South Sudan’s rebel chief who leads defected soldiers and militias linked to the second-largest tribe in the country, the Nuer, has reportedly fled to a safer country, the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), after an alleged assassination attempt.
“[Rebel leader] Riek Machar has been handed over to the authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We’re not in a position to confirm his location,” revealed United Nations deputy spokesman Farhan Haq on Thursday.
“We can confirm that an operation was undertaken by MONUSCO [UN mission] on humanitarian grounds to facilitate the extraction of Riek Machar, his wife and 10 others from a location in the DRC in support of the DRC authorities,” added Haq.
On Facebook, a spokesman for Machar wrote that the leader fled South Sudan on Wednesday after a “botched attempt to assassinate” him, without elaborating further, reports the Associated Press (AP).
The news outlet adds:
Machar has said he would not return to Juba until a regional force is deployed in the capital to help restore calm. Dozes of his bodyguards were shot dead in the July fighting after gunfire erupted outside the presidential compound where Machar was meeting with [South Sudanese President Salva] Kiir about recent tensions.
Despite an August 2015 peace deal and a recent ceasefire agreement, deadly clashes between armed groups loyal to Kiir and Machar, who served as vice president, have kept raging since the civil war erupted in South Sudan back in December 2013, resulting in the death and displacement of thousands.
The conflict started soon after the country was formed in 2011 with the help of President Barack Obama and his then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Since the end of 2013, South Sudan’s most prominent ethnic groups have been fighting one another: Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and other members of the Dinka, the largest tribe in the country led by President Kiir, versus Machar’s rebel forces that include defected soldiers and militias from the Nuer group.
AP points out:
Riek Machar left for a safe country in the neighboring East African region, [his spokesman] Mabior Garang said in a posting on Facebook…
After renewed clashes with President Salva Kiir’s army in the capital, Juba, in early July, Machar and fighters supporting him left the city, putting the country’s peace deal in limbo. Hundreds of civilians died in the fighting.
Last Friday, the UN announced the deployment of an additional 4,000 peacekeeping troops from various African nations, granting them the power to use “all necessary means” to protect UN personnel and facilities and to take “proactive” measures to protect civilians from threats.
The deployment will bring the total number of UN peacekeeping forces in South Sudan to nearly 17,000.
While the government of President Kiir has come out against the proposed deployment, Machar welcomed the move.
Troops loyal to the U.S.-backed government of South Sudan have reportedly embarked on a rampage of rape and murder, targeting civilians and singling out Americans in the country — the latest sign of the chaos that has spread across the world’s youngest country.
AP reports that the UN peacekeeping troops in the African country and various embassies, including the U.S. consulate, ignored the violence committed against its citizens.
The International Business Times notes that violence has driven Machar out of South Sudan once before.
Machar originally left South Sudan when a civil war erupted in 2013… Machar’s return to South Sudan and his reinstatement as vice president in April had restored hopes for the implementation of a peace process signed in August 2015. However, tensions have been running high since his return.
In July, the opposition leader went into hiding following deadly fighting that left at least 300 people dead in Juba.