Rebel leader Machar Sets new conditions for his return, wants same number of troops as government in the Capital

September 7, 2016 

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The main armed opposition faction led by the former First Vice President, Riek Machar, said their leader will not return to the national capital, Juba, until “important” changes have been effected for the transitional security arrangements in the capital.

Responding to Sudan Tribune’s on whether Machar would soon return to Juba to reclaim his position as First Vice President per the 5 August communiqué of the IGAD heads of state and government which the leaders released in Addis Ababa, Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, said “corrections” will be made first in Juba before Machar’s return.

“No, his return to Juba is not our top priority now. There is need first to change the situation in Juba. Both the current political and security situations in Juba should change first,” Dak said, without giving details.

He said President Salva Kiir and his “anti-peace groups” have not abandoned their determination to eliminate Machar and perpetuate violence, adding they were waiting for a third opportunity after their failures to murder him on 15 December 2013 and on 8 July 2016. He was referring to the two separate incidents during which Machar’s residents were attacked twice by forces loyal to President Kiir.

“It would be an unforgivable negligence and carelessness on our part if we would again allow our leader to go back to Juba just to face another attack for the third time,” he said.

The opposition faction, he added, will make sure that Machar’s next return to Juba will not be another handing over to President Kiir to slaughter him.

Dak also blamed the mediation body of the East African regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), plus representatives from the international community including the United States, for imposing transitional security arrangements which weakened Machar and gave President Kiir the opportunity to renew violence in the capital.

“Although we appreciate IGAD for the relentless efforts the bloc exerted to help end the war in South Sudan, I believe that they also erred in their imposed transitional security arrangement for the capital, Juba. Giving Dr. Riek Machar only a very small number of protection forces in Juba meant that it was an opportunity for Salva Kiir to attack him without thinking about repercussions,” Dak said.

He said if the two rival armies had deployed equal numbers of troops in the capital, this would have served as “deterrence” and President Kiir and his forces would not have started the fighting at the palace. He argued that the peace agreement would have been implemented smoothly until 2018 elections.

“We know the mentality of those comprising the current political and military leaderships in Juba. Once they have the upper hand militarily, they would be obsessed with that power and would definitely abuse it. If we had equal numbers of troops in Juba, even if it was to be strictly a ratio of 2 from their side to 1 from our side, they would not have dared to attack our leader and his forces. They would have thought it twice,” he said.

Dak said it was unfortunate that only 1,300 of their forces were transported to Juba out of another only 2,910 allowed in Juba for the transitional security arrangements, while the government was given 5,000 and also failed to withdraw from the capital another extra force of over 40,000 stationed in and around Juba.

Those in the international community who pushed Machar to return to Juba, despite “improper” security arrangements, he said, could not do anything to stop President Kiir from the assassination attempt against Machar and for dislodging him from Juba and hunting him down for more than five weeks in the bushes, as well as illegally replacing him as peace partner.

However the goverment of south sudan has insisted that the Rebel leader can return to south Sudan as an ordinary citizen and wait for elections.

The government version has continued to pick momentum with the latest backing cming from members of the UN security council who seem to think Riek Machar will not be returning to Juba anytime soon.

 

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