By Deng Machol
Juba – The regional bloc of Inter –Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers has decided to release South Sudan’s exiled rebel leader Dr. Riek Machar from house arrest in South Africa.
Rebel leader Machar is a de facto prisoner in a farmhouse outside of Johannesburg. He is isolated from his friends and family, and has been frozen out of South Sudan’s peace process and the future of his country.
The IGAD’s communique issued following its 61st Extra-Ordinary Session held on Monday in Addis Ababa, said it would release Dr. Machar as soon as possible if he would agree to renounce violence, not obstruct the peace process and relocate to any country “outside the region not neighboring South Sudan.”
Meanwhile, the wife of Dr. Machar told the VOA that the family is disappointed in a decision made by IGAD calling for a conditional “lifting of house arrest.”
“If you read it carefully, actually, there is no lifting of any house arrest. Because what they said is very clear that they will transfer him from where he is now, which is South Africa, to another location that is not in the region, and that would not be in any proximity with South Sudan,” Angelina Teny, Machar’s wife said, who is also senior opposition member.
The statement said that IGAD ministers would decide on a possible location for prominent South Sudanese rebel leader Machar, something his wife said the ministers of the regional bloc are not being fair to her husband.
Dr. Machar, who ended up in South Africa, came in aftermath of a new outbreak of fighting in July 2016 destroyed a tentative peace deal that had restored Machar to his government post, and forced him to flee the country.
The opposition groups say they are upset by the government demand to exclude Machar from the SPLM reunification process, peace revitalization forum, and the national transitional government.
President Kiir government made it clear since last year that Machar can only run for president at the end constitutional process, insisting that he should remain away from the rest claiming he would obstruct the whole operation.
Over the weekend, the government Chief Negotiator for the peace process said they have rejected the opposition proposal at the High Level Revitalization Forum talks to reinstate 1st Former Vice President Riek Machar to his former position, describes as problematic.
“This of course is problematic and we don’t want to repeat that tragic history if that formula could work but we tried it could not work,” Chief Negotiator Nhial Deng Nhial said at the party rally, SPLM in Juba. “It’s an obstacle we hope that the SPLA/IO of Dr. Riek focus more on the representation of position as an institution rather than in the person of Riek SPLM/IO is fully entitled in key position in the government in keeping in its political weight that is something that we are already to consider.”
However, the observers said this new condition may obstruct the peace process as the third round of revitalization process is at doorstep.
Machar, who has long dominated South Sudanese politics, though he was rebelled against former SPLM leader Dr. John Garang De Mabior, was an instrumental figure in South Sudan’s fight for independence from Sudan, and has served as vice president twice in the very short history of the world’s newest nation. It became independent in 2011.
However, power struggling between Dr. Machar and President Salva Kiir sparked the civil war that began in 2013, leaving the country devastated in its wake.
The regional bloc also called upon the Transitional Government of National Unity and the nine opposition groups not to squander the opportunity for ending the suffering of the people of South Sudan.
IGAD did not set new dates for the resumption of the peace talks. Its special envoy, South Sudan Ambassador Ismail Wais, will consult various South Sudanese stakeholders to reconcile the position of the parties on power sharing and permanent security arrangements before the next talks.