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South Sudan Ruling Party to Accused Coup-Plotters: Come Back


South Sudan's ruling party has voted to allow rebel leader Riek Machar (center) and other officials to return to their high-level party positions.

South Sudan's ruling party has voted to allow rebel leader Riek Machar (center) and other officials to return to their high-level party positions.

South Sudan's ruling party has voted to reinstate rebel leader Riek Machar and other officials who were dismissed from their posts when the country erupted in violence 14 months ago, a top party official said Wednesday.

Acting Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) Secretary General Anne Itto told a news conference that party leaders passed a resolution Tuesday to reinstate ousted party members who were dismissed last year.

President Salva Kiir, who chairs the SPLM, accused the party officials of being part of a failed coup bid in December 2013 that triggered more than a year of violence in the country. All of the officials, including Machar, have denied the accusation.

Itto said "... those who have been dismissed as a result of the December 15 happening will be welcome back, not only as party members but also to resume their work as assigned to them.”

Machar will be able to return to his post as an SPLM deputy chairman, and Pagan Amum, who was held in prison for four months after the unrest broke out, will be able to resume his duties as the party’s secretary general, Itto said. But there is a condition, she said.

"We will welcome back everybody to the SPLM but in order for them to resume their positions in the party they must not be having criminal charges against them. They are members of the SPLM, yes. They will be welcomed back, yes. But eventually they will have to face the court if they have some criminal charges,” she said.

Those who have been dismissed as a result of the December 15 happening will be welcome back, not only as party members but also to resume their work as assigned to them.

Amum and Machar were both accused of treason for their alleged roles in the events of December 2013 that triggered months of fighting around the country. Amum went on trial for treason, but the government stayed proceedings against him and three others in April last year. Machar fled Juba when the violence broke out and has not been formally charged with treason.

Itto said Mr Kiir on Tuesday gave his assurances that it is safe for any party member to return to Juba.

The president also issued a decree offering amnesty to anyone who took up arms against the government. The SPLM leadership also agreed to welcome back defectors who left the ruling party after the conflict began.

The SPLM, which grew out of the movement that fought for decades to liberate southern Sudan from Khartoum, splintered into three factions shortly after fighting erupted in Juba on Dec. 15, 2013.

Those three factions are led by Mr Kiir, Machar and Amum. Last week, at a meeting in Arusha, Tanzania, all three SPLM factions agreed to fully implement an agreement to reunify the party. The reunification agreement includes a clause calling for any party officials who were ousted from their posts to be reinstated.

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