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Ex-S.Sudan VP Machar ‘safe’ in DR Congo

By AFP
18 Aug 2016 0

by Nicolas DELAUNAY South Sudan's former rebel leader and ex-vice president Riek Machar has escaped to the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo following violent clashes last month, an official said Thursday.

“Riek Machar is currently in DRC, in Kinshasa, and wants to go as soon as possible to Ethiopia,” an aide told AFP.

An earlier statement from Machar’s SPLM-IO party said the leader had been “evacuated to a safe country within the region” without naming Congo.

Civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused Machar, then his deputy, of plotting a coup. The fighting has split the world’s newest country along ethnic lines and driven it to the brink of collapse.

A peace deal signed between the government and rebels a year ago has so far failed to end the conflict. And last month Juba was rocked by several days of heavy fighting between Kiir’s forces and those loyal to Machar.

Machar’s whereabouts had been unclear since the fighting flared in Juba between July 8 and 11 and led to his outgunned and outnumbered forces being chased from the city by government troops.

He was subsequently replaced as vice president on July 25 by Taban Deng Gai, a former friend and ally.

– ‘Concerned about allegations’ –

Deng warned Wednesday that Machar should stay out of politics to allow peace despite previously indicating that if Machar returned to Juba he would stand aside.

Machar’s intention to travel to Ethiopia, a regional power broker that hosted peace talks through the trade bloc IGAD, suggests he has no intention of being cut out of negotiations or pushed from power.

Several former rebel commanders have warned they consider Deng’s elevation to vice president to be “treason”.

Also on Wednesday the United Nations launched a probe of a hotel attack in South Sudan in which soldiers raped women and assaulted aid workers while UN peacekeepers allegedly failed to act.

The abuses now being probed by the UN — specifically, a July 11 attack on the Hotel Terrain in the capital Juba — took place during the violence that engulfed the city for four days last month.

Last Friday the UN Security Council approved a US-drafted resolution to strengthen the 12,000-person peacekeeping mission with 4,000 additional troops drawn from regional armies and equipped with a more aggressive mandate.

Juba has yet to accept the resolution.

ndy-tmc/ccr

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