Rebel leader Riek Machar came over as a virtual head of state during his diplomatic tour of the region’s capitals.
SOUTH Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar had arrived in Nairobi from Djibouti on 27 May. He put back his trip to Khartoum because of President Omar al Bashir’s long-term health problems and had talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta, Cabinet Secretary for foreign affairs Amina Mohamed Jibril as well as an impromptu meeting with Vice President William Ruto.
His trip was sponsored by the secretariat of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), much to the dismay of the Juba authorities.
Riek Machar received a great many visitors luxurious Safari Park Hotel in the Nairobi suburbs where he took up quarters.
They ranged from his South Sudan colleagues like Pagan Amum to foreign delegations (such as a Nigerian women’s group), student groups and people who had recently rallied to his cause like General Dau Aturjong Nyuol, the commander of the sixth division of the South Sudan army.
President Salva Kiir was concerned by his rival’s diplomatic success and so announced on 28 May that he was going to Nairobi “to help implement the peace plan signed on 9 May”.
But his visit was cancelled the following day because President Kenyatta didn’t want to give the impression that Nairobi was creating a second peace process in parallel to that of the Addis Ababa negotiations.
Kiir then immediately dispatched his spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny to Nairobi to try to convince General Dau Aturjong Nyuol – who hails from Warrap state in the west of the Bahr el-Ghazal region and is a member of the Rek Dinka ethnic group as is the South Sudan president – to come back into the fold. But to no avail: the latter responded that he “can see no change in the system in Juba”.
Meanwhile, a good many Dinka youths living in Kenya went to the Safari Park Hotel to try to join the dissident general’s movement.
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