South Sudanese rebels abroad have recently launched a social media campaign calling on the international community to end Riek Machar’s forced confinement in South Africa.
The rebel leader has been on forced exile in South Africa since October 2016 when he travelled to Pretoria for medical treatment at the height of renewed fighting in South Sudan.
His forced confinement was reportedly reached by IGAD countries with the involvement of other nations in the hope of preventing renewed fighting in the world’s youngest nation.
SPLA-IO deputy military spokesperson, Lam Paul Gabriel, told radio Tamazuj on Sunday that the campaign was initiated by their political leaders to urge the international community to end Machar’s forced exile in South Africa so that he can be part of the peace process in the country.
Lam stressed that there will not be peace and stability in South Sudan without their leader Riek Machar, saying he is the only person who can declare ceasefire with the Juba government.
Last week, SPLA-IO military spokesman William Gatjiath also said they will reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire declared by President Salva Kiir in May once IGAD countries end Riek Machar’s exile.
“We are not part of the ceasefire declared by Kiir because it a ceasefire between the government and Taban Deng who claims that he is the leader of SPLA-IO,” said Gatjiath.
Meanwhile, Machar said the national dialogue launched officially by President Salva Kiir last month is not a priority for his rebel group.
This comes after the co-chair of the national dialogue in Juba, Abel Alier on Friday sent a written request to Machar for consultations on the dialogue process.
“As much as we believe the national dialogue is an important process for the people of South Sudan to engage in, however, it is our considered opinion that the priority is to end the raging genocidal war in the country that has created and displaced over two million people internally and 2.5 million people as refugees in the neighbouring countries,” wrote Machar on Saturday.
The exiled opposition leader emphasized the need for a negotiated peace process to end the ongoing civil war in the world’s youngest nation instead of national dialogue.
“As such, our efforts are focused on searching for a sustainable peace through a mediated peace process to end the war rather than national dialogue,” he said.
South Sudan’s government is already preparing to host IGAD foreign ministers’ meeting in Juba after Eid Al-Fitr, Minister of Information and Communications said.
Speaking to reporters after the cabinet meeting on Friday, Information Minister Michael Makuei said the meeting will discuss issues pertaining to implementation of the 2015 peace agreement.
He revealed that his government will also host meetings of army chiefs of the countries that will contribute troops to participate as regional protection force under the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).
The government spokesman pointed out that the meeting will discuss matters pertaining to deployment of the regional protection force in Juba.
In August 2016, the UN Security Council following request by the regional body Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) approved the deployment of 4,000-strong regional protection force to secure Juba in the aftermath of renewed clash.
The additional force would beef up the existing 13,000-strong UNMISS troops in the world youngest nation.
Source: Radio Tamazuj