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South Sudan botches rebel chief Machar’s return

Juba, South Sudan | AFP |

Rebel leader Riek Machar’s long-awaited return to the capital of South Sudan was delayed on Monday, his spokesman said, citing “logistical reasons”.

“We are committed to the peace agreement, but there have been logistical issues and the first vice president, Riek Machar, will come tomorrow,” spokesman William Ezekiel, said Monday.

Machar’s return and swearing-in as vice president will mark an important step in a floundering August 2015 peace deal.

The agreement is seen as the best hope yet for ending more than two years of civil war that has left the world’s youngest nation in chaos and pushed it to the brink of famine.

Machar previously served as President Salva Kiir’s deputy until he was fired just months before the start of war in December 2013.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in a war marked by numerous atrocities, with more than two million forced from their homes and nearly six million in need of emergency food aid.

The conflict broke out in December 2013 when Kiir accused Machar of planning a coup, claims he denied, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that divided the desperately poor country along ethnic lines.

The rebel leader is in his tribal stronghold of Pagak in the east of the country and was expected to arrive in Juba on Monday, but despite the latest hitch spokesman Ezekiel said the rebels remain committed to peace.

“We are here to implement all the peace agreement. We have been missing deadlines but we will fulfil in the end,” he said.

EARLIER STORY: South Sudan readies, but will rebel chief Machar return? (CLICK HERE)

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