February 22, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudan on Saturday downplayed the significance of the alleged visit of its former vice-president turned rebel leader to the United Kingdom, despite rebels denying these claims.
- South Sudan’s rebel leader, Riek Machar, pictured inside rebel-controlled territory in Jonglei state on 1 February 2014 (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
Presidential spokesperson, Ateny Wek Ateny said he was optimistic that the British government would not provide any weapons to Riek Machar.
“The visit would not have any significant impact that would affect relations between the two countries, because United Kingdom is capital of liberties and I believe the UK government would not provide weapons to the rebel leader if that were to be the mission,” Ateny exclusively told Sudan Tribune on Saturday.
The official’s remarks came in the wake of reports on social media that Machar visited the UK after leaving his base in Jonglei state by a plane allegedly chartered by Egyptians and went to the capital, Cairo.
The rebel leader, according to unconfirmed reports, allegedly got a visa at British embassy in Cairo on Thursday before leaving for the UK on Friday night.
On January 15, South Sudan President Salva Kiir cancelled Machar’s diplomatic passport. The visit, if true, would be the rebel leader’s first foreign trip since the outbreak of the conflict between rival factions of soldiers within the country’s presidential force.
MACHAR’S ALLEGED VISIT DENIED
But Machar’s spokesperson has refuted these allegation, saying the rebel leader had not traveled beyond South Sudan borders.
"This is not true. Dr. Riek Machar is in his base in Jonglei state. He has not travelled outside South Sudan since December last year. The government needs to revisit the source of such incorrect information,” James Gatdet Dak told Sudan Tribune on Saturday.
He, however, stressed that his boss was free to travel outside the country if and when he wanted to, hinted that the rebel leader had not yet decided to travel abroad.