Sacked South Sudan first vice-president Dr Riek Machar is seeking medical attention in the Democratic Republic of Congo after surviving in the bush in Western Equatoria for nearly a month.
Close associates of Dr Machar said that he, together with his wife Angelina Teny and chief-of-general staff Gen Simeon Gatwich Dual, was on his way to Goma from Kisangani for medical attention, with reports indicating that he is suffering from swollen legs after weeks of walking in the bush.
Irrigation Minister Mabior Garang de Mabior told The EastAfrican that Dr Machar will later travel to Addis Ababa, where he will wait for countries in the region to intervene, but first “he has to regain his strength after a month in the bush.”
On Thursday last week, the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC confirmed they evacuated Dr Machar from eastern Congo and placed him under the care of the Congolese authorities.
The whereabouts of Dr Machar had been a matter of speculation since he left Juba on July 11 as forces loyal to President Salva Kiir continued to hunt him in the forests in Western Equatoria near the border with Congo.
All along, close aides of Dr Machar insisted that he was in the bush around Juba after media reports early last week indicated that he was in Tanzania, while others speculated that he was in Chad.
Lam Jok, a Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in–Opposition representative in Kenya, said that the continued government offensive against Dr Machar’s forces is an indication that the peace agreement will no longer hold and that the country has virtually gone back to civil war.
Mr Jok said President Kiir continues to violate the agreement despite the resolution on August 5 by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) heads of state that declared the replacement of Dr Machar with Taban Deng Gai as null and void. Juba has instead launched a diplomatic campaign to persuade the East African region to accept the recent changes in the transitional government despite the regional body having declared them null and void.
Mr Gai met President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi in what the South Sudan deputy ambassador to Kenya Jimmy Deng said was part of planned shuttle diplomacy to get the region to accept the recent changes in leadership.
Mr Deng said that the president was briefed on the recent changes and the progress President Kiir and Mr Gai are making to bring about normalcy.
“Mr Gai is working well with President Kiir to implement it because the agreement provides for a replacement. Dr Machar can now come back as an ordinary citizen,” said Mr Deng.
However, sources in the Kenyan government said that President Kenyatta told the delegation to abide by the Igad AU Heads of State decision and to offer Dr Machar safe passage out of the country because killing him will not solve the challenges the country is facing.
Mr Gai had told the heads of state Summit in Addis Ababa that he will step down once Dr Machar returns to Juba, otherwise he will continue with the implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement.
Igad heads of state are scheduled to meet in Nairobi on August 22 to finalise the deployment of the 4,000 regional protection force.