South Sudan tells UN ready for rebel leader's return

2016-04-01 08:48
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New York - South Sudan told the United Nations on Thursday that it expects hundreds of rebel troops to be airlifted to Juba this week, paving the way for the return of rebel leader Riek Machar.

Machar's arrival in Juba is a key step for the formation of a unity government that was agreed under a peace accord to end a brutal war which has killed tens of thousands of people over nearly 2.5 years.

South Sudan's Deputy Ambassador Joseph Moum Malok told the UN Security Council that "by the end of this week, if everything remains as planned... the entire 1 370 agreed forces will be in Juba paving the way for Dr Riek Machar to eventually come to Juba."

Machar, who was President Salva Kiir's deputy before the war, had been living in exile in Kenya and Ethiopia, but was re-appointed vice president in February.

Under the peace deal signed in August, Machar will join Kiir in a new 30-month transitional government leading to elections.

UN mission chief Ellen Margrethe Loj told the council that Machar's return to Juba to join the government "is when the hard work of rebuilding the country has to start and difficult decisions must be taken."

The United Nations is pushing Kiir and Machar to implement the peace accord despite ongoing fighting and delays.

UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien told the council that fighting was spreading despite the peace deal, with new outbreaks around Western Bahr el Ghazal, Western Equatoria, Jonglei and Malakal.

More than 150 000 people have fled their homes in the new violence that has already displaced more than two million people over the course of the war.

After winning independence from Sudan in 2011, South Sudan descended into war two years later, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the poverty-stricken country along ethnic lines.

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