South Sudanese rebel leader flees the country

South Sudanese former rebel leader Riek Machar has left the country after clashes with the army sent him fleeing the capital Juba last month, his spokesman said Thursday.

Machar had "successfully relocated" to a "neighbouring country," James Gatdet said on Facebook, without naming the country.

A Machar representative who did not want to be identified told dpa he was in the Congolese capital Kinshasa transiting toward Ethiopia, where he would arrive later Thursday.

The UN confirmed that Machar had fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), saying the UN mission to the country had been asked to extract and transport him within the DRC, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said.

"We can confirm that an operation was undertaken by [the UN mission] on humanitarian grounds to facilitate the extraction of Riek Machar, his wife and 10 others from a location in the DRC in support of the DRC authorities," Haq said.

He said the Congolese government had asked the UN mission to move Machar from one location to another after he "appeared" in the DRC in an area close to the South Sudanese border. The UN mission later "handed" Machar over to Congolese authorities and could not confirm his current location.

Machar was expected to give a press conference Friday in Addis Ababa.

A power struggle between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy Machar evolved into a military conflict in December 2013, killing tens of thousands and displacing more than 2 million people.

The two men signed a peace agreement a year ago and formed a unity government in April, with Machar reinstated as vice president.

But renewed fighting erupted in July, killing hundreds of people and forcing Machar's troops out of Juba.

Kiir then sacked him from the post of vice president, dealing a new blow to hopes for peace.

South Sudanese presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said he was not aware of Machar having left the country.

Last update: Thu, 18/08/2016 - 23:36

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