South Sudan’s controversially ousted opposition leader, Dr Riek Machar, who fled the world’s newest country after fighting broke out in July, is currently in South Africa receiving medical treatment. However, he won’t be welcome home anytime soon.
The Sudan Tribune reported on Sunday that President Salva Kiir was working with foreign powers to find a country that will grant Machar asylum as long as he stays out of politics.
Michael Makuei Lueth, South Sudan’s Information Minister, said the government had placed a political ban on Machar, following his call for armed resistance against Kiir.
“He is being exiled. He will not be coming back to South Sudan and he will never be allowed to talk politics again,” Lueth told reporters.
Lueth’s harsh comments followed Kiir asserting that Machar would only be allowed to return if he denounced violence and come back to the country as a normal citizen without official assignment.
Kiir further stated that he has developed a good working relationship with Machar’s controversial replacement, Taban Deng, who was appointed after the opposition leader fled South Sudan saying his life was in danger, following July’s clashes between Machar’s Sudanese People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) and government forces.
Machar has since declared war on Juba, despite the August 2015 peace agreement, in an alleged bid to topple Kiir’s government, a move condemned by the international community.
During an interview with the African News Agency (ANA) South Sudan’s Ambassador to South Africa, Philip Jada Natana, accused Machar, of attempting a coup and failing to take responsibility for his part in the civil war.
“This has always been Machar’s tactic to capitalise on popular sentiment when international criticism is levelled against Juba and then present that as his bargaining chip,” Natana told ANA.
“This was his strategy even during the war in 2013 when there was strong criticism, particularly from the Americans, against corruption by the government. Machar used that as a whipping post to further his own agenda,” said Natana.
“He also tried once again to overthrow Sudan’s legitimate government in July just as he tried in 2013.”