Donors Withdraw Support for Machar's Flight to Juba

1399 Views Juba, South Sudan

In short
The British Embassy noted, however, that there is also lack of preparation for Machar to arrive on Monday. We regret in particular the Governments denial of landing permission to flights scheduled on April 23 for the return of opposition leader Dr Riek Machar. There has been a further lack of action to enable flights on 25 April.

Development partners have withdrawn funding for charter aircraft for Riek Machar, the chairman of Sudan People Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) to return to Juba, just a week after Machar skipped a flight provided for him over logistical challenges.

Machar also missed a Saturday deadline agreed in a proposal by the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) for his return delaying the much anticipated formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity under the terms of a peace agreement signed in August last year.

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 in Juba expresses... disappointment at the failure of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and the SPLM/A-IO (IO) to implement the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan," a statement issued by the embassy says.

South Sudan's National Security Service issued a letter on Saturday granting flight clearance to Machar from today, Monday, saying that airport maintenance and communication delays from the Ethiopian side had caused the delay.

In the letter, Lt Gen Akol Koor Kuc, the Director General of the NSS Internal Security Bureau wrote to the Director of Juba Airport giving "urgent clearance" for two aircraft carrying Machar and his accompany delegation from Ethiopia to Juba. The letter stated, however, that the two aircraft could not arrive until Monday.

But the British Embassy noted that there is also lack of preparation for Machar to arrive on Monday.  "We regret in particular the Government's denial of landing permission to flights scheduled on April 23 for the return of opposition leader Dr Riek Machar. 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), which was agreed to by both the Government and the SPLM/A-IO, has been missed," the embassy stated.

John Kirby, US State Department spokesman said in a statement that  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.

"We have been working intensively with our partners, especially Ethiopia, to facilitate Riek Machar's return. Given the actions by both sides to prevent or delay his return, it is now time for the parties to assume primary responsibility for facilitating the return of Riek Machar to Juba to form the TGNU and to demonstrate that they are genuinely committed to peace,"

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."

South Sudan Media quotes Ezekiel Gatkuoth, the head of the foreign relations for SPLM-IO, separately saying that 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 reportedly said.

This development comes after both the government and SPLM-IO accepted a compromise proposal on how many soldiers and weapons Machar may bring with him on arrival. After the brokering of this compromise, Machar had traveled from his Pagak headquarters to Gambella in Ethiopia.

The world has for the last one week waited for the formation of a transitional government between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar. But Machar has not come back to Juba citing logistical reasons.

Last week, South Sudan government spokesman Michael Makuei said the government had not given flight clearance to Machar because his team was bringing at least 260 soldiers plus anti-tanks, anti-aircraft guns, and laser guided missiles which are not in line with earlier agreements to limit SPLA-IO forces in Juba.


About the author

Sylvia Nankya
Sylvia is an Editor and Media Trainer with Uganda Radio Network. She has been a URN staff member since 2013. Sylvia has previously worked as a reporter and news anchor with Radio One (2001-2009) and with Vision Group (2009-2011). Six of her active years in Journalism were spent covering the Parliament of Uganda.

Over the past few years, Sylvia has worked to promote the positive development of societies recovering from conflict through training journalists on choices of stories, how they report issues and use of appropriate language in covering conflict and post-conflict situations.

She is an Alumni of RNTC- Holland, Les Aspin Centre for Government at Marquette University-WI, USA and a Community Solutions Fellow.