Thursday, August 25, 2016

South Sudan's Dr. Riek Machar Reportedly in Khartoum for "Medical Treatment"

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Following reports by the United Nations on August 17th that United Missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) has extracted South Sudan's opposition leader and former First Vice President, Riek Machar, from the South Sudan-Congolese border on humanitarian grounds, Sudanese authorities have now confirmed that Machar is Khartoum for medical treatment.

Given the volatile relations between Juba and Khartoum, it was therefore imperative for the Sudanese officials to inform Juba that their reception of Dr. Machar was purely on 'humanitarian grounds.' From the pictures being circulated on social media, it's now apparent that Machar is in a very bad  shape medically.

Dr. Machar fled Juba at the beginning of the July following the resumption of fighting between his body guards and the president's body guards. While it isn't clear what happened on July 8th, the two parties have been accusing one another of having started the fighting. Machar claims he fled Juba fearing for his life while the government claims Machar was plotting to either kill the president or stage a coup. None of both claims have been independently verified.

Soon after Machar left Juba, Taban Deng Gai, the then SPLM-IO chief negotiator, was selected by IO officials in Juba to replace Machar 'temporarily' as both the IO leader and the First Vice President (FVP) until he [Machar] returns to Juba. Given the fact that Taban has changed his rhetoric, it's not clear if Machar will ever be allowed to assume his position as the FVP.

In his new capacity as the FVP of South Sudan, Taban toured Kenya and Sudan and called for Machar to 'renounce violence' and return to South Sudan as an average South Sudanese and wait for elections in 2018.

Since the reports of Machar having been killed turned out to be untrue and Taban not likely to relinquish his position, it's not clear what will happen when Machar gets better.

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