South Sudanese opposition leader Riek Machar is in South Africa to receive medical treatment, his spokesman and officials in Pretoria said on Thursday, after the former vice president fled fighting that erupted in the South Sudanese capital in July.
Machar initially travelled through the bush from South Sudan to Democratic Republic of Congo, sustaining a leg injury on the way after an aide said his group had been pursued by forces loyal to his rival, President Salva Kiir.
From Congo, Machar travelled to Sudan where he also received medical care. “He is now in South Africa for medical treatment,” his Nairobi-based spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, told Reuters, adding that he was likely to stay there for about a week.
He did not say where he would go afterwards.
Clayson Monyela, spokesman for South Africa’s foreign affairs department, said Machar arrived in the country on Wednesday on a private visit for medical reasons.
“Consultations were held with the Government of South Sudan regarding the visit of Dr Riek Machar to South Africa,” Monyela said in a statement. “His period of stay in the country is not known.”
South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has been involved in talks to secure peace in South Sudan.
Political rivalry between Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, and Machar, a Nuer, sparked a civil war that has often followed ethnic lines.
A peace deal was signed in 2015, but it proved shaky from the outset and fierce fighting flared in Juba in July this year, just weeks after Machar had returned to resume his post as vice president.
Clashes have broken out elsewhere in South Sudan since then, raising concerns about a return to all-out conflict.