December 7, 2015 (JUBA) – South Sudanese government under the leadership of president Salva Kiir has reiterated its rejection to the expected return to Juba of hundreds of members of the advance team from the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) under the leadership of former vice-president and first vice-president designate, Riek Machar, for the implementation of the peace agreement signed in August between the warring parties.
- South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar, center, greets unidentified participants after lengthy peace negotiations in Addis Ababa, Aug. 17, 2015 (Photo AP/Mulugeta Ayene)
Earlier, officials of the opposition group told Sudan Tribune that the advance team per the list submitted by the SPLM-IO would start to travel to Juba on Friday, 11 December, according to the arrangements made through the East African regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
However, the government seemed not to have yet approved the return of the whole team, citing that the number is big.
In a live interview on Monday with the Juba-based United Nations-run Radio Miraya which interviewed both the government’s presidential spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, and the opposition leader’s spokesman, James Gatdet Dak, president Kiir’s press secretary, Ateny, raised complaint about the close to 600 number of the opposition’s advance team, saying the government was yet to accept it.
Ateny cited “security and logistical” concerns as reasons for the government’s disapproval of the number of the SPLM-IO officials, but did not explain what sort of specific security concern the government was worried about.
He however said the matter would be tackled by the top leadership whether or not to allow the nearly 600 members of the opposition’s advance team to return to Juba.
On his part, Machar’s spokesman, Dak, said the number was necessary for the implementation of the peace agreement, arguing that majority members of the advance team are representing local constituencies across the country.
Dak further said the whole of the advance team will not be stationed in Juba, but will spread out to their respective “states, counties, payams and even to bumas” in dissemination of the peace agreement to the populations and mobilize support for its full implementation.
He said according to the current arrangement, 262 members would fly to Juba on 11 December while the rest of 339 would follow a week later on 18, 21, and 22 December, respectively.
He challenged that the implementation of the peace agreement needed “everybody” and therefore there was need for the officials to return and play their respective roles in their local constituencies for the success of the agreement.
It however remains unclear whether or not the government will agree with the whole team to return to Juba or further raise objections through IGAD to reduce it which may further delay the return of the team.