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South Sudan Rebels Sending Advance Team to Juba

FILE - South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar, left, speaks to the media about the situation in South Sudan.

The pieces continue to come together for implementing the peace agreement between South Sudan and rebels who have been opposing the government.

South Sudan rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar said they are sending an advance team of 550 people to Juba, capital of South Sudan, and 10 states of the country as early as Tuesday.

This comes as the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) set up by the regional authority IGAD to monitor the implementation of the August 26 peace agreement held its first ever meeting in Juba last Friday, but without the rebels.

Ambassador Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, secretary for foreign affairs of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army says the leader of the rebel team will be General Taban Deng Gai.

Gatkuoth said the coming of the advance team means both the rebels and the government in Juba are ready to take complete ownership of the peace agreement.

“I can clearly declare to you and to the whole world that we have met and we have resolved that we are going to send our advanced team to Juba and to all the states as early as December first, and the team will be led by our chief negotiator, General Taban Deng Gai.

“It means that all of us – the two leaders – President Salva Kiir from the South Sudan government side and my chairman, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, the two of them now will champion the implementation of this peace agreement by having all of us in Juba starting with our advance team to make sure that the agreement is implemented, the people of South Sudan are reconciled, development and reconstruction of the whole country is going to start, and those who are internally displaced will return home,” he said.

Gatkuoth said the rebels have written to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to make sure the logistical needs of the rebel delegation, including security are met.

FILE - Members of South Sudan rebel delegation attend the opening ceremony of South Sudan's negotiation in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 4, 2014.
FILE - Members of South Sudan rebel delegation attend the opening ceremony of South Sudan's negotiation in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 4, 2014.

“My chairman, Dr. Machar, wrote a letter to the prime minister of Ethiopia who is also the chairman of the IGAD heads of state and government requesting all the facilitation because now these 550 delegates who will be going to Juba need necessary basic needs like transportation and accommodation and security,” Gatkuoth said.

Gatkuoth said the rebels are also asking for arrangements to be made for the resettlement of the internally displaced people to make their transition less painful.

Meanwhile, the South Sudan government said it has been notified the rebel delegation is coming to Juba. But Information Minister Michael Makuei said the rebels have yet to send the names of members of their delegation as required by the peace agreement.

“According to the agreement they are supposed to send us first their numbers. It is because in terms of accommodation. If there are soldiers, senior officers will be given a special consideration and politicians will have to be in the place they deserve,” Makuei said.

Gatkuoth said the South Sudan government should have names of members of the rebel delegation as early as Monday.

Makuei said the Juba government is happy the rebels are coming because it means that all the institutions established by the peace agreement will become operational.

Makuei said members of the rebel delegation should have nothing to fear in terms of their security in Juba.