Johannesburg (dpa) – South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar is in South Africa, a spokesman for South Africa’s Department of International Affairs said Wednesday, denying reports that Machar is under house arrest.
Clayson Monyela said the rebel leader was “a guest of the South African government” at the request of the east African bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which had previously hosted peace talks between the South Sudanese government and the rebels in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Machar arrived in South Africa in October for medical treatment after sustaining a leg injury while fleeing fighting between his troops and the army in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, in July.
The rebels said last month that Machar had flown from South Africa to Addis Ababa, where he was briefly detained at the airport to prevent him from going to a rebel base on the South Sudanese side of the Ethiopian border.
Ethiopia was reportedly concerned that Machar’s presence could spark more clashes in violence-plagued South Sudan.
But rebel spokesman Dickson Gatluak told dpa from Addis Ababa on Wednesday that Machar returned to South Africa on November 22 because his Ethiopian visa “was not ready.”
Gatluak said the rebel leader was in Johannesburg and denied that he was under house arrest.
“The government [of South Sudan] wants Machar being silent in exile,” Gatluak said, but added that the relationship between the rebels and the South African government “is still intact.”