South Sudan rebels deny leader’s deportation from Ethiopia


From left: President of South Sudan Salva Kiir and former vice president Riek Machar (Reuters)

ESAT News (November 23, 2016)

South Sudanese rebels loyal to ousted vice-president Riek Machar have denied allegations that their leader was arrested in Ethiopia and deported to South Africa, the International Business Times (IBT) reported.

Ethiopian immigration officials said in a statement that Machar was not allowed into the country because he had no permit to stay in Ethiopia.

Machar reportedly stayed in Ethiopia for almost a year negotiating a deal with his rival, President of South Sudan Salva Kiir.

Ethiopia’s ruling party organ, Fana Broadcasting Corporation, quoted a statement from the Ethiopian Immigration and Citizenship Directorate as saying that Machar was sent back to South Africa, his origin of travel, in line with international immigration procedures.

A senior official from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM/-IO) however said Machar voluntarily returned to South Africa after failed attempts to obtain a visa to enter Ethiopia and Sudan.

Media reports suggested the South Sudanese rebel leader was stopped at Bole International Airport and was told to go back to South Africa or faced deportation to South Sudan.

“These are false reports; there is no such a thing that our leader was arrested and extradited back to South Africa,” the official, who spoke on conditions of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media, told South Sudan News Agency (SSNA).

The official explained Ethiopia did not grant access to Machar after “failed attempts by his protocol office to secure an entry visa,” said the report by IBT.

Allegations of his temporary arrest surfaced shortly after Machar exclusively told IBTimes UK during a phone interview from South Africa he was ready to go home and collaborate with the government to implement a peace deal and end the South Sudanese civil war, erupted in 2013.

Machar originally left South Sudan in 2013. His return, and his reinstatement as vice president in April had restored hopes for the implementation of the peace process signed in August 2015.

However, he fled again following deadly fighting in Juba in July.

The leader, who said he went to South Africa for medical treatments, accused government forces of opening fire on his troops, and said he would return to Juba once a third-party force was deployed to ensure his and his officials’ safety, according to the report by IBT of UK.