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SPLM-FDs call on IGAD to end Machar’s confinement in South Africa

February 10, 2018 (JUBA) - The Sudan People’s Liberation faction of the Former Detainees (SPLM-FDs) has called for a release of the former First Vice President Riek Machar from a confinement in South Africa, pointing out nothing much has changed even after his solitary detention.

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First Vice President Riek Machar greets SPLM-IO officials at Juba airport upon his arrival, April 26, 2016 (ST Photo)

According to a letter signed by Pagan Amum, the SPLM-FDs asked the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, in his capacity as the Chairman of the IGAD and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, to help in the release of South Sudan’s main armed opposition leader, SPLM-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) Riek Machar from his confinement in South Africa.

The February 8th, 2018 letter seen by Sudan Tribune says the SPLM-IO believes that its leader, Machar, has a critical role to play in the ongoing peace talks in Addis Ababa. The letter stressed that his release will give fresh positive impetus to the peace process in South Sudan.

“We, the SPLM Leaders (Former Political Detainees) have the honour to convey to Your Excellency the compliments of our highest consideration and wish to request your assistance in the release of SPLM-IO leader, Dr Riek Machar Teny from confinement in South Africa,” reads in part the letter.

The IGAD leaders after consultations with the Troika countries it was decided to confine Machar in South Africa in October 2016. The decision was taken after the issuance of a statement declaring war on President Salva Kiir’s government following a meeting held in the Sudanese capital by the group’s leadership on 25 September 2016.

The regional body which mediated the peace agreement and the facilitators thought that keeping Machar far from the region would prevent the resumption of hostilities between the warring parties.

Amum also underscored that the demand of his group does not imply Machar’s return to his position as the first vice-president as provided in the power-sharing agreement but to participate in negotiations.

“By asking for the release of Dr Riek at this point in time, it is not our intention to imply that the power-sharing relation between him and President Kiir pre-July 11, 2016, be restored unless stakeholders come to the conclusion that this is the best course of action,” Amum said.

The opposition leader said he and his group are aware that the circumstances have significantly changed since July 2016 and that must be taken into account as the parties figure out how to end the ongoing civil war.

This is the first the former detainees have come out to call for Machar’s release from detention.

The alliance of the political parties and individuals have repeatedly issued statements calling for the release of the rebel leader. The chairperson of the African Union Commission said his organisation and the regional bloc would act if it is the demand of the parties during the ongoing peace revitalization forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

During a meeting with the South African President in Pretoria on 21 January 2018, the South Sudanese President advocated for maintaining in confinement his main political rival and the leader of the armed opposition Riek Machar.