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S. Sudan rebel leader will not return without forces: official

May 9, 2018 (JUBA) – Exiled South Sudanese rebel leader, Riek Machar will not return to Juba without his forces, an armed opposition official said.

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South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar addresses a news conference in Uganda’s capital Kampala January 26, 2016 (Reuters photo)

"We do not trust Salva Kiir. We cannot allow our chairman to return to the capital without heavily armed forces that are equal to the forces of the government in Juba," Peter Gatkuoth, the deputy head of the armed opposition’s information committee told Radio Tarmajuz.

The official’s remarks came days after President Salva Kiir publicly admitted he had allowed the rebel leader, currently exiled in South Africa, to return the nation he fled from after the July 2016 skirmishes.

Kiir said this during last week’s National Liberation Council (NLC) meeting of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).

But Gatkouth said the exiled armed opposition leader needed to be protected especially after what occurred when he returned to Juba.

“Machar will return to Juba when there is a negotiated peace agreement through the revitalization forum. We are committed to peace because we know our people are suffering,” he stressed.

During last week’s meeting, the NLC endorsed the Arsuha reunification agreement to reunify fragmented factions of the SPLM.

In January 2015, delegates from three factions of the SPLM party signed a 12-page agreement in Arusha, Tanzania, laying out key steps toward reunifying the party.

Those who signed include the party loyal to President Kiir, the SPLM-in-Opposition led by former vice president Riek Machar, and a third made up of party officials who were detained when the conflict began in mid-December 2013.

The SPLM, South Sudan’s ruling party, was initially founded as the political wing of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). The party, in the aftermath of the civil war that broke out in the country in mid-December 2013, split into the SPLM-Juba faction headed by Kiir, SPLM-IO led by Machar and that of the ex-political detainees.

The civil war in South Sudan, the United Nations says, has killed tens of thousands of people and forced a quarter of the country’s 12 million people from their homes. More than half of the population are reportedly in need of food aid.

(ST)