South Sudan

Gen Gatwech in Juba as US cuts Machar funding


South Sudan SPLA-IO Chief of General staff 1st. Lt. Gen Simon Gatwech Dual and 195 soldiers have landed at Juba International Airport.

Police Inspector General John Jok Gai is also expected to land afterwards.

A Tarco plane flew from Khartoum airport earlier and picked Gatwech from Gambella before reconnecting to Juba.

Juba on Sunday cleared Machar to land at the airport today.

James Gatdet Dak, Machar’s spokesperson confirmed Gatwech’s arrival in the capital.

“Our Chief of General Staff, Inspector General of Police, 195 troops and their weapons have landed in Juba today, Monday, 25 April, 2016,” Gatdet said.

Gatdet however cited a possible further delay for the scheduled arrival to Juba of the First Vice President designate, H.E. Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon saying donors had given up on chartering a plane to transport him.

“They have expressed disappointment that the government closed the airport on Saturday when the First Vice President designate was at the airport in Gambella ready to travel to Juba,” Gatdet said.

He said due to the closure of the airport in Juba and denial of landing permit, it was not possible on Saturday.

“Yesterday, Sunday, the First Vice President designate announced his readiness to travel to Juba this morning, but the other “new” obstacle mentioned above may cause further delay.”

Donor governments withdrew funding for charter aircraft for Machar after missing the deadline.

The British Embassy in Juba blamed the South Sudanese government for the latest delay, saying the government denied landing permission on Saturday to flights scheduled to bring Machar and his delegation back that day.

The British Embassy noted, however, that there is also lack of preparation for Machar to arrive on Monday.

“There has been a further lack of action to enable flights on 25 April. As a result of this interference, the deadline in the compromise proposal put forward by the international partners of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC)… has been missed,” the embassy stated.

Donald Booth, a US diplomat, said Sunday, “This marks the third time this week that plans for Machar to return … have been frustrated by one side or the other”

“Machar frustrated the first two attempts by a last minute insistence on bringing additional security forces and additional heavy weapons — RPGs — with him…Then yesterday it was the government that closed the airport,” he said, as quoted by AFP news.

Ezekiel Gatkuoth, head of foreign relations for SPLM-IO said Machar’s return was delayed by withdrawal of US funding for charter aircraft from Gambella.

“Definitely the transition is on hold unless we have another person that can volunteer to help transport the first vice president,” Gatkuoth said, as quoted by Bloomberg News in Ethiopia.

Canadian Ambassador to South Sudan Nicholas Coghlan stated that there is “nothing to stop SPLM-IO and/or the Government of South Sudan chartering their own aircraft.”

John Kirby, US State Department spokesman said, “Despite the best efforts by South Sudan’s neighbors, the Troika, United Nations Mission in South Sudan, China, the African Union, the European Union and, most importantly, by South Sudanese advocating for peace, leaders on both sides have blocked progress.”

He said the United States government is “disappointed” by the continued failure of the Government of South Sudan and by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement -SPLM/A-IO (IO) to form the Transitional Government of National Unity.

The United States is disappointed by the continued failure of peace partners to form the interim government and implement the peace agreement, he noted.

“This interference resulted in the failure to meet the deadline in the compromise proposal put forward by the regional and international partners of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission  that was agreed to by both sides,” said John Kirby in a statement.

“We have previously condemned obstruction by the IO, including the arbitrary demand by Riek Machar that more forces and heavy weapons than was previously agreed precede his arrival to Juba.”

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