June 1, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese former vice-president and leader of the armed opposition faction of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-in Opposition), Riek Machar, has wrapped up what his spokesperson has described as “successful” engagement with the Kenyan top leadership during his six days visit to the country.
- South Sudan’s former vice-president and leader of the SPLM in Opposition, Riek Machar (L) gives a joint press statement with Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta in the capital, Nairobi, on 30 May 2014 (ST)
“Dr. Riek Machar, our chairman, has on Sunday returned to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, after six days of successful consultations or engagement with the Kenyan top leadership in Nairobi,” Machar’s spokesman James Gatdet Dak told Sudan Tribune on Sunday.
The rebel leader arrived in the Kenyan capital on Tuesday in his first leg tour of a number of the regional countries, particularly those that take part in the IGAD-led mediation efforts in Addis Ababa between the opposition group and the government.
Dak said his boss who was in Kenya for the first time since Deember 2013 convincingly told the rebels’ side of the story in response to an alleged coup attempt narrative which he said was fabricated by the leadership in Juba.
President Salva Kiir accused Machar of allegedly plotting a coup, which the latter dismissed as a false claim used by the president to get rid of his political reformists within the ruling party.
Violence then erupted on 15 December when the president allegedly ordered his presidential guards unit commander to disarm Machar’s Nuer soldiers resulting to the massacre of thousands of Nuer civilians in the capital.
Machar’s 12 colleagues were arrested but were subsequently released for lack of evidence in court to prove that the coup attempt took place.
Dak said part of the meetings between the two leaders provided an opportunity for Machar to exonerate himself. They extensively discussed how to reach a political settlement that would end the crisis in South Sudan.
The rebel leader also held separate meetings with the vice-president William Ruto and minister for foreign affairs, Amina Mohamed.
After Wednesday meeting between Kenyatta and Machar, South Sudan president Salva Kiir conducted an abrupt visit to Nairobi, during which he also met with president Kenyatta.
The spokesperson however said Kiir’s visit did not affect the momentum in the positive engagement between Kenyatta and Machar.
“President Kenyatta publicly commended Dr. Machar and further encouraged him to continue to pursue and achieve a governance system in South Sudan that would usher in peace and development,” Dak added.
Dak said an office was being opened in Nairobi to cater for both humanitarian interventions and political contacts in Kenya.
“The SPLM (in opposition) office in Kenya will coordinate efforts geared towards humanitarian interventions in areas under our full control in South Sudan. It will also facilitate political contacts with the Kenyan leadership as well as with foreign diplomatic corps in Nairobi,” Dak further stressed.
During a joint press statement at the State House on Friday, President Kenyatta commended the two parties for the roadmap agreement they signed which he said recognised the need for “inclusion of all stakeholders.”
He urged the leader of the SPLM/A in opposition to continue with the commitment to achieve peace and better governance system in the new country.
“I am encouraged that you are committed to the achievement of a governance system that will allow sustainable peace and development in South Sudan. I urge you and your team to remain robustly engaged on contributing in good faith to a framework for political settlement of the crisis in South Sudan,” partly reads the statement by President Kenyatta.
The rebels expressed their gratitude to the Kenyan government and the people of Kenya for the invitation and its resultant positive engagements.
Kenya has had historical position of neutrality in Sudanese conflicts over the years.
The country played a neutral role while mediating during the armed conflicts between the then northern and southern Sudan as well as during the split within the SPLM movement in 1990s.
While in Nairobi the rebel leader also conducted several meetings with intellectuals and civil society organizations based in Kenya.
Sudan, which South Sudan broke away from in 2011, is one of the next possible destinations by the rebel’s top leader. Other countries to visit on the diplomatic offensive are yet to be officially confirmed.