Internally displaced persons at a U.N. protection of civilians camp in South Sudan’s northern town of Bentiu are celebrating the release of rebel leader Riek Machar who has been detained in South Africa since late 2016.
Machar is expected to arrive in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for the IGAD-led face-to-face meeting with president Salva Kiir.
Bentui camp leader Yohannes Gatnyang was quoted by local radio Tamazuj as saying the residents conducted a peaceful demonstration Tuesday morning in Support of the meeting and IGAD’s waiver on Machar’s.
“People here are very happy about the release of Dr. Machar and they say peace is coming soon. We have slaughtered” he said, highlighting the people’s hope that the meeting would bring a lasting solution to the four-year civil war.
The once bustling town of Bentui–a gateway to South Sudan’s oil fields–has been disfigured with fighting and mass atrocities after the civil war erupted in December 2013.
The ethnically-charged conflict has killed tens of thousands of people in the world’s youngest country and repeatedly brought large parts of its population to the brink of famine. A series of ceasefires and pacts have failed.
Machar has been held under house arrest in South Africa since late 2016.
He will be in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, the Ethiopian ministry said. Foreign ministers from the East African bloc IGAD will then discuss South Sudan on Thursday, followed by a leaders’ gathering in the Ethiopian capital, the ministry added.