Riek Machar to return to Juba in May, UN envoy says

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South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar is planning to return to the country in May under a power-sharing deal struck with President Salva Kiir in September last year.

Machar has been in exile in Khartoum having spent more than a year in South Africa, where he went to seek medical treatment.

Machar’s planned return to Juba was announced by UN envoy David Shearer, who says he visited the South Sudan leader in Khartoum.

“He told me that he is committed to coming back still at the end of May,” Shearer told a news conference at UN headquarters in New York.

The UN envoy also expressed confidence that Machar’s return will mark a “critical juncture” toward setting up the transitional government.

South Sudan has been dogged by violence since December 2013, sparked by a feud between Machar and President Kiir.

Kiir accused Machar – his then deputy – of plotting a coup against his rule, allegations the latter accused but then went on to mobilize a rebel force.

The war killed tens of thousands and forced millions to flee their homes, prompting the UN to rank the country as Africa’s biggest refugee crisis.

Shearer also said a planned visit to South Sudan by UN Secretary General to South Sudan was still on, but will take place once both President Kiir and Machar are in Juba.