South Sudan’s government spokesman Michael Makuei Lueth has threatened to deny entry to the Joint Monitoring Evaluation Commission (JMEC) or to expel the group altogether unless they reopen their office in Juba and cease carrying on business in other places outside the country.
This comes after a meeting of diplomats of the JMEC Partners Forum – the guarantors of the August 2015 peace deal – held recently in Khartoum, as well as meetings by the JMEC Chairman Festus Mogae at the African Union summit and elsewhere.
Makuei, who is also an influential member of cabinet as information minister, was enraged by the holding of the partners meeting in Khartoum and by the evacuation of JMEC personnel from Juba. Festus Mogae decided to evacuate the secretariat personnel last month after days of fighting in Juba made it insecure. Since then, however, JMEC has called for the resumption of meetings of the parties together with JMEC in Juba.
But the information minister criticized the group saying: “It is high time for JMEC to come back or otherwise we don’t need it.”
“It is unfortunate that JMEC did not serve the objectives for which it was established and if JMEC wants to go back then they must come back with new understanding of the situation because after all we are the government of South Sudan and can even decide now and deny them entrance,” he said.
Makuei, who was behind the expulsion of the JMEC chief of staff several months ago, was opposed to the signing of the peace deal last year and he has also previously threatened the UN Mission in South Sudan with expulsion.
In his remarks Tuesday, Makuei accused the peace monitoring body of a ‘conspiracy’. His comments are in line with increasingly aggressive government posture toward international insitutions, particularly those involved in calls for sending more peacekeepers to South Sudan.
“Now they take themselves out, leave South Sudanese, they go and conspire in Khartoum in the name of JMEC… they go and conspiracy in Khartoum and they create a lot of dash against the events that are unfolding here,” he said.
He further criticized the peace group’s appeal to cease waging attacks on Riek Machar’s forces.
“There in Khartoum… they demand intervention and they call on President Salva to stop pursuing Riek Machar and then people go to Addis Ababa for talks. Why are we South Sudanese been sidelined or has it become a forum whereby things be done outside South Sudan?” Makuei said during a news conference at his office.
“I think there is something wrong with JMEC, JMEC must prove himself a Joint Monitoring and Evolution Commission, otherwise JMEC in its current situation is useless and will not serve the interest of South Sudanese and will not help the implementation of the peace agreement,” he said.
Makuei further added that the office of JMEC has even evacuated the country and has remained closed. He said this is the time for JMEC to be around instead of leaving the country.
The peace monitors have recently called on the South Sudanese government and opposition to resolve their differences peacefully.