Johannesburg – South Sudan opposition and rebel leader Dr Riek Machar’s days in exile in South Africa could be numbered, following a decision by East African regional bloc, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD), to lift his house arrest.
In its 61st Extra-Ordinary Session in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Monday, IGAD issued a communique, saying they had decided to lift Machar’s house arrest and relocate him to any country outside the East African region.
“IGAD decides the house arrest of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) leader Dr Riek Machar be lifted as soon as possible, on conditions that ensure he will renounce violence and not obstruct the peace process and he be allowed to relocate to any country outside the region and not neighbouring South Sudan; designated IGAD Ministers will propose and decide a possible location,” the statement read.
A senior leader from Machar’s SPLM-IO told the South Sudan News Agency (SSNA) that the leadership of the armed opposition was examining the proposal closely.
IGAD also discussed human rights violations committed last month by government troops saying it was extremely concerned before adding that it endorsed a progress report of its special envoy to South Sudan.
Machar fled South Sudan in 2016 after renewed fighting between the SPLA-IO and government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir broke out in the capital Juba.
The opposition leader had only briefly returned to the capital Juba to take up his position as vice president in an interim government as laid out in the 2015 peace agreement, signed in Addis Ababa.
However, following the outbreak of fighting and claiming his life was in danger Machar fled the world’s newest country, via a circuitous escape route which took him through the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
He was subsequently exiled to South Africa, where he has been under house arrest ever since.
In fresh peace talks IGAD led a revitalisation forum in February this year, in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, which was expected to deliver a lasting solution to the on-going conflict but it was largely boycotted by the South Sudan government delegation.