In what seems to be a serious stumbling block ahead of the return of First Vice President designate Riek Machar, South Sudan government has refused to allow Machar to be sworn in to take up his post in the new government upon his arrival on 18 April, reveals his spokesperson.
“There is another setback. President Salva Kiir’s government has rejected the proposal that the First Vice President designate should be sworn in upon his arrival in Juba on 18th April, coming Monday,” Machar’s spokesperson, James Gatdet Dak, told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday when asked to confirm the top opposition leader’s arrival in Juba.
The SPLM-IO’s proposal, he said, is that the First Vice President upon his arrival at Juba airport in the morning will hold a press conference. He will after this move to J1 (palace) to immediately take oath of office and take up his responsibility and duty as first vice president and on the same day conduct a public rally to address the nation on his return and the implementation of the peace agreement.
But he said the government “surprisingly” rejected the proposal and only accepted a press conference at the airport.
“While the people of South Sudan, including the government and other peace partners want His Excellency Dr. Riek Machar to return to Juba and take up his post as First Vice President, President Kiir’s government has surprisingly said no he should only arrive on the 18th of April, but not take oath of office. What does this imply?” inquired Dak.
He explained that as of Tuesday the government has continued to reject the proposal.
Dak further said the government has also refused to verify whether Juba has been demilitarized and their forces have actually been withdrawn from the capital to 25kms away as agreed in the security arrangements before formation of the transitional unity government.
He said the opposition faction wants the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) and the parties to verify the demilitarization of the capital and render an official report confirming this before the arrival of Machar to Juba on 18 April.
United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) earlier said they could not confirm whether or not Juba is demilitarized as the government could not provide the number of its troops deployed in the capital and those that it said were withdrawn in order to make an assessment.
There are reports also suggesting that the army chief of general staff, Paul Malong Awan, has rather brought in more troops from his home region of Bahr el Ghazal in violation of the demilitarization exercise.
Dak also said the government has refused an arrangement by JMEC to organize and facilitate the first face-to-face meeting in Juba between President Kiir and Machar after 8 months of none communication in order to touch on the outstanding issues, including the fate of the 28 states, as they form the unity government.
The opposition leader’s spokesperson questioned the intentions of the government, saying it indicated Juba’s non commitment to the implementation of the peace agreement they signed in August 2015.
He hinted that if a breakthrough is not reached by the parties and verification of troops is not done and the government continues to refuse that Machar takes oath of office upon his arrival, the contentious issues may delay his return to Juba beyond 18 April.