The leader of South Sudan’s armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO), Riek Machar has been from entering Ethiopia and Sudan and was forced to return to South Africa, SPLM-IO officials said.
Senior rebel officials said Machar was stopped by the Ethiopian authorities upon his arrival from South Africa at Bole International Airport in Ethiopia, detained at the airport in Addis Ababa for four and half hours and later advised either to board back to South Africa or risk being deported to Juba. The rebel official, who preferred anonymity, said at the time the rebel leader was heading to the SPLM-IO headquarters in Pagak near the Ethiopian border.
However, the rebel leader later left for Sudan on Sunday afternoon, where, according to the military spokesman of the SPLA-IO, he was also refused entry at the Khartoum International Airport.
“Dr. Riek left South African for Sudan through Ethiopia, so we went and met him at the Ethiopian Airport, and then he proceeded to Sudan, he arrived in Sudan around 12:00 pm, but he was asked to return to where he came from,” Colonel William Gatjiath Deng, said.
According to Col Gatjiath Deng, no reason was given by the Sudanese authorities for denying Machar entry, but analsts say the move represents a major shift in policy on relations between Sudan and the rebel leader who left Khartoum last month to seek further treatment in South Africa.
Describing the move as ‘politically motivated’ Col Gatjiath Deng said that Machar stayed at the Khartoum airport for over two hours negotiating with the Sudanese officials to allow him into the country, adding that the rebel leader later decided to return to Addis Ababa on the same day.
“Dr. Machar stayed at the airport for more than two hours, he was following the procedures, but he later returned to Addis Ababa boarding an Ethiopian Airlines plane, so he arrived in Addis Ababa around 6:30 pm,” he said.
Col Gatjiath Deng that Machar left Addis Ababa today morning for South Africa, a development that was confirmed by Thomas Magok Chuol, the SPLM-IO representative to Uganda.
“Yes, it is true Dr. Riek Machar has been told upon his arrival in Ethiopia to return to South Africa. It is not yet known the reason behind the decision,” Magok Choul said.
Last October, the deposed first vice president left Khartoum to South Africa to for medical treatment. He had arrived to Khartoum from the Democratic Republic of Congo after clashes in Juba between his troops.
The Security Council members are considering a draft resolution to impose an arms embargo and additional targeted sanctions that could be brought to a vote as early as this week. The Associate Press disclosed that the U.S. proposed to impose travel bans on Machar and freeze his assets.
Washington blamed him for issuing a statement on September 25, 2016 declaring war on President Salva Kiir’s government following a meeting held in the Sudanese capital.