By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
April 16, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – The leader of South Sudan’s armed opposition group (SPLM-IO) Riek Machar, arrived on Wednesday at rebel headquarters in the South Sudanese territory of Pagak where a highly-anticipated rebel leadership meeting is due to be held.
In an interview with Sudan Tribune, Dickson Gatluak, the armed opposition’s deputy military spokesperson confirmed Machar’s arrival to the rebel-controlled territory situated near the Ethiopian border.
“The chairman has arrived at Pagak on Wednesday night at 8:30pm East African local time,” said Gatluak, adding that the former vice-president was welcomed by his supporters, church leaders, youth, women and rebel generals at the military base.
Machar was reportedly accompanied by huge delegates and members of the SPLM in the Diaspora who will attend the meeting expected to commence end of this week.
The meeting was initially earmarked for 10 April, but adjourned for logistical reasons.
The second Pagak conference will reportedly discuss the rebels’ position on East African regional bloc (IGAD) road map for peace and design a way forward to end the country’s ongoing conflict, which has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions of people.’
The rebel leadership is said to be thoroughly study the sticking points of the negotiation that are dragging the IGAD-brokered peace process from achieving a speedy end to the violence in the country.
The last round of peace negotiations collapsed on 6 March after the rival leaders failed to agree on almost all outstanding issues.
IGAD, the regional bloc brokering the peace process has prepared a new draft proposal for the next round of peace talks in Ethiopia.
Meanwhile, the regional mediators are yet to officially announce the timetable for resumption of the next round of peace talks.