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UN to fly Machar to Juba today

United Nations plane will transport the first vice-president designate, Riek Machar, on Tuesday, after United States and troika donors withdrew their funding for chartering a plane which was supposed to pick him and his officials on Monday from Gambella airport in Ethiopia.

This comes after arrival to Juba on Monday afternoon of the opposition’s chief of general staff, Simon Gatwech Dual, and 195 soldiers with their weapons on two flights.

Machar’s press secretary, James Gatdet Dak, said they have been informed that UN is ready to transport the top opposition leader to Juba on Tuesday. “We have learned that UN will provide a plane to transport to Juba the first vice-president designate to Juba on Tuesday,” Dak confirmed.

The chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), Festus Mogae, also confirmed in a televised statement on Monday that a UN plane will fly to Gambella on Tuesday and pick Machar with 40 of his officials. Mogae made the statement after a meeting with President Kiir on Monday.

The leader of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) earlier announced on Sunday that he was ready to travel to Juba on Monday. However, this did not happen due to the withdrawal of the plane by the U.S. government.

Washington said it was disappointed by the continuous delay of his arrival by the two parties: government and opposition faction.

Dak said if all goes well on Tuesday, the first vice-president will arrive in Juba and immediately take oath of office upon arrival.

He will straight from the Juba airport drive to the Presidential Palace (J1) for the swearing in ceremony after which he is expected to hold a brief meeting with President Salva Kiir.

He will thereafter go to the mausoleum of late John Garang de Mabior to pay his respect and retire to his residential area at Jebel Kujur, also popularly known as Pagak 2, where his forces are stationed.

Dak said the leadership has called on the government to allow the people to move freely to the airport for the reception of the top opposition leader.

Machar is also expected to make consultations with his officials and with President Kiir on the long-awaited formation of the transitional government of national unity in which the government will have 16 national ministers in the new cabinet, SPLM-IO will have 10 and other political parties and former detainees will have 4 ministers, 2 each.

In accordance with the August 2015 peace agreement which ended 21 months of civil war, the opposition leader will also be the commander-in-chief of a separate army and police, with separate structures from the other army and police commanded by President Kiir.

The two rival national armies and police forces will however reunify during the transitional period after achieving security sector reforms laid out in the peace agreement.

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