Is South Sudan opposition leader Machar in DRC?
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Congolese authorities told RFI on Thursday that they had no knowledge of whether Riek Machar, leader of South Sudan's SPLM-IO, has travelled this week to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Earlier reports indicated that Machar, who was recently sacked from the post of vice-president, had crossed the border into the DRC and flown to the capital Kinshasa where he would travel on to Addis Ababa.
“I’m not aware of such information, until now nobody has told us,” said DRC government spokesperson Lambert Mende. “I don’t know, really I’m not able to tell you anything about it.”
There had been reports that Machar had arrived in Kinshasa on Monday, citing a senior Sudan People's Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) official.
Machar left South Sudan over fears for his safety, according to SPLM-IO deputy spokesperson Dickson Gatluak.“The government had been on the offensive, trying to hunt him down in the bush where he had been hiding."
Machar originally fled the capital Juba when fighting broke out between 8-11 July and President Salva Kiir subsequently sacked him as vice-president and replaced him with Taban Deng Gai, a former ally of Machar’s.
“He’s actually relocated to a neighbouring country,” said Gatluak, who refused to be drawn on Machar’s location. “We cannot disclose his whereabouts but the main thing is, he’s safe and out of the country.”
Reports of Machar being injured denied
Gatluak also dismissed other reports indicating that Machar had been injured. Kenyan media said Machar had been wounded and was in a remote location in the DRC.
“That’s not true, it’s not true at all, Dr Machar’s not injured, he’s safe and he’s well,” said Gatluak, adding that Machar would soon convene a press conference.
Meanwhile, the South Sudanese government said it was not aware of Machar’s whereabouts.
“As to whether he left South Sudan, I don’t know,” Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth told RFI.
“If there is anything to do with the leadership of the SPLM-IO, whether Riek Machar comes back or not, that is a sole, internal issue of the IO, I have nothing to do with it,” added Lueth.
The SPLM-IO has previously indicated that Machar will only return to Juba once the UN has deployed an extra 4,000 troops to bolster its peacekeeping force.
The opposition leader’s appointment as vice-president was a key element to a peace agreement that saw the formation of a transitional government with ministerial posts split between the government and SPLM-IO.
However, the outbreak of fighting in July led to the disintegration of the transitional government and failure of the peace deal.
The civil war in South Sudan started in December 2013 when Kiir sacked Machar after accusing him of plotting a coup.