South Sudan readies for rebel chief's return

South Sudan’s rebel chief Riek Machar will return to the capital on Monday for the first time since war began, his spokesman said, a key step in salvaging a floundering peace agreement.
Machar’s return as part of the August 2015 peace deal is seen as the best hope yet for ending more than two years of civil war that has left the world’s youngest nation in chaos and pushed it to the brink of famine.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in a war marked by numerous atrocities, with more than two million forced from their homes and nearly six million in need of emergency food aid.
The conflict broke out in December 2013 when President Salva Kiir accused Machar of planning a coup, claims he denied, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that divided the desperately poor country along ethnic lines.
Billboards have been erected heralding the return of Machar to take up the post of vice-president, the same job he was sacked from months before the conflict erupted and forge a unity government with arch-rival Kiir.
“Reconciling, uniting the nation,” read one giant poster on a dusty street, above the smiling faces of Kiir and Machar.
While Machar’s arrival will be a symbolic step forward, experts warn that implementing the terms of the peace deal will be a long and tough task.

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