Peace deal monitors in South Sudan has recently said the delay in the return of First Vice President Designate Riek Machar to the capital Juba to form a unity government with his rival President Salva Kiir was endangering an agreement aimed at ending more than two years of violence.
Riek Machar was due to arrive in Juba on Monday and sworn in as first vice president under a deal signed in August. But a spokesman for his group on Monday said logistical reasons had delayed his return, causing the United States and the United Nations to express concern.
The United Nations Security Council expressed serious concern on Tuesday over the failure of Machar to return to Juba to take up his old post as deputy to President Kiir. The U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous briefed the 15-member council on South Sudan at the request of the United States.
Kiir’s decision to sack Machar as his deputy in 2013 precipitated the crisis that erupted into conflict in December that year. Fighting often ran along ethnic lines, pitting Kiir’s dominant Dinka ethnic group against Machar’s Nuer.
Machar and Kiir signed a peace deal in August that called for a transitional government and other security arrangements to end the fighting. But clashes have flared outside the capital and Machar has repeatedly delayed his return.
“The agreement is at risk. Having come so close to the formation of the transitional government of national unity, all parties must ensure that the spirit of reconciliation, compromise and dialogue embodied by the agreement should be protected,” Festus Mogae, chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), said in a statement late on Tuesday.
The JMEC includes members of the South Sudanese government opposition, the African Union, United Nations, European Union, and representatives from South Africa, China, and the United States.
“The members of the Security Council … reiterated that they are ready to address any obstruction of implementation of the agreement,” China’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Wu Haitao, told reporters. China is president of the council for April.
Russian Deputy U.N. Ambassador Petr Iliichev said Ladsous told the council there was a huge lack of confidence between the parties but that the U.N. peacekeeping chief was hopeful that Machar might return to Juba on Wednesday.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke to both Kiir and Machar by phone on Sunday and urged them to form a transitional government quickly and roll out other parts of the fragile peace deal.
The United States voiced dismay on Tuesday at Machar’s failure to return to Juba.
“The United States is extremely disappointed that Riek Machar has not fulfilled his commitments under the peace agreement and returned to Juba as he stated publicly he would,” U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador David Pressman said.
“So many international partners – including the U.N. and multiple member states – have undertaken significant political and logistical efforts to facilitate his return,” he said.