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South Sudan

South Sudan opposition leader Riek Machar still 'not in the hands' of the Congolese authorities

Riek Machar, then-vice president, addresses the UN Security Council on 13 July 2011 in New York.
Riek Machar, then-vice president, addresses the UN Security Council on 13 July 2011 in New York. AFP Photo/Stan Honda

The Congolese government once again on Friday denied any knowledge of South Sudan’s former vice president Riek Machar being in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A UN official had said on Thursday that Machar had escaped from South Sudan to the DRC with the help of the UN mission following a request from Congolese authorities.

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“Riek Machar is not in the hands of the DRC authorities,” Lambert Mende, spokesperson for the DRC government, told RFI. “If he is in our country, he entered the country without our permission.”

Mende’s comments, however, contradict the position of the UN which played a key role in helping transfer Machar and his family from a location near the border with South Sudan to elsewhere in the DRC.

“Riek Machar has been handed over to the authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we’re not in a position to confirm his location,” said Farhan Haq, a spokesperson for the UN in New York.

Haq said that the UN mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) was alerted to the presence of Machar in the DRC and then contacted the Congolese authorities. Kinshasa then requested that MONUSCO facilitate Machar’s “extraction” and “transfer to their care”, according to Haq.

“Why are they dispatching information that he is in our hands, yet he is not in our hands,” said Mende, speaking by telephone. “We don’t know if they [MONUSCO] managed to have him in [the country] without telling us.”

Sources close to the matter have indicated that Machar is currently in Kisangani, in the north east of the country, according to the AFP news agency.

The Congolese information minister had on Thursday denied any knowledge of Machar being in DRC before the UN subsequently said they helped facilitate his transfer. Officials from Machar’s group, the SPLM-IO, said on Thursday that Machar relocated to a neighbouring country over fears for safety.

Machar had not been injured, according to a SPLM-IO who spoke to RFI on Thursday. However, the Kenyan media has reported that the opposition leader needed medical assistance and had been injured in the leg.

Machar originally fled the capital Juba when fighting broke out between 8-11 July and President Salva Kiir then subsequently sacked him as vice president.

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