Machar back to South Sudan to seal peace deal
By Tomi Oladipo
South Sudan’s opposition leader Riek Machar has arrived in the capital, Juba, for the first time since he fled into exile in 2016.
Mr Machar who has been leading a rebellion against President Salva Kiir signed a peace deal in August.
Under the agreement he will be one of five vice-presidents.
Mr Machar will be attending the country’s Peace Day celebrations.
Last week, Mr Machar declined President Kiir’s invitation to return but his spokesman said that both sides needed to trust each other if there was to be peace.
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into conflict in December 2013 following a power struggle between Mr Kiir and Mr Machar.
Previous attempts to find a solution to the conflict have failed.
Mr Machar returned to Juba once before, in 2016, but was forced out of the country after fighting broke out.
Hundreds of thousands have been killed in the civil war which has also displaced millions.
‘Received as a dignitary’
Two years ago Riek Machar fled South Sudan on foot during heavy fighting between his troops and government forces.
On Wednesday morning he was received as a dignitary at the airport in Juba.
Mr Machar’s spokesman said the former first-vice-president would be arriving without his own security despite concerns for his safety.
Lam Paul Gabriel told the Associated Press that this return was a sign of his commitment to peace.
He will join his rival President Salva Kiir at South Sudan’s Peace Day celebrations today, but even with the recent peace deal they signed in August, their troops are still fighting in parts of the country.
This week the World Food Programme said that continued violence between both sides was blocking the deliveries of food aid to areas where it was desperately needed.