The Guardian
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South Sudan rebel officials pave way for chief’s return




More than 100 hundred supporters of rebel chief Riek Machar arrived in South Sudan’s capital Juba on Thursday, raising hopes it will pave the way for the delayed return of their leader, a spokesman said.

“They are already here,” said rebel spokesman William Ezekiel, adding that the plane that brought the 125 rebel representatives had now returned to Gambella in Ethiopia to collect more — including Machar’s UN and US sanctioned chief of staff Simon Gatwech Dual — with Machar expected to follow.

His return is seen as an important step towards shoring up a faltering August 2015 peace deal.

He had been due to take up the post vice president, deputy to President Salva Kiir, on Monday, in a transitional government aimed at ending more than two years of civil war.

But his arrival was delayed by wrangling that dragged on until Wednesday over how many soldiers and weapons he could bring with him to Juba.

The new country’s civil war broke out in December 2013 when President 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 delays this week have worried observers from the African Union, the UN and US, who have warned the peace agreement is at risk.

Tens of thousands of people have died in the fighting since December 2013 and more than two million have been driven from their homes in a conflict, characterised by extreme brutality and human rights violations.

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