South Sudan Embattled opposition leader has sent out a call to regional leaders and policy makers to hear his side of the story before casting condemnation on his person for the on going crisis in the country.
Machar was declared persona non grata by the government of President Salva Kiir.
After surviving 37 days on the run with South Sudan government soldiers shooting and detonating bombs at him, Machar is appealing especially to Kenyan legislators not to condemn him unheard.
Machar is in South Africa, from where he said in a telephone interview that the most important thing now is for regional heads of state to restart the political process that collapsed, leading to a return to fighting between President Salva Kiir’s supporters and those loyal to him.
A group of Kenyan MPs on Wednesday said they would bring a motion to ban Machar from Kenya, deport his relatives and freeze his assets.
Kenya legislators; Asman Kamama, who chairs the Parliamentary National Assembly’s Administration and National Security committee, and Ndung’u Gethenji, who chairs the Defence and Foreign Relations committee, said they want Machar sanctioned.
“First of all I don’t have assets in Kenya. I own nothing, I don’t have any bank account in Kenya, or anywhere in the world other than in South Sudan,” Machar said.
“Yes I have a family who live in a rented house and are struggling to pay the rent because I am broke in that sense. They could also be declared refugees. I do not know how they could act as lawmakers in Parliament to target a family which has no involvement in the current conflict,” he said.
The rented house he referred to was listed in a September report following an investigation by The Satellite Sentinel Project, sponsored by US actor George Clooney and Enough Project founder John Prendergast. The report accused Kiir and Machar of looting and amassing vast amounts of wealth and using it to live in luxury while funding the inter-communal conflict in their country. Both Kiir and Machar have rejected the report, with Machar saying anyone can do a search to establish he does not own the palatial homes in Nairobi cited by The Sentinel Project and other media sources.
Machar said the Kenyan MPs should first understand the facts of the situation in South Sudan before rushing to take action.
“Have they known what happened in Juba? Have they heard my side of the story? This is the second time for me to be targeted in Juba by President Salva to be killed. Are they not aware of this? They must be blind to what is happening in Juba. I am ready for a debate. If Kenyan MPs want to have a role to play in resolving the conflict in South Sudan, they should give the two sides the chance for them to debate among them,” he said.
Machar said Kiir had succeeded in portraying him as the aggressor. He denies that he carried a pistol into a meeting with Kiir, a claim the president said contributed to the breakdown of talks and resumption of fighting.
“I want peace, and let the Kenya people know that,” he said. “I will come visit President Uhuru Kenyatta. Kenya is my home. I will come and explain my side.”
Machar left Juba on July 11, after deadly clashes between his and Kiir’s soldiers that lasted three days. He crossed into the DRC, with government soldiers in hot pursuit. It was during the 37-day trek that he suffered a twisted kneecap.
As the soldiers closed in on him in a forest in the DRC, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon authorised his rescue, and UN soldiers airlifted him to Khartoum in Sudan, where he was treated.
He then transferred to South Africa, where he says he is in good health.
“I have been talking about peace. I think people are misquoting me in Kenya. This is very unfortunate. During peace it was me who made it possible for many of your giant institutions to go to South Sudan and they can speak on my behalf, including your banks and insurance companies. I was behind the Lapsset [The Lamu Port Southern Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor project, aka the Lamu Corridor], maybe the original thinker of it even, linking South Sudan with Kenya by rail, by road and a pipeline,” he said.
In June 2014, a group of Kenyan MPs criticized Uhuru for what they said was the “red carpet” reception given to Machar during a six-day visit to the country in May of that year. Machar was invited to State House, where they discussed the way forward in the peace process in South Sudan between the rebel group and the Kiir government.
However, five MPs said the reception was a protocol insult to the South Sudanese sitting elected president.
The latest conflict in South Sudan broke out on July 8, just hours before the Fifth Independence Day celebrations.
Kiir was accused of “violating” a peace agreement by unilaterally creating 28 new states. The president announced that South Sudan’s 10 existing states would be divided into 28 and come into effect immediately, without requiring approval from parliament.
Thousands have died and it is estimated that a million refugees have fled the country, most of them residing in Uganda.
Source: The Star