South Sudan said Wednesday said that even though former rebel leader Riek Machar was being treated at a Sudanese hospital for an apparent chest infection and leg injury, it would not affect relations between the two countries.
Mawien Makol Ariik, spokesperson for South Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Juba would continue to work with Khartoum on trade and other issues of bilateral interest.
“We don’t have any reaction as to Riek Machar’s being in Khartoum," Ariik said. "Khartoum has declared that Riek is there on humanitarian grounds and that is none of our concern, because the visit of the first vice president to Khartoum and the progress in the relations between the two countries [continues],” Ariik said. “Sudan is a sovereign country.”
Although Machar’s presence in Khartoum coincided with this week’s visit of a South Sudanese delegation headed by new First Vice President Taban Deng Gai, who represents a breakaway faction of the SPLM in Opposition, Ariik said Juba was focused on maintaining good relations with Khartoum.
“That is completely a decision of the Republic of Sudan to announce the presence of Riek Machar whenever and whatever they wanted to announce, and it has nothing to do with our relations here," Ariik said.
On Tuesday, Sudan Information Minister Ahmed Bilal told VOA's "South Sudan in Focus" that Machar was in what he termed “a bad condition.” Machar fled from Juba last month shortly after heavy fighting broke out in the capital between Machar’s forces and South Sudan army forces.
Machar, who disappeared just hours after the fighting in Juba erupted, was fired later by President Salva Kiir.
Sudanese journalists have reported that Machar is in Al Amal Hospital, a medical facility owned by Sudan’s national security and intelligence service. No reporters have been allowed to speak with Machar or to the doctors treating him. Machar was secretly moved from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Khartoum earlier this week.
Opposition officials in Nairobi have not made any official statement on Machar’s health. South Sudan in Focus reached out to an appointed SPLM-IO member of parliament for comment, but he declined to speak.