S Su­dan op­po­si­tion leader Machar flees coun­try

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

SOUTH Su­dan’s for­mer vice pres­i­dent and op­po­si­tion leader Riek Machar has left the coun­try for a neigh­bour­ing state, op­po­si­tion of­fi­cials said, sev­eral weeks af­ter he with­drew from the cap­i­tal Juba dur­ing fierce fight­ing with govern­ment troops.

Spokesman James Gat­det Dak yes­ter­day de­clined to dis­close Machar’s where­abouts. A state­ment is­sued by the lead­er­ship of the SPLA In Op­po­si­tion (SPLA-IO) said he had left on Wed­nes­day to a “safe coun­try within the re­gion”.

Machar led a two-year re­bel­lion against forces loyal to his long­time ri­val Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir be­fore the two sides reached a peace deal in Au­gust 2015. Un­der the deal, Machar re­turned to Juba in April to re­sume his role as vice pres­i­dent.

But fight­ing flared last month, lead­ing Machar to with­draw with his forces from Juba around mid-July.

Spokesman Gat­dek Dak, writ­ing on his Face­book page, said op­po­si­tion fighters had “suc­cess­fully re­lo­cated our leader to a neigh­bour­ing coun­try where he will now have un­hin­dered ac­cess to the rest of the world and the me­dia”.

Since the out­break of fight­ing in July, Kiir has sacked Machar from his post and ap­pointed Ta­ban Deng Gai, a for­mer op­po­si­tion ne­go­tia­tor who broke ranks with Machar, as vice pres­i­dent.

The United Na­tions told Kiir that any po­lit­i­cal changes must be con­sis­tent with the peace deal, which stated that the vice pres­i­dent must be cho­sen by the South Su­dan Armed Op­po­si­tion.

Last week, the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil ap­proved the de­ploy­ment of an ad­di­tional 4,000-strong peace­keep­ing force in South Su­dan, af­ter the July in­fight­ing threat­ened to send the coun­try back to all­out civil war.

South Su­dan ini­tially re­jected the res­o­lu­tion, claim­ing it “se­ri­ously un­der­mines” its sovereignty, but later soft­ened its stance.

South Su­dan’s Pres­i­dent Salva Kiir told re­porters on Sun­day that it had not yet closed the door on a UN pro­tec­tion force.

Ateny Wek Ateny, pres­i­den­tial spokesman, said the govern­ment will accept the force, but only if it can ne­go­ti­ate its size, man­date, weapons and the contributing coun­tries.

The civil war in South Su­dan be­gan in De­cem­ber 2013 when govern­ment forces loyal to Pres­i­dent Kiir, an eth­nic Dinka, bat­tled rebels led by Machar, a Nuer.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple were killed in the fight­ing and more than two mil­lion peo­ple were dis­placed. — Al Jazeera.

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