency against the gov­ern­ment of South Su­dan, which won’t be tol­er­ated.

Machar wants un­lim­ited and un­fet­tered ac­cess to whomever he wants to meet, but as com­man­der and chief of a ma­jor rebel group, it is un­likely to be granted. How­ever, he has been al­lowed to meet in­flu­en­tial fig­ures such as Fink Haysom, the UN sec­re­tary-gen­eral’s special en­voy for South Su­dan, bish­ops from the east African re­gion, former Botswana pres­i­dent Fes­tus Mo­gae, chair­per­son of the Joint Mon­i­tor­ing and Eval­u­a­tion com­mis­sion for the South Su­dan peace agree­ment, and the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross.

Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials say it is pos­si­ble to sight Machar en­ter­ing a restau­rant in South Africa as he has free­dom of move­ment within the coun­try. But while the gov­ern­ment cur­rently tol­er­ates his pres­ence, its chal­lenge will be that Machar is ob­sessed with as­sum­ing the pres­i­dency of South Su­dan.

He be­lieves he is the per­son Nuer prophet Ngun­deng Bong, who lived in the 1800s, proph­e­sied would lead South Su­dan to pros­per­ity.

The proph­esy was that the mes­siah of South Su­dan would be left-handed, mar­ried to a white woman, with a gap be­tween his front teeth. Machar has these at­tributes, and claims to have been vis­ited by an an­gel in a dream who said he would one day be pres­i­dent. It is un­likely Machar will be a pas­sive house guest in South Africa.

LONG REACH: South Su­dan’s rebel leader Riek Machar came to South Africa seek­ing med­i­cal treat­ment, but af­ter two weeks claimed his life was un­der threat and asked for pro­tec­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.