South Sudan’s former First Vice President and leader of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), Riek Machar, will not be welcomed to Ethiopia if he wishes to continue with the rebellion, Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, has said.
Speaking in an exclusive interview to reporters of the Foreign Policy in New York, the leader of the regional powerful nation who chairs the East African regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which mediated the August 2015 peace deal between Machar and President Salva Kiir, said South Sudanese leaders should implement the peace agreement.
“We do not need someone who is leading an armed struggle in Ethiopia,” Desalegn to the US-based Foreign Policy media in Washington.
The Ethiopian leader who was speaking to the media on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York did not however explain how the peace deal will be salvaged after the 8 July violence in the capital, Juba, which pushed out Machar from the city and eventually from the country.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister however said his country would only allow Machar to pass through Ethiopia but not to stay longer as he used to do during the peace negotiations.
When asked on the comment from the Ethiopian premier about the fate of their leader, Machar’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, said his leadership has not received any information from the Ethiopian government about any conditions attached to Machar’s future visits to the country.
He also said the opposition leader, Machar, does not intend to live in exile in any of the regional countries.
“Well, first of all, our leader has not received a notification from the Ethiopian leadership about any conditions allegedly attached to his future visits to the country. Second, Dr. Riek Machar does not intend to live in exile. He has his General Headquarters inside South Sudan as the Chairman and Commander-in-Chief of the SPLM/SPLA (IO). And of course he is the legitimate First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan per the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan,” Dak told Sudan Ttribune.
He said Machar had to stay longer periods at times in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in 2014 and in 2015 because he was needed for timely and continuous consultations when the peace negotiations were being hosted in Addis Ababa.
He also said he would visit Ethiopia and the rest of the region this time in order to consult with the IGAD leadership on the deteriorating situation in South Sudan which, he said, threatens the total collapse of the peace deal after President Kiir’s forces renewed the war in Juba on 8 July, 2016.
Machar fled Juba in July following eruption again of the violent conflict between his forces and those loyal to President Kiir, only three months after taking over the first vice presidency in accordance to the peace agreement negotiated and signed in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.