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Riek Machar free, no longer under house arrest: Igad envoy

Wednesday February 26 2020
machar

Dr Riek Machar in Juba on October 19, 2019. Igad envoy says he is no longer under house arrest. PHOTO | AFP

By GARANG A. MALAK

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) says South Sudan’s First Vice President Riek Machar is now fully freed from house arrest, giving him room to start working.

Mr Ismail Wais, the Special Envoy for regional bloc Igad, says Dr Machar will no longer face restrictions of house arrest or require special permission to travel in the region.

“He is now the First Vice president of Republic of South Sudan, no matter what existed before. Dr Riek Machar is now the leader of this country and therefore he doesn’t need any more permission…He can now fully enjoy his rights and freedoms,” the Djiboutian diplomat told journalists in Juba, after meeting members of Dr Machar’s party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in Opposition (SPLM-IO).

Dr Machar had been put under house arrest by Igad, following his 2016 fall-out with President Salva Kiir.

Dr Machar lived in South Africa, and later in Sudan, and with occasional travels to Kenya and Ethiopia during the peace deal negotiations.

Once the deal was signed in September 2018, Igad freed him. The new announcement was meant to clarify any doubts, officials said.

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“Machar participated in Vatican meeting, he participated in Igad Council and summit meetings. Machar was and is free to move in and outside the region,” Mr Wais said, referring to the prayer meeting be-tween Pope Francis, President Kiir and Dr Machar in Rome last year.

SPLM-IO Director of Information Puok Both Baluang said his party welcomed the news but will wait for a formal letter from Igad.

Dr Machar’s house arrest in Sudan’s capital Khartoum has been one of the key grievances against the Igad.

Igad imposed restrictions on Dr Machar soon after war broke in Juba in 2016, prompting him to escape to the Democratic Republic of Congo and later to South Africa for treatment.

In 2018, he was allowed to stay in Sudan from where he participated in negotiations that culminated in the Revitalised Peace Agreement in September of that year.

His party, SPLM-IO, had argued that keeping Dr Machar under close watch after the peace agreement was a lack of goodwill from Igad.

During the pre-transitional period, Dr Machar would travel under tight security from Sudan and Uganda forces, who are the co-guarantors of the November 7 Entebbe agreement.

Dr Machar’s freedom and cantonment were among issues under the security arrangements that forced the postponement of the transition government that was initially to be formed on May 12 last year.

Last week, Dr Machar was sworn in with other vice presidents, which marked the formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity.

However, President Kiir is yet to appoint advisers, minister and their deputies, governors and chief administrators in line with the 2018 revitalized peace deal.

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