South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar returns home

South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar has returned to the country for the first time in more than two years – as part of a peace deal.


His spokesman told the BBC Mr Machar was now at rebel military headquarters in the eastern town of Pagak.

He is expected in the capital Juba next week to resume the post of vice-president as part of last year’s deal.

The deadly civil conflict erupted in 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused Mr Machar of plotting a coup.

Since then thousands of people have died and more than two million have been displaced.


Mr Machar’s spokesman told the BBC on Tuesday that the rebel leader was in Pagak, near the border with Ethiopia.

He is expected in Juba on Monday, while his deputy leader Alfred Ladu Gore is already in the capital.

Last week, more than 1,300 rebel troops were flown to Juba as part of the terms of the peace deal signed in August 2015.

These forces are deployed to provide security for Mr Machar, who said he would not come to take up his new position until these security measures were put into place.

Peace agreements between both sides have broken down repeatedly over the years, so there is still expected to be mistrust within this new government, the BBC’s Africa security correspondent Tomi Oladipo reports.

But the people of South Sudan have seen enough calamity and can only hope this transitional government gets things right this time, our correspondent adds.

The peace agreement was signed amid a threat of sanctions from the United Nations.

Fighting was supposed to stop immediately – but there have been frequent violations.

President Kiir and Mr Machar also agreed to share out ministerial positions. The agreement returns the government to where it was before the war broke out.

A South Sudanese boy carries food aidImage copyrightAFP
Image captionConflict on the ground continues to take its toll on civilians despite the peace deal

The UN and African Union have accused both sides of carrying out atrocities – an AU-backed report in January alleged that 50 civilians had suffocated after government troops locked them in a shipping container.

South Sudan is the world’s youngest country and one of the least developed. It split from Sudan in 2011.

South Sudan: The world’s youngest country

  • Split from Sudan in July 2011 after an independence referendum
  • One of Africa’s least-developed economies. Highly oil-dependent
  • Relations with Sudan strained by disputes over oil revenue sharing and borders
  • A power struggle brought about civil war in December 2013
  • An estimated 2.2 million fled their homes during conflict
  • A tentative, internationally mediated, peace agreement signed in August 2015

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