May 24, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in Opposition faction, Riek Machar, is expected to arrive in Khartoum within the coming week as part of a tour of East African countries, Sudanese sources have revealed.
- South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar addresses a news conference in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, May 12, 2014. (Photo Reuters/Tiksa Negeri)
The rebel leader has been staying in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, since 9 May where he signed a roadmap peace deal with his rival the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir, which shall guide further negotiations between their two delegations on future transitional governance and leadership.
He also held talks with the Ethiopian prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, in which the two leaders discussed the road to peace in South Sudan.
The Sudanese sources revealed that an advance team of the opposition faction was scheduled to arrive in Khartoum over the weekend to arrange for Machar’s arrival.
Machar will meet with officials of the Sudanese government during his visit.
Reacting to the news, South Sudan’s Foreign Minister, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, has reportedly said the expected visit by the rebel leader to Khartoum should be coordinated between the Sudanese and South Sudanese governments for the sake of peace and stability in South Sudan.
He pointed out that the two Sudans have good diplomatic relations and the flow of oil through Sudanese territory is evidence of the good ties between the two countries.
Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, has confirmed to Sudan Tribune the planned tour to some regional countries by the armed opposition leader, saying the visits are for consultations with the regional leaders on peace and stability in South Sudan.
"Yes, our leadership plans to visit a number of countries in the region for further consultations on the peace process. These are member countries of the regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which currently mediates the peace talks in Addis Ababa between us and the regime in Juba," Dak said.
The diplomatic tour by the rebel leader seems to cause anxiety in Juba which has already found difficulty in selling its coup attempt narrative by Machar to the outside world as the cause of the crisis since mid-December last year.
However, the rebel spokesperson said there was no reason for “bad mood” in the visits by the opposition leader.
"I don’t see any reason why such important visits to the IGAD member countries should raise negative emotions in Juba," Dak added.
He said the opposition leader was free to travel to any country in the world he wanted to visit in the interest of the peace process.
The visits, he added, are good for the success of the IGAD sponsored peace talks which aims at ending the 5-month bloody conflict in South Sudan.
The countries to visit beginning in the next few days will include Kenya and Sudan, among others, he said.
The rebel leader’s spokesperson however ruled out any possible visit to Uganda by the opposition leader, saying "Kampala and Juba are partners in war crime against a section of the society in South Sudan."