UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has expressed its readiness to create what it calls a ‘conducive environment’ for the SPLM-IO by offering to host and accommodate some 500 of their members who are expected to visit Juba as part of an advanced team to prepare for the reception of their leader Riek Machar.

The announcement puts to rest fears of insufficient funds to support the rebel delegation and their mission to Juba and other government-controlled areas after the government reportedly hinted it does not have all the necessary funds and resources to accommodate, feed and transport (and ensure the security of) the former rebels.Thanks to UNMISS, SPLM-IO will rest in peace in Juba

In accordance with the terms of the peace agreement signed in August, Riek Machar, the rebel-leader – is expected to travel to Juba to assume his negotiated position of Vice-President.

According to UNMISS, there is just about enough room in their Protection Of Civilian (POC) sites in Juba to accommodate the guests after a sizeable number of IDPs reportedly left the facility a few days back. However, UNMISS warned that, although the environment will be ‘conducive’, the provisions are only temporary style shelters and not a patch on the luxurious hotels in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia that the rebels might have gotten accustomed to.

“After consultations with our Head Quarters in New York, UNMISS agrees to accommodate the 500 people returning to Juba in our POCs in Jebel. We can provide the basic necessities like food, shelter, accommodation and perimeter security within our facilities – like we have always done for those people who need protecting – since the government has expressed challenges meeting these demands. However we shall be treating all our guests equally, that means there shall be no preferential treatment given to any VIPs.”

The SPLM-IO is yet to comment on the development, but unofficial statements appearing on SPLM-IO social media platforms appear to be split. Some view the protection offered by UNMISS as an added advantage to their trip – after all they had concerns about their safety, others protest that UNMISS is downplaying the importance of the returning ‘heroes’ by treating them just like ordinary IDPs or returnees.

With only days left until they arrive in Juba, some unconfirmed reports suggest that SPLM-IO cannot afford tickets for the 500 members of the delegation and might be at the mercy of the Government who is rumoured to be willing to offer one-way tickets only to Juba.

“Hon. Michael Makuei has just sent the first batch of one-way tickets to some of our members,” said one happy SPLM-IO who went on to pour ‘brotherly’ compliments to Hon. Makuei.

Whilst this accommodation deal is basic along with the provision of safety so the ‘heroes’ can sleep at night, some observers believe that they will be treated like royalty amongst the IDPs and will get the best that the POC camp can offer in terms of facilities during their stay.

Some experts speculate that the Government is secretly pleased that UNMISS has yet again shouldered what would have naturally been their responsibility, and they [government] will be seen as facilitating the peace process without having to spend cash. UNMISS, on the other hand, may come out of this with an improved PR image and some brownie points for appearing to help both sides.

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