South Sudan rebel chief Riek Machar has returned to Juba for the first time in two years and has been sworn in as the vice-president in a unity government with his arch-rival President Salva Kiir as part of a peace pact following two years of civil war.
Until Tuesday, April 26, it was not clear when the renegade leader would return to Juba after the two sides disagreed over the number of troops and weapons he could bring back from his Ethiopian base.
Additionally, a week long delay by Machar infuriated the US, forcing them to withdraw funding to help transport South Sudan rebel leader to Juba. On Tuesday, however, the United Nations stepped in and offered to airlift him from Gambela in Southern Ethiopia.
This is a major step towards ending the more than two years of conflict that killed tens of thousands and left two million people homeless.
Following accusation that he had tried to organize a coup, Mr Machar, who denied the allegations, fled the country in December 2013 when the war was just but beginning in some parts of Juba.
The war later spread out to the rest of the country forcing UN agencies and the African Union to step in to save the nation.
In August 2015, a peace deal which urged Machar to return to Juba as vice-president after the ruling government fulfilled its part of the bargain was drawn.
A new beginning
At the airport, Machar was received by ministers and diplomats as he stepped out of his plane, AFP news agency reported.
"We need to bring our people together so they can unite and heal the wounds," Mr Machar was quoted as saying.
Top on the list of Machar’s plan is to ensure a permanent ceasefire, to stabilize the economy and ensure humanitarian access throughout South Sudan.
Just two years after South Sudan attained its independence from Sudan, Mr Kiir, and Mr Machar disagreed over issues, and the tension led to his sacking as vice-president in July 2013.
Ever since the country has been rocked by an unending war which forced donors to stop funding some projects. Investors also left the country after the conflict destabilized the economy.
On his arrival in Juba on Monday with 195 soldiers and their weapons, Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) chief of staff Gen Simon Gatwech Dual shouted “we are one South Sudan,” as he debarked from the plane waving a walking stick in the air, the Guardian reported.
The peace deal signed last August will allow President Kiir to pick 16 cabinet ministers. Machar’s SPLM-IO will have 10 ministerial slot, while former detainees and other political parties will have each two to make the 30-member cabinet.
Currently, Machar will have more than 1,500 armed troops in the capital, with the government having just over double that. The rest of the soldiers will remain at least 15 miles outside the capital.
The safety of the locals still remains unassured as multiple militia forces are out of control and have been using crude methods on their unwilling subjects.
It is hoped that the new government will bring a ceasefire in South Sudan as they seek to build a nation that has been torn apart by conflicts for many years even before independence.
Header Image credit: Reuters
Image credit: Albert Gonzalez Farran/AFP/Getty Images