South Sudanese rebels are seeking to delay the inauguration of the beleaguered country's transitional government to allow representatives of the rebel group to arrive in the capital, Juba, for the crucial phase in the peace process.
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, secretary for foreign affairs of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition, said Thursday logistical problems are preventing rebel leader Riek Machar from arriving in Juba ahead of the April 14 inauguration of Transitional Government of National Unity. Machar, the first vice president-designate of the new governing body, will not arrive in the capital until April 18.
Gatkuoth said the rebels have asked the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), which is supervising the implementation of last August’s agreement to end the conflict in South Sudan, to delay the event.
"It is going to be very difficult for us to make it to Juba in five days. So definitely we are appealing to the JMEC to move the launching of the Transitional Government of National Unity to another day, and we are also appealing to the people of South Sudan to bear with us, 12th of April and 18th of April is just only six days,” Gatkuoth said.
According to the tentative timetable announced by JMEC, Machar was to arrive in Juba on April 12 and meet with President Salva Kiir to discuss the expansion and inauguration of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly the following day. The transitional government was to be inaugurated and national government ministers appointed on April 14.
On April 15, the first meeting of the new government's council of ministers will be convened, followed by a meeting with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on how to finance the new government and rescue the country’s deteriorating economy.
Gatkuoth said the proposed April 12 arrival date was never discussed with Machar before it was announced. He said the rebel leader had just arrived at the rebels' headquarters in Ethiopia following his tour of African capitals, including Nigeria, Chad, Egypt, South Africa, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Djibouti to mobilize support for the peace process.
Rebel troops and their heavy weapons have been arriving in Juba in the past few weeks. The JMEC has said it hopes to transport all 1,370 rebel fighters to Juba by Friday.
Gatkuoth said the SPLA-IO is happy with the transportation of its forces to Juba.
“Don’t forget that this is the first phase. As of today, we have 850 soldiers who are in Juba. We were supposed to have 1,370. What we are getting is that the transportation of the troops will be completed by Friday or Saturday, and then on Sunday, the 10th, the organic, heavy weapons will be transported to Juba. So the second phase will start to be launched,” he said.
There have been chronic delays in the implementation of the peace agreement signed last August between the Juba government and the SPLM-In Opposition. Both sides have blamed each other for causing the delays.