Aides to South Sudan embattled opposition leader Riek Machar say Sudan and Ethiopia foiled his attempt to return into the war-torn country by denying him passage through their respective airports on Sunday.
A frustrated Machar was then forced to return to Johannesburg Monday morning.
Machar left Johannesburg South Africa for Khartoum via Addis Ababa on Sunday, but he was denied entry at the airport by Sudanese officials and forced to return to Addis Ababa.
His military spokesperson William Gatjiath Deng confirmed that “Dr. Riek left South African for Sudan through Ethiopia, so we went and met him at the Ethiopian Airport, and then he proceeded to Sudan, he arrived in Sudan around 12:00 pm, but he was asked to return to where he came from,”
Machar reportedly spent close to two hours negotiating with Khartoum to no avail and later flew back to Addis Ababa from where they believed would access his Military headquarters in Pagak, Upper Nile state of South Sudan.
Officials close to the rebel leader told East Africa Daily that Machar arrived in Addis Ababa at around 7:00 pm local time.
Ethiopian authorities also gave the rebel leader an option to return to where he came from or face deportation back into South Sudan. He preferred going back to South Africa
“Machar was detained at the airport in Addis Ababa for four and half hours and was later advised either to board back to South Africa or risk being deportation to Juba,’’ a source said on condition of anonymity.
Thomas Magok Chuol, SPLM-IO representative to Uganda confirmed to Sudan Tribune that Machar had returned back to South Africa.
“Yes, it is true Dr. Riek Machar has been told upon his arrival in Ethiopia to return to South Africa. It is not yet known the reason behind the decision,” he said.
The denial of entry in both Sudan and Ethiopia is yet another diplomatic blow to Machar following his declaration of an armed uprising against the government of Salva Kiir.
The opposition accuses President Kiir of bribing neighbors to isolate Machar and deny him entry back into South Sudan.
“I don’t think that there is a problem between Dr. Riek and the Sudanese government, I think it is a political matter from somewhere not in Sudan,” said Gatjiath
“I am saying that because he was just asked to return back to where he came from, and nothing bad happened to him there,” he added.
Earlier this month, Kenya authorities arrested and extradited the opposition spokesperson James Gatdet Dak to Juba and is reportedly held by security operatives. Dak was a registered political refugee living in Nairobi.
Plural news website Sudan Tribune reported that Juba paid close to $1 million to Kenyan officials to extradite Dak.