October 17, 2016 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s former First Vice President, Riek Machar, has revealed that President Salva Kiir’s forces used 7 different planes to locate and kill him as they pursued him for 37 days from the national capital, Juba, to the Congolese border.
- Riek Machar gestures as he speaks to rebel General Peter Gatdet Yaka (not seen) in a rebel controlled territory in Jonglei on February 1, 2014. (Photo Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)
Speaking to various radio and TV media outlets from South Africa where he is currently residing to do medical checkup with his special doctor, Machar also said he is currently “very fit” and healthy after being hospitalized in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, for extreme exhaustion and swollen leg.
“I can now walk another 500 miles,” he was quoted by Kenya media outlets, as he was mockingly referring to the similar distance he travelled from Juba to Congo while under constant attacks and was being pursued by President Kiir’s forces.
He narrated the incident and how he survived, saying President Kiir set him up at the Presidential Palace of J1 in Juba to kill him on 8 July, but said his small force of about 70 bodyguards who accompanied him fought hard against hundreds of Kiir’s troops and created a “situation of stalemate” where the president failed to assassinate him and instead an arrangement was eventually made for the two leaders to go to their respective residents.
Machar narrated that President Kiir abandoned his plan to assassinate him when he realized that all of them, including the president, would get killed inside the palace by the rival close bodyguards.
He revealed that he had 20 close bodyguards with him inside the palace and 50 of his bodyguards were outside the palace, adding that among the 50 outside the palace only 6 survived during the attack by President Kiir’s forces. But the other 20 close bodyguards inside the palace ensured his safety.
Machar also described the claims by President Kiir that he was carrying a pistol on the day of the incident as a “big lie”, adding that he had not carried a pistol for 25 years since 1991 when he became chairman of a movement for the first time. He said he used to carry a pistol or gun when he was a field commander before 1991.
The opposition leader accused President Kiir of attempting to assassinate him and hired planes and “international killers” who pursued him up to the Congolese territory. Also ground forces were attacking him and his forces as planes continued to drop bombs on them from the air. He said the planes attacked them three or four times a day every day for 37 days, revealing that President Kiir’s helicopter gunships also continued to attack them on the side of the Congolese border before the United Nations extracted him.
The planes involved in the operations of hunting him down on daily basis, he revealed, were 7 in number and included “one drone, two spy planes and four helicopter gunships.”
The total number of the days of the violence is 40 days, he said, including the three days of fighting in and around Juba.
The former First Vice President said planes were hovering over them every single day, bombarding them, as the hired spy planes continued to locate them and the helicopter gunships kept on bombarding them, while they were also fighting on the ground with ground forces deployed from different directions.
He said a total of 70 of his soldiers were killed during the pursuit from Juba to Congo.
The government, he said, has a huge debt now to repay for the planes they hired to try to kill him, saying the operation was “very expensive”, adding they “regret having not killed me.”
The former First Vice President, who was immediately replaced as he was being pursued in the bushes, narrated that he had gone through “difficult terrain” in Western Equatoria, crossing numerous valleys full of water, some empty with sharp slopes and climbing mountains through thick “tropical forests” in harsh weathers.
He said he would someday when in government in the future use the difficult terrain he passed through as a site in which to train his special forces, saying he had discovered during the pursuit that the “difficult terrain” of Western Equatoria would be good for training special forces for his government.
Machar blamed the regional and international community for not condemning President Kiir’s government for the incident, which he said, has resulted to the collapse of the peace deal as well as the transitional government of national unity.
He however added that his faction is for the August 2015 peace agreement to be resuscitated but said in the absence of a peace initiative or political process his faction has the right to self-defence, even if that will lead to changing the current “regime” in Juba.
He revealed that he will soon travel to Kenya from South Africa to meet the Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, who is IGAD rapporteur, over the peace process.