The supporters and government officials, who waited for Dr Machar on Monday and Tuesday, were at a loss as to what was keeping the former rebel leader from returning, with his team members making one excuse after another.
The South Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) spokesperson for the advanced team, Mr William Ezekiel, told journalists who had gathered at the airport as early as 9am local time — that Dr Machar would not be arriving on Tuesday due to “unavoidable circumstances”.
On Monday, he had told journalist at about 5pm that Dr Machar could not make it due to bad weather in Gambela in southern Ethiopia and Juba. He set the Tuesday date, but again cancelled at about 2pm.
The Africa Review learnt from some of the officials that Dr Machar had wanted his chief-of-general-staff, Gen Simon Gatwich Dual, to be in Juba before his arrival to take control of the 1,370 SPLM-IO troops.
However, sources close to the government revealed that the international community—especially Toika—that had been financing the transportation, were uncomfortable with ferrying Gen Dual, who had been named by the UN Security Council as among the people who have been working against peace in South Sudan.
Government officials who are responsible for receiving Dr Machar avoided talking to the media in case they aggravated the situation.
SPLM-IO from last Wednesday started giving conditions that must be met before Dr Machar returns.
Initially, Mr Ezekiel said that Dr Machar would not return unless President Salva Kiir lifts the state of emergency in the north.
On Thursday, SPLM-IO gave condition that the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Unit (JMEC) must assure Dr Machar that Juba has been completely demilitarised and extra forces moved within 25km radius.
JMEC and the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) are scheduled to confirm the position of the government troops in seven locations Wednesday.
CTSAMM Chief of Staff Thressa Burns told the Africa Review that she was not in a position to tell whether all extra government forces had been withdrawn from Juba until the Wednesday confirmation.
SPLA chief-of-general staff had on Friday announced that the government troops had completed withdrawal from the capital.