Tuesday, April 05, 2016

South Sudan’s Machar May Return to Juba Next Week: Official
By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

April 4, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – The people of South Sudan are due to soon witness the long awaited return of opposition leader, Riek Machar, back to the national capital, Juba, an opposition official said on Monday.

The official who is not authorized to speak to the media told Sudan Tribune on condition of anonymity that Machar, the First Vice President designate and leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), will return to Juba in mid-April, less than two weeks from now.

Machar who had been leading the opposition movement for the past two years from his General Headquarters in South Sudan’s Pagak town will be flown into Juba from an Airport in Ethiopia’s Gambella town, the official disclosed.

The First Vice President designate will return to Juba accompanied by senior opposition political and military officials as well as other diplomats, regional officials, and dignitaries who will witness his arrival.

The chairman’s office has also on Monday invited interested foreign media representatives and their teams to accompany the First Vice President in his trip all the way to Juba, adding that a tentative date for his return would be around 15 April.

Opposition officials here in Addis Ababa further told Sudan Tribune that the First Vice President designate will also address the South Sudanese community in Addis Ababa on Saturday with regard to his return to Juba.

Machar’s decision to return home comes after the opposition group deployed hundreds of its force to Juba to make up for joint integrated forces who will take charge of the security of the capital.

According to Addis Ababa peace agreement signed in August 2015 between the two SPLM warring factions, the two sides will form joint integrated forces that include 2,910 military and police forces from the opposition faction and over 5,000 from the government’s side.

The opposition leader had been waiting for its forces to arrive in Juba in order to provide security for the SPLM-IO’s leadership. A total number of 1,370 troops of the opposition is needed to arrive Juba before Machar could return.

Machar’s decision to return back to Juba also comes days after 22 senior officials of the SPLM-IO arrived in Juba to take part in the joint security arrangements for the capital.

Last week, the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, welcomed the arrival of the senior officials on 24 March. She said the return of the SPLA-IO’s senior officials to Juba will facilitate Machar’s return home.

“This is an encouraging step towards facilitating the return of First Vice President-designate, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, as well as the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) in accordance with the Agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan signed in August 2015,” said Dlamini-Zuma.

She commended the “cordial manner” in which the government of South Sudan received the SPLM/A-IO officials upon their arrival in Juba.

“She wishes to underscore that this development is a necessary confidence building measure, which should serve as a stepping stone towards returning South Sudan to a period characterized by reconciliation, peace, stability and development,” she said in the statement.

The continental bloc pledged to extend unwavering support in fulfilling the remaining steps in the phased arrival in Juba of the SPLM-IO protection forces, as agreed within the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) mechanism.

South Sudan’s conflicting parties signed a peace deal in August last year to end over 21 months-long civil war. The peace deal called for the formation of a transitional government of national unity, and a sharing of powers between the government and the opposition.

However, implementation of the deal has since been difficult mainly after President Salva Kiir unilaterally established 28 states, although the peace agreement is based on an understanding of 10 states.

During the weekend, the regional bloc, IGAD, which mediated South Sudan peace negotiations, urged both parties to implement the peace accord without any preconditions.

South Sudan political rift which erupted into violence in mid-December 2013 has led to loss of tens of thousands of lives and displaced over 2 million people.


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