UN council meets after S. Sudan’s Machar fails to return
The UN Security Council held an emergency session on Tuesday after South Sudan's rebel leader Riek Machar failed to return to Juba as part of a peace deal.
The meeting was called by the United States after Machar’s much-anticipated return to the capital failed to materialize for a second day in a row, dimming hopes of a breakthrough to end a two-year civil war.
“We are extremely concerned that Riek Machar has not returned to Juba as he has publicly stated that he would do and as he is committed to do under the agreement,” US Deputy Ambassador David Pressman said ahead of the closed-door meeting.
Pressman said the council would discuss “the next steps,” but did not elaborate.
UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous attributed Machar’s failure to turn up in Juba as a sign that there was “no confidence yet among the parties” who signed the peace deal in August.
The deal is to end a devastating war that erupted in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir fell out with Machar, who was his deputy.
Under the peace deal, Machar was to join Kiir in a new 30-month transitional government leading to elections.
Tens of thousands of people have died in the fighting and more than two million have been driven from their homes.
Russian Deputy Ambassador Petr Iliichev said there were conflicting reports about the security arrangements in Juba for Machar’s arrival, including the number of rebel troops to be stationed and police.
Machar was supposed to arrive in Juba from his tribal stronghold of Pagak in the east of the country to formally return to his post as vice president.
Speaking to reporters at Juba airport, rebel spokesmen William Ezekiel said on Tuesday that unspecified “issues relating to logistics” were to blame for the latest delay. He was unable to say when Machar might arrive.
South Sudan’s information minister Michael Makuei said the government had blocked Machar’s flight because he wanted to bring “machine guns and laser-guided missiles” as well as additional troops in violation of the peace agreement.
Various rebel officials have given differing explanations for the delays, with some citing difficulties in getting Machar’s bodyguards’ weapons across the border while others blamed bad weather.
Other sources suggested the presence of Machar’s UN-and US-sanctioned chief of staff, Simon Gatwech Dual, in the rebel travelling party, was the hitch.