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South Sudan rebel leader visits Pretoria for second time

September 4, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan’s former vice-president, Riek Machar, who leads the SPLM in Opposition rebel faction, is in South Africa for the second time following his first visit to Pretoria in June as rebel leader, his spokesperson has confirmed.

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South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar gives a press conference in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 12 May 2014 (Photo: AFP/Zacharias Abubeker)

Machar’s spokesman James Gatdet Dak on Thursday confirmed to Sudan Tribune rumours in the social media that the opposition leader had left for the South African’s capital, Pretoria.

“Yes, he left Addis Ababa and arrived in Pretoria on Thursday. As you know IGAD has adjourned the peace talks till mid-September. Dr Machar will continue to mobilise for more support to the peace process so that a meaningful peace agreement is reached soon,” Dak told Sudan Tribune on Thursday.

Dak said Machar had been at the venue of the peace talks in Addis Ababa since May in order to avail himself for consultations on the peace process.

Dak dismissed rumours that the rebel leader was very ill and was therefore admitted in hospital in Pretoria, saying Machar was healthy and well.

However, he added that the former vice-president would use the opportunity of the visit to conduct his normal medical check up while in South Africa.

The rebel leader’s spokesperson further explained that Machar in 2012 went for a similar medical check in South Africa and that the exercise was normal.

The visit comes a week after heads of state and government of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) endorsed a controversial protocol on principles for formation of a transitional government with president Kiir and his deputy to lead the transition for another two and a half years before elections.

The document provided for a position of a prime minister to be nominated by the rebel group but who will have to be approved by president Kiir. The rebel nominee whose powers were yet to be defined is also barred from running for a public office in the upcoming elections.

Machar’s group rejected the proposal describing it as bias in favour of president Salva Kiir, criticising IGAD mediation of failing to address the root causes of the crisis.

Other major stakeholders including the former SPLM detainees and opposition party SPLM-DC led by Lam Akol criticised the document.

The rebel leader for the last three months visited four regional nations including Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Sudan during which he met with presidents and prime ministers of these countries.

(ST)