South Sudan rebel leader should not return, US says
The US supported Machar’s return to government in April time because it was a crucial element of the fragile peace deal that remains in place across the country, Donald Booth, the US special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, told the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
That peace deal aimed to end a civil war that broke out in December 2013, several months after President Salvar Kiir dismissed Machar as his deputy. Fighting largely along ethnic lines spread across the country, killing more than 50,000 people and displacing about 2.3 million more.
The strength of the April peace deal was put to the test in July when deadly clashes swept across the capital. Fighting between Machar’s forces and those loyal to South Sudan President Salvar Kiir killed an estimated 300 people, but the real figure could be much higher.
After that outbreak of fighting, Machar left the capital and has not returned since. His post has been filled by Taban Deng Gai, a member of the same political party as Machar.
“Given all that has happened, we do not believe it would be wise for Machar to return to his previous position in Juba,” Booth said the hearing. “But this cannot become a justification for President Kiir to monopolise power and stifle dissenting political voices.”
The US’s relationship with South Sudan has been strained by reports that Kiir’s forces deliberately targeted US citizens and other foreigners in an attack on the Terrain Camp, a compound in Juba popular with expats, Booth said.
That attack highlighted the failure of the UN’s mission in the country, UNMISS to protect civilians and foreigners in the country.
“We remain deeply concerned that UNMISS did not respond to the Terrain Camp attack,” Booth said. “We strongly support the Secretary General’s establishment of a special, independent investigation into the UNMISS response to these terrible events, including the extent to which government obstruction played a role,” Booth added.
Reports that Kiir’s forces fired as many as 100 rounds at a convoy carrying James Donegan, the second-highest ranking American official in the country, during July’s outbreak of violence, have also tested relations between the two countries.