By Fred Oluoch
South Sudanese ousted vice president, Dr Riek Machar, is increasingly becoming a pariah in the region with Ethiopia now declining to give him asylum, while Sudan is restricting his political activities.
Dr Machar — who is currently in Khartoum after fleeing Juba on July 11– has been denied asylum in Ethiopia where he had hoped to take refuge after completing treatment in the Sudanese capital.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, in a media interview on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York this week, said that Addis Ababa “does not need someone who is leading an armed struggle on its soil.”
After the civil war broke out in Juba in December 2013, Ethiopia had hosted Dr Machar for most of the two-and-a-half years of the peace negotiations led by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad). But Addis Ababa is now bowing to pressure from Juba and the dynamics of the deployment of the UN-backed regional protection force.
Ethiopia was supposed to provide the bulk of the 4,000 troops and this was going to complicate their participation if the country gave asylum to Dr Machar.
In Juba, Dr Machar has since been replaced as the vice-president by his former lead negotiator, Taban Deng Gai.
Dr Machar suffered another blow on Thursday when the Sudanese government stopped him from holding a press conference in Khartoum after holding a week-long SPLM-IO leadership meeting to discuss the ongoing political crisis in South Sudan.
Information Minister and government spokesperson, Ahmed Bilal Osman, announced that Dr Machar was in Khartoum for treatment only and is therefore not allowed to conduct political activities. Mr Bilal said that the Khartoum was waiting for the implementation of the security arrangements so that Dr Machar could return to South Sudan.
However, Dr Machar maintains that he can only return to Juba after the deployment of the regional protection force, which Juba appears to be reluctant to have more troops join the current 12,000 under the UN Mission in South Sudan.
According to the UN Security Council Resolution, the protection force is supposed to act as a buffer between President Salva Kiir’s soldiers and those of Dr Machar, and to secure humanitarian supply lines and key installations.
The government of South Sudan had protested to Sudan for hosting Dr Machar but Khartoum has maintained that they are hosting the ousted leader –who arrived in Khartoum in August from northeastern DR Congo — on “humanitarian” grounds.