South Sudan’s sacked VP ‘not welcome in Ethiopia’

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Riek Machar

The announcement by Ethiopia that Riek Machar, South Sudan’s sacked vice-president, will no longer be welcome in the country marks a significant shift of alliances in the region.

In an interview with Foreign Policy magazine this week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said Mr Machar would only be allowed to travel through Ethiopia but would not be able to stay for long.

For long periods during the current civil war, Mr Machar lived in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, from where he not only attended peace talks but was also able to travel to various regional and international capitals to lobby for support.

His ability to travel to his headquarters in the north of South Sudan, which was easily accessible via the Ethiopian border, has now been made more complicated.

And it is not only Ethiopia that seems to have lost patience with him.

This week the government in Sudan blocked him from holding a press conference in its capital, Khartoum, where he has been receiving medical treatment.

Mr Machar returned to South Sudan’s capital, Juba, as vice-president in a unity government in April – but was forced to flee in July after fighting broke out between his troops and the presidential guard.

There were reports of him seeking refuge in South Africa or the Democratic Republic of Congo but his close allies have said he is not looking for asylum anywhere.

And it is not clear when he will return to Juba – if he eventually does, if he will be accommodated again in the unity government.

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