South Sudan conflict: Sacked VP Riek Machar goes into exile

South Sudan’s sacked Vice-President Riek Machar has left the country, weeks after his forces were involved in deadly clashes with government troops.

Mr Machar had gone to a neighbouring country, his spokesman said.

He had initially fled the capital, Juba, during the violence in July, demanding a neutral force be deployed to keep peace and guarantee his safety.

The fighting erupted less than a year after a peace deal was signed to form a unity government and end the civil war.

It was bodyguards for Mr Machar and President Salva Kiir’s presidential guards who fought each other, sparking days of violence in July.

Hundreds of people died and more than 100,000 fled across the border.

The UN has launched an independent investigation into allegations that its peacekeepers failed to respond when troops loyal to Mr Kiir attacked a residential compound popular with foreign aid workers last month.

During the attack, a local journalist was shot dead at point-blank range and troops reportedly raped several women, among them foreigners working for relief agencies.

Political differences between Mr Machar and Mr Kiir ignited the civil war in December 2013 – and they only agreed to settle their differences under intense international pressure, signing a peace deal last August.

Mr Machar returned to Juba in April to take up the post of vice-president, but President Kiir dismissed him in the wake of the latest violence.

He has not been seen in public since and his exact whereabouts are unknown.

A member of his opposition SPLA-IO party told the BBC that he was en route to Ethiopia, via the Democratic Republic of Congo, but earlier media reports said he was in Tanzania or Chad.

Mr Machar had been “safely evacuated to a safe country in the region” after a “botched attempt to assassinate” him, a statement from the SPLA-IO said.

Last week, the UN authorised a 4,000-strong African protection force for Juba with a more robust mandate than the 12,000 UN soldiers already in the country.

But South Sudan’s government said it opposed the deployment and it is not clear how the mission can go ahead without its co-operation.

Source: BBC

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