UN says aided Riek Machar to Flee into DR Congo as Opposition Promise to find Means for his Return

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KAMPALA The United Nations said its mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Monusco, aided the transfer of embattled South Sudan Opposition leader Riek Machar and his family in to the country.

UN said Machar had made his way to the Congolese border with South Sudan.

“We can confirm that an operation was undertaken by Monusco on humanitarian grounds to facilitate the extraction of Riek Machar, his wife and 10 others from a location in the DRC, in support of the DRC authorities. Riek Machar has been handed over to the DRC authorities. We are not in a position to confirm his location,” a U.N. spokeswoman said.

A Western diplomat quoted by the Wall Street Journal said the U.N. helped Machar because it believed it was very possible the South Sudanese army would eventually capture and kill him, a move it feared could restart the civil war, and not because of any desire to assist Machar personally.

Machar’s aides said he is expected to stay for some days before traveling to Ethiopia.

His spokesperson James Gatdet Dak said the opposition leader successfully managed to evade advancing forces from President Salva Kiir who earlier launched an offensive to hunt him down for assassination.

Dak said they are finding means to “deal with the current insanity in Juba by correcting the situation once and for all so that our leader (Riek Machar) returns to a peaceful, changed environment in the capital”.

It is not clear whether by “correcting the situation” Dak meant a military approach.

Analysts say Machar and the armed opposition loyal to him are likely to use exile to assemble diplomatic capital and build military capacity to launch an offensive on Juba.

John Prendergast, a South Sudan expert with the Enough Project, a U.S.-based campaign group told the Wall Street Journal that he can use his exile to specifically build up his arsenal.

Machar’s exile confirms that the peace agreement signed a year ago to put an end to 20 months of civil war has crumbled.

President Kiir replaced him with rebel chief negotiator in the agreement Taban Deng Gai under controversial circumstances. The move has utterly divided the country’s armed opposition.

Kiir, whose forces now fully control the capital, has sought to consolidate his power by calling for an election in what he refereed to as a  “new mandate and trust from the people”.