South Sudan Rebel Leader Riek Machar Says He’ll Return To Lead His Army

By Kevin Mwanza Published: October 19, 2016, 5:08 am
Riek MacharFormer South Sudan's first Vice President Riek Machar. Photo: Al Jazeera

Riek Machar, former South Sudan vice-president turned rebel leader, who fled to South Africa in August for medical treatment, has said he plans to return to the war-torn East African nation to continue with the war against the government

Machar had fled to Khartoum in July after the Sudan government rescued him in a sickly condition in the forests of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in July.

“I got to South Africa for further medical tests and after that I leave South Africa,” Machar said at a press briefing as he left Khartoum on Wednesday last week. It was his first appearance before journalists since July.

He did not specify his next destination even as Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president urged him to return to his home nation and help move the peace process forward.

Zuma, who spoke on the last day of a state visit to Kenya, also slammed the rebel leader’s calls for fresh war against President Salva Kiir’s government.

The government of South Sudan however rejected Zuma’s calls, saying that Machar is not welcome in the nation since he declared war, contrary to efforts being made to ensure peace returns to the oil-rich country.

“Our position is clear, we do not want another war, because Riek Machar has declared war, he is not a man of peace,” Radio Tamazuj quoted Ateny Wek Ateny, the presidential spokesperson on Tuesday.

The international community led by European Union, the U.S, United Kingdom, Norway and the East African nations of Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia condemned Machar for calling for renewed conflict in South Sudan.

“Further fighting will not solve South Sudan’s pressing political and economic challenges. It will only increase the suffering of South Sudan’s people, worsen a grave humanitarian crisis and further inflame ethnic tension,” AFP quoted a joint statement by the nations.

Machar fled the nation in South Sudan in the wake of fresh violence that erupted near the presidential palace in July.

The clashes violated the peace agreement signed in August 2015 that formed a unitary government that had returned some stability in the country.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2013 but descended into ethnic-fueled clashes between rebels loyal to Machar’s Nuer community and the Dinka’ tribe, where Kiir comes from.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the capital, Juba since July and at least 30,000 displaced since the violence erupted in July.

Uncertainty of peace looms in the nation in the wake of Machar’s calls for fresh and rumours of President Kiir’s death, claims publicly denied by the government, Al Jazeera reported.

The violence has pushed South Sudan into an economic and humanitarian crisis. Oil production is low and inflation is at a high of about 600 percent, while 4.8 million are in dire need of food aid, according to United Nations data.

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