Juba. South Sudan rejected on Tuesday a United Nations appeal to halt the planned expulsion of the world body’s top humanitarian aid official in the country, saying he had regularly spoken out against the government.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday condemned the move to expel Toby Lanzer, deputy head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, and said the British-born envoy had been “instrumental in addressing the increasing humanitarian needs of conflict-affected communities” in South Sudan.
Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told Reuters: “It is impossible to reverse … [the] idea of expelling Toby Lanzer.” The cabinet came to the decision after Lanzer made comments that were “completely against the government.”
He gave no details. Lanzer has been active on Twitter, where he often posts messages about the dire situation in a country that has been mired in conflict since late 2013.
Lanzer had been due to leave shortly and his successor, Eugene Owusu of Ghana, has already been nominated.
More than 2 million people have fled their homes, with 555,000 departing for neighboring states. About a third of the nation’s 11 million people rely on food and other aid.
Fighting has pitted soldiers backing President Salva Kiir, the country’s leader since independence from Sudan in 2011, against those loyal to his former deputy Riek Machar, who was sacked from his post in mid-2013.
The conflict, which has flared up since the end of the rainy season in recent months, tends to follow ethnic lines that divided southern tribes even before independence. Kiir is an ethnic Dinka and Machar is from the Nuer group.
Peace talks in Ethiopia, sponsored by African states and backed the United States and other countries, have stalled over how to share power between the rival camps. Mediators have been trying to restart negotiations.
Kiir held discussions on Tuesday in Juba with visiting African mediators, including South African Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa, as part of efforts to reunify the fractured ranks of Kiir’s ruling SPLM party, Ateny said.
Kiir also met a group of South Sudanese political opponents who were detained early in the crisis before being allowed to leave for Kenya. Of the 10 originally detained, five returned on Monday as an advanced party.
“We have come back for dialogue with our colleagues in SPLM and for dialogue also with our colleagues in the government of South Sudan,” former minister Deng Alor said on arrival in Juba.
Ateny said the remaining five would come back on June 25.
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