South Sudan Rebels to Return Dec. 11 for Power-Share Talks

  • Return delayed by lack of ticket funds, government complaints
  • Rebel head Riek Machar to assume role as president's deputy

South Sudan’s main rebel group will return to the capital Juba starting Dec. 11 to help establish a transitional government that aims to end two years of civil war, said Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, the head of the insurgents’ foreign relations committee.

An initial group of 262 delegates traveling from the western Ethiopian town of Gambella will be followed by 339 people on Dec. 18, 21 and 22, he said Saturday in an e-mailed statement. The arrival of the “advance team” led by chief negotiator Taban Deng Gai has been delayed by government complaints over its size, as well as by efforts to secure funds for the plane tickets from the international community, which backs the South Sudan peace process.

The power-sharing deal will return former Vice President Riek Machar, the rebel leader, to a position as President Salva Kiir’s deputy. The interim administration that was supposed to be established last month will manage a 30-month period leading up to elections.

Machar is scheduled to return to Juba in January to form the transitional government, Gatkuoth said.

Oil-producing South Sudan split from Sudan in 2011 after a peace deal in 2005 ended decades of civil war and led to a referendum on secession. Rival factions from the independence struggle re-emerged in Dec. 2013 when a power struggle within the ruling party led to a fracturing of the army. Fighting since then has killed tens of thousands of people and forced more than 2 million from their homes, according to the United Nations.

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