Former vice president of South Sudan, Riek Machar, flees the country

JUBA , South Sudan, Aug. 18 (UPI) — Riek Machar, the former vice president of South Sudan and opposition leader in a civil war that has killed thousands, has left the country, a spokesman said.

Machar fled the capital, Juba, in July during the latest fighting, and is now in a neighboring country, the spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, said.

Another spokesman, Mabior Garang, said in a statement that Machar’s self-exile followed a “botched attempt to assassinate” him.

Machar was President Salva Kiir’s vice president, but a split in 2013 divided national loyalties and began a civil war fought largely along ethnic lines, Kiir’s Dinka troops against Machar’s Nuer rebels. An internationally brokered peace treaty in 2015 held until Machar returned to Juba earlier this year with 3,000 armed men. Hundreds died in clashes in July. Machar fled the city to an undisclosed location, and Kiir replaced him as vice president with Taban Deng Gai, a former ally of Machar.

The United Nations Security Council agreed in August to send 4,000 additional peacekeepers to South Sudan, but Machar’s absence and lack of support for a new peace deal makes it unlikely the country will soon emerge from its spiral into violence.

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