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KHARTOUM - 12 Jan 2020

Machar to return to Juba Monday

South Sudan’s opposition leader Riek Machar is expected to return to Juba on Monday ahead of crucial talks with President Salva Kiir Mayardit on the number of states.

Machar has been based in neighboring Sudan since 2018, as he engages in meetings with Kiir on pending tasks amid growing global pressure as a deadline looms in February to form a unity government.

The civil war has killed tens of thousands and forced millions to flee their homes, prompting the international community to rank the country as Africa’s biggest refugee crisis.

“Machar will return to Juba on Monday. We have been invited by IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] to attend a meeting on the number of states and their boundaries in Juba,” Pouk Both Baluang, the SPLM-IO's director for information told Radio Tamazuj Sunday.

The opposition official further said South Africa’s Deputy President David Mabuza, who facilitates the talks on the number of states, will hold a meeting with Machar in Juba next Tuesday.

“Our members who are part of the Independent Boundaries Commission (IBC) will participate in the meetings that will kick on 15 January. Our team in Juba would also submit our position paper on the number of states and their boundaries,” he said.

According to Pouk, former vice president Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir will hold another follow-up meeting to discuss all the outstanding issues of the security arrangements and the way forward.

“The SPLM-IO has observed that the government forces are not moving to the designated military training centres, so this contradicts the peace agreement. The meeting between the two principals will discuss the training of the unified forces because time is running out,” he said.  

Pouk further said both sides will also discuss lack of food, water and medical supplies in several military training camps. “We want to expedite the training of the unified forces, and our forces are reporting to the military training sites,” he explained.

The scheduled meeting between all parties to the September 2018 peace deal comes as a 22 February deadline approaches to form a transitional government.

However, steps toward key benchmarks in the peace deal – unifying armed forces and drawing boundaries of states – are lagging behind schedule.