South Sudan’s government said at the end of this week it will stop paying the hotel bills of about 600 rebel advance team members who have been living in Juba since last December to work out the modalities for the implementation of last year’s August peace agreement. The advance team has also been preparing for the coming to Juba of rebel leader Riek Machar.
South Sudan Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin says the government began paying the bills after the troika (United States, United Kingdom, and Norway) and the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) which had been paying stopped.
“The people responsible for their accommodation when they were coming in was the troika, and they were paying for them at the hotel. But troika suddenly stopped and said they were no long going to pay for them. So the government volunteered to pay for them for some time. The government has been paying for them for the last two months,” he said.
Benjamin said the government can no longer afford to pay.
In addition, he said the Juba government expected rebel leader Machar to be in Juba by now so that both sides could begin the process of forming the national unity government called for under the peace agreement.
“Up till now we don’t have definite date when Dr. Riek Machar, the designated first vice president to come and be sworn in so that the transitional government of national unity is formed. We are hearing that he is traveling across Africa instead of coming to Juba so that he’s sworn in and the government is formed,” said Benjamin.
The development comes as 23 top rebel generals who were expected to arrive in Juba March 21 abruptly canceled their trip.
Rebel military spokesman Colonel William Gatjiath Deng said “The government put on a serious obstruction on the transportation of the 23 generals. The governor of Eastern Nile State, Chol Thon Balok stated that he will put to jail the 23 generals if they land at Malakal airport because he has never got notification from the central government.”
Deng said the 23 generals were passing through Malakal instead of strict through Juba in accordance with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) flights.
“The UNMISS flight comes from Juba to Malakal with helicopters. From Malakal, they come to Pagat. Then from Pagat back to Malakal for refueling. Then they go back to Juba. So, they don’t move from Juba direct to Pagat,” Deng said.
He accused the Juba government of obstructing the implementation of the peace agreement.
“That’s why I said the government is not ready to implement all aspects of the peace agreement because why should the First Vice President come to Juba if they don’t allow his first team?” Deng said.
But Foreign Minister Benjamin said the generals canceled their trip because they had problems arranging for their transportation and accommodation.
“Absolutely it’s not true. They had problem with the promise by JMEC and Troika to arrange for their transportation. Two, the generals said they were not clear who was going to pay for their stay here in Juba. They wanted at least Troika or JMEC to tell them clearly who’s going to pay for their accommodation. Since they did not get that clear, those are some of the reasons why they did not come on Monday. It has nothing to do with the government whatsoever,” Benjamin said.