Rebel leader and vice president designate Riek Machar failed to return to Juba again. His return is supposed to be an important step on the way to bringing an end to the over two-year civil war.
Addressing journalists in Juba on Tuesday afternoon, April 19, shortly after the Machar advance team announced the cancellation of Machar’s return, South Sudan’s Information Minister, Michael Makuei Lueth has expressed dismay over the third cancellation of Machar’s return.
“Machar is not committed to the implementation of the peace agreement. He has been changing his arrival time since Monday from hour to hour. This is the great dismay,” Makuei said.
Makuei added, “we are calling upon the IGAD countries, international community and Troika countries to pressure Machar so that he returns to South Sudan for the implementation of the peace agreement”.
Earlier, William Ezekiel, spokesperson of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement In Opposition (SPLM-IO) told reporters gathered at Juba International Airport that the arrival was postponed because of logistical issues.
“We are deeply sorry to announce the cancellation of the trip, he [Machar] is not coming to Juba today,” Ezekiel said.
Ezekiel further said that the government demanded that the SPLM-IO General Chief of Staff, First Lieutenant General Simon Gatwech Dual obtains security clearance before entering South Sudan airspace.
“The South Sudan authorities demand that the plane that will carry the Chief of General Staff must obtain clearance from the government to use South Sudan airspace before he comes,” he explained.
Ezekiel did not announce any new travel arrangements and said the SPLM-IO advance delegation is meeting with government authorities to resolve the impasse. “Taban Deng Gai is right now working out the conditions with the government,” he said.
Makuei however questioned Machar and his team, asking for how long shall the government of South Sudan wait for his arrival. “This is a waste of time,” he said. He further said Machar was planning to come with additional 200-500 soldiers and arms. “The government was informed that he wanted to come with an arsenal of arms. This is the information which we got this morning,” Makuei said.
The two sides have dragged on implementing the peace deal due to a number of issues, mainly the cantonment areas in Equatoria and Bahr El-Ghazal as well as the number of troops in Juba and the creation of the 28 states.
The chairman for the United Democratic Front (UDF), Sebastian Uchan Kiech urged the two warring parties to listen to the public outcry for peace and finally form the Transitional Government of National Unity.
“South Sudanese civilians have based their hope on the formation of the unity government. And they have been waiting for Machar’s return in vain," Uchan said.
David Chol Dut, a student at the University of Juba said: “I have lost hope in the return of the vice president designate, because the facts are not clear. Since Monday it has been said that he fails to due to bad weather and today again due to unknown reason.”
“We were washed by the rain yesterday at Juba International Airport while waiting for Machar’s arrival. The same evening we were again called for his reception and he failed to come, we are totally disappointed,” said Tut Gatluak, a Juba resident.
“Since Monday we the taxi drivers haven’t been allowed to operate along the airport routes due the security precautions for Machar’s arrival,” said Luka Santo, a taxi driver in Juba.
The United Nations says thousands have been killed in the more than two-year conflict. More than two million people have been displaced. Aid agencies have also warned of a looming famine unless fighting ends so people can go back to their farms.