July 28, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The spokesperson for South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar said a date had not yet been determined for a visit to Khartoum by the top leader of the rebel SPLM in Opposition, but confirmed the plan was in existence.
- 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)
On Monday, Radio Tamazuj quoted Machar’s chief protocol officer, Hatim Cuei Deng, as saying the former vice-president would travel to Khartoum in early August and may take two to three days in the Sudanese capital.
While the rebel leader’s spokesperson confirmed the plan of the visit, he said a date had yet to be fixed.
“Yes, it is true. The plan to visit Khartoum is in place. We have not however finalized the process with the Sudanese government,” Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, told Sudan Tribune on Monday.
He said the visit would be facilitated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
Dak added that the mission to Khartoum would be part of the regional tour by the opposition leader to garner support for the IGAD-mediated peace process in Addis Ababa.
The former vice-president in the last two months visited four countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Djibouti, during which he held talks with the presidents and prime ministers of those countries.
Rebels described such visits as “fruitful” and expressed the desire to visit more governments in the region and the world at large in order to sell their views on how to end the more than seven-month-old crisis and establish a federal system of governance in South Sudan.
Last Monday, an attempt by a high-level delegation from the rebel faction to meet president Yoweri Museveni in Kampala failed when the Ugandan government did not receive the delegation at the Entebbe Airport, prompting them to return to Ethiopia on the same day.
Both sides blamed the failed meeting on poor coordination and communication.
The rebels demand withdrawal of Ugandan troops from South Sudan, accusing the southern neighbour of taking sides in the conflict by fighting alongside government’s troops.
The South Sudanese government under president Salva Kiir has been nervous about such high profile visits and interactions between the leaderships of the rebels and governments in the region.
Juba has expressed opposition to Machar’s visit to Khartoum, interpreting it as a move which contravenes the terms and conditions of the joint cooperation agreement signed by the two countries in September 2012.