Khartoum Joins Ethiopia to Deny Riek Machar ‘Safe Haven’ for Rebellion and Political Scheming

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After a week-long meeting with officials from South Sudan opposition SPLM/A-IO in Khartoum, embattled opposition leader Riek Machar was supposed to address a press conference to announce the resolutions but this never came to be.

Machar and his officials had no option but to send copies of their consensus to the media affirming a common position to “wage a popular armed resistance against the authoritarian and racist regime of Salva Kiir.”

This being the first political statement by Machar since he fled South Sudan in August 2016, reports indicate that it came with a wealth of energy, ‘pushing and shoving’.

Sudan government has reportedly gagged the ex-rebel leader since his arrival in Khartoum for medical attention after an evacuation from Democratic Republic of Congo.

Khartoum’s Information Minister and government spokesperson, Ahmed Bilal Osman, said they banned Machar from holding any political activity because he was in Khartoum for treatment only.

-Deportation?-

Bilal said President Omar el-Bashir government is waiting for the implementation of the security arrangements so that Machar could return to South Sudan. It is not clear whether the “security arrangement” is part of the UN backed third party force which Machar set as a condition for his return.

South Sudan had protested against Sudan for hosting Machar though Khartoum maintains that they are hosting the ousted leader —who arrived in Khartoum in August from northeastern DR Congo — on “humanitarian” grounds.

The moratorium on Machar’s political schemes in Sudan falls on the backdrop of an announcement by Ethiopian Prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn that He is not willing to grant the ex-rebel leader political asylum.

Desalegn said Machar will be allowed to pass through Ethiopia in his travels but is not welcome to stay again long-term, adding that “We do not need someone who is leading an armed struggle in Ethiopia,”.

After the civil war broke out in Juba in December 2013, Ethiopia had hosted Machar for most of the two-and-a-half years of the peace negotiations led by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad). But Addis Ababa is now bowing to pressure from Juba and the dynamics of the deployment of the UN-backed regional protection force.

Ethiopia was supposed to provide the bulk of the 4,000 troops and this was going to complicate their participation if the country gave asylum to Machar, The East African Newspaper reported.

According to the UN Security Council Resolution, the protection force is supposed to act as a buffer between President Salva Kiir’s soldiers and those of Machar, and to secure humanitarian supply lines and key installations.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said earlier at a multilateral meeting on South Sudan that ongoing violence in the country is being fueled by “the marginalization of Riek Machar and his supporters, the sidelining of other opposition groups, both armed and unarmed, and the continued implementation of the 28-states order”.

Eliasson suggested that stabilizing South Sudan will likely require the participation of former rebel leader Machar.

But will Salva Kiir, who says he can only admit his rival back into the country only as a normal citizen allow him to directly participate in the much needed peace and reconstruction process?

This according to analyst Micheal Freeman Ojula is a “daunting task”.