The United Nations
(UN) has urged South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar to return to the country’s capital to serve in a unity government, as part of an August 2015 peace deal with rival President Salva Kiir.
Machar, who leads the Sudan
People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition, a rebel faction opposing Kiir, is currently staying at rebel military headquarters in the eastern town of Pagak, near the border with Ethiopia.
Under an August 2015 deal, he was expected to return on Monday, but did not show up over new disagreements with the president over the number of weapons and soldiers he was allowed to bring along with him.
He had asked to transport 1,500 police forces and 1,410 soldiers with their weapons, which include machine guns and other equipment. Juba allowed in only 1,370 troops, and refused to allow another 1,540 forces.
A compromise agreement was reached on Thursday over the issue, and Machar was said to be scheduled for a return to the capital on the same day.
However, he has not returned for unknown reasons.
South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar
The UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday that Kiir’s government had agreed to the compromise proposal on the matter of men and weapons and said this breakthrough should help with the swift formation of the unity government.
Under the original 2015 deal, Machar is to return to the post of vice president in a new 30-month transitional government leading to elections.
The UN chief thus urged Machar to travel to the capital, Juba, “without further conditions which could jeopardize the fragile peace process and prolong the suffering of the South Sudanese people.”
The country plunged into civil war in late 2013 after Kiir accused Machar of a failed coup d’état. The camps supporting each individual then got involved in a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the impoverished country along ethnic lines and led to the killing of tens of thousands.
Despite the peace deal, battles persist across the country. There are numerous militia forces that do not abide by peace agreements and are driven by local agendas.
“Maintaining a spirit of cooperation will be crucial as the country’s leaders begin the work of reversing the years of destruction this conflict has brought upon the people of South Sudan
,” Ban said.