By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
August 20, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese opposition official on Friday dismissed reports alleging that the Sudanese government had played active role in a mission to transport their leader, Riek Machar, outside South Sudan.
- First Vice President Riek Machar greets SPLM-IO officials at Juba airport upon his arrival, April 26, 2016 (ST Photo)
The Kenyan Standard news website on Thursday reported that the Sudanese government had sent an aircraft to evacuate the former first vice president from a hideout in a remote town in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where he crossed into after 40 days in the bushes.
However, the SPLM-IO official who spoke to Sudan Tribune on condition of anonymity said the report published by the Kenyan website was “unfounded.”
“Khartoum was not involved in the rescue operation, there was no any Sudanese airplane used as reported,” he said.
The opposition official however declined to comment on who carried out the rescue operation or whose aircraft was used to transfer Machar in to a safe location.
Reports alleged that Machar established contact with the UN peacekeeping force in the DRC for evacuation out of the vast Central African nation after talks with the Congolese military.
Citing an undisclosed official the Kenyan paper alleged that a large transport plane, more likely an Antonov, landed at Isiro with Sudanese military officials and commandos who received Machar from unnamed UN officials at the local airstrip.
Some reports indicated a top official from Khartoum’s presidency was on the plane.
Machar was also reportedly sick and wounded in the leg and sought medical assistance. However the SPLM-IO official said the allegations were fabricated.
“”He is not sick or wounded, he is safe and healthy,” the official told Sudan Tribune.
“The allegations that he is sick and wounded are all false” he said adding “the rumours are created by the enemies for political propaganda purpose.”
Other reports said that extraction of Machar was solely a UN operation and Sudan had no role in it.
According to the reports Machar’s rescue mission was personally authorized by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon.
Although it is not yet known exactly where in DRC Machar is relocated, opposition officials here in Addis Ababa however told Sudan Tribune that they want him to be relocated to Ethiopia where IGAD still recognizes him as the legitimate first vice-president of South Sudan.
Riek Machar has refused to return to South Sudan’s capital Juba unless a regional force is deployed.
“Machar is not going back to Juba. This is the second murder attempt he has survived after the one in December 2013. Maybe they would get lucky the third time if he went back,” said a European official.
Machar fled the capital Juba, over a month ago following fierce fighting with government troops which led to attempts to kill him by forces loyal to President Salva Kiir.