South Sudan rebel leader and First Vice President Designate Riek Machar is expected to return to Juba Tuesday. South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei said Machar’s return is a milestone in the implementation of the peace agreement signed last year between Machar and South Sudan President Salva Kiir.
Machar had been expected to arrive in the capital Monday, but a spokesman for the rebel advance team said a lack of flight clearance will delay the arrival until Tuesday morning.
Makuei has said Machar will be inaugurated as the country’s first vice president immediately following his arrival, marking the beginning of a 30-month transitional period.
The current vice president of South Sudan is James Wani Igga. He will become second vice president when the new government is sworn in.
“The First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar will be arriving this morning. He will be received by the vice president (James Wani Igga) at Juba International airport. He will be accorded the necessary official reception, and after that he will go to the palace where he will take the oath and after that the president will have a meeting with his two vice presidents so that they can discuss the establishment of the government of national unity,” he said.
President Kiir and Machar signed a peace agreement last year to end more than two years of civil war which came about after Kiir accused Machar of an attempted coup.
FILE - South Sudan's opposition leader Riek Machar speaks during a briefing.
Among the agreement’s key provisions is the establishment of a national unity government.
Machar’s expected return to Juba comes as tensions from the civil war, which is estimated to have killed more than 300,000 people, continues.
Just last week, fighting broke out in Western Equatoria state between government and rebel forces.
Makuei said, contrary to views by some of a trust deficit, South Sudanese will work together as they have done over the years.
“The government and the people of South Sudan have been yearning for this day because people have come to know that war does not help anything; it is destructive. I am optimistic that this lost confidence will be regained and people will move forward in the implementation of the agreement so that our people can enjoy the peace they have wanted,” he said.
“After all this is not the first time for us to enter into agreement. We entered peace with the government of Sudan. We signed the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] in 2005 and we worked together after our independence in 2011,” Makuei said.