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South Sudan oppostion forces to deploy to capital

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
South Sudan opposition leader Riek Machar, in rebel-controlled territory in Jonglei State (Reuters file)

South Sudanese soldiers allied with the country’s former rebel leader, Riek Machar, will deploy to the capital, Juba, in line with a peace deal, a regional peace observer says.

Festus Mogae, chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evolution Commission (JMEC), said during a meeting late Tuesday that signatories of the peace deal between the government and opposition had agreed to the deployment starting March 1.

"It was agreed that we will bring first and second stages together and therefore bring 1,370, including 700 of the police, to Juba... as a compromise," Mogae said.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Machar also confirmed that the opposition leader would be returning to the capital “during the first week of March.”

The country has been witnessing chaos since December 2013 when fighting erupted between troops loyal to the president and defectors led by the rebel leader. Machar, who was also the former deputy of President Salva Kiir, was eventually sacked.

Under pressure from the United Nations and other states, both sides signed last August a failed peace deal to share ministerial positions. 

Last month, both leaders were threatened with sanctions in a report by the UN for failing to end the conflict. Earlier this month, the South Sudanese president handed Machar's former position as deputy back.

Under the terms of the deal, a total of 4,830 troops are to be allowed inside Juba. Just over two-thirds of them, or 3,420 forces, will come from the government, while the remaining will be from the rebels. The forces will include joint guard, military police and national security service units. 

The violence has left tens of thousands of people dead, and forced almost two million people from their homes.

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