South Sudan’s rebel group, the SPLM-IO has denied reports that its leader, former vice president Riek Machar was under house arrest in South Africa.
A senior member of the group, Kuong Dak, reportedly told Radio Tamazuj that Machar entered South Africa legally and that he was moving “freely without any restriction”.
“Riek Machar is not under house arrest, he went to South Africa for medical treatment, and now he is free, he can travel to Khartoum and Addis Ababa or elsewhere,” Dak was quoted as saying.
Reports this week indicated that South African authorities had “confined” Machar to a residence outside Pretoria “to prevent him from leaving the country again”.
Machar, according to the reports, arrived in South Africa on November 21 without Pretoria’s knowledge after fleeing Juba, claiming that President Salva Kiir wanted to assassinate him.
Monitored and controlled
An eNCA report quoted Reuters as saying that Machar was being held “basically under house arrest” near Pretoria, with his movements “restricted and phone calls monitored and controlled”.
“If he wants to go to the toilet, he has to hand over his phone and a guy stands outside the cubicle,” a source was quoted as saying.
The South African government, however, remained adamant that the claims were not true.
Meanwhile, a statement released by the SPLM-IO on Thursday denounced the reports as “propaganda”.
The group said it welcomed national dialogue as a way of achieving peace, but maintained that it must not be led by President Salva Kiir.
The conflict in South Sudan has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced more than two million people.
The country became Africa’s youngest nation in 2011 after the end of a 21 year war with its neighbour Sudan for independence.