United Nations has confirmed the handover of former South Sudan vice president Riek Machar to the government of President Joseph Kabila.
The UN said its mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) carried out an extraction operation on “humanitarian grounds” to move Machar from one location to another within the country.
The East African now reports that Machar is seeking medical attention in Congo after surviving in the bush in Western Equatoria for nearly a month.
Earlier, sources had indicated that Machar, accompanied by his wife Angelina Teny and chief-of-general staff Gen Simeon Gatwich Dual, was admitted at Kisangani hospital in Kisangani city, formerly Stanleyville and capital of Orientale Province.
The East African reported that Machar who was on his way to Goma from Kisangani where he received medical attention, is suffering from swollen legs after weeks of walking in the bush.
Machar’s spokesperson James Gatdet Dak explained that “after 40 days of walking on foot in the bushes (wilderness) for hundreds of kilometres, it is obvious that “any one”, even a young person, can get exhausted and would need care and plenty of rest for days before resuming his or her duty.
“And this is particularly when it was not a normal walk for exercise or hobby or camping, but with helicopter gunships and ground forces bombing him from the air and hunting for him on every single day,” Dak said.
Irrigation Minister Mabior Garang de Mabior told The East African that Machar will later travel to Addis Ababa, where he will wait for countries in the region to intervene.
On Friday, the Congolese government denied any knowledge of Machar being in Congo.
“Riek Machar is not in the hands of the DRC authorities,” Lambert Mende, spokesperson for the DRC government, told Radio France Internationale [RFI].
He added: “If he is in our country, he entered the country without our permission.”
Yet UN claims to have played a key role in helping transfer Machar and his family from a location near the border with South Sudan to elsewhere in the DRC.
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“Riek Machar has been handed over to the authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we’re not in a position to confirm his location,” said Farhan Haq, a spokesperson for the UN in New York.
Haq said that the UN mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) was alerted to the presence of Machar in the DRC and then contacted the Congolese authorities.
Kinshasa then requested that MONUSCO facilitate Machar’s “extraction” and “transfer to their care”, according to Haq.
“Why are they dispatching information that he is in our hands, yet he is not in our hands,” said Mende, speaking by telephone.
“We don’t know if they [MONUSCO] managed to have him in [the country] without telling us.”
AFP news agency maintained that Machar is currently in Kisangani, in the north east of the country.
Machar originally fled the capital Juba when fighting broke out between 8-11 July and President Salva Kiir then subsequently sacked him as vice president.