IGAD envoys in Juba are asking the regional Bloc to lift restrictions on South Sudanese opposition leader and First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar.
The head of Inter-government Authority on Development liaison office in the war-torn country, Tesfaye Negassa says he has written to the Bloc’s chairman and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to reconsider Machar’s freedom.
“As you know his Excellency the First Vice President of this country is holding a very high office, and by virtue of that, he has all the privileges to move around … as IGAD, we have handled it and IGAD’s Executive Secretary has already written a letter to the IGAD chairperson about his free movements,” he told reporters.
Last month, opposition military chief of staff Simon Gatwech Dual expressed frustration with the continued house detention of Machar, saying it is impeeding the process of unification of forces.
“I can say authoritatively that Dr. Riek Machar is still in prison because he cannot go and visit his forces, his people,” he said.
In March, South Sudanese Defense Minister, Angelina Teny, who also is wife to former rebel leader told the BBC that her husband’s passport has been confiscated and he is not allowed to travel anywhere in the region or to his constituency.
He is free
South Sudan Information Minister Micheal Makuei has however refuted claims that Machar is under detention.
“If he was under arrest or restricted, why should he be performing the official duties? These are stories concocted by sycophants that do not want peace for South Sudan,” Makuei said.
Since his return to Juba last year, Machar has not left the country and neither has he travelled anywhere outside Juba.
Conditions around Machar’s freedom punch holes in the holding ceasefire negotiated by international and regional actors that has reduced hostilities between government and rebel forces.
The United Nations special envoy to South Sudan said last month that almost no progress has been made in unifying the country’s warring forces under one army, as promised under a hard-fought peace deal.
The pledge to bring government and rebel soldiers under a national banner was a cornerstone of a September 2018 peace agreement that paused five years of bloodshed in which about 400,000 people died.