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Juba says large numbers of SPLM-IO advance team a "security risk"

December 9, 2015 (JUBA) - South Sudan government warned that the large numbers of the armed opposition’s advance team to the capital, Juba would be a security risk to the country, and instead insisted it preferred at least 30 members of the visiting delegation.

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Information minister Michael Makuei Lueth (R) speaks at a media forum as presidential press secretary Ateny Wek Ateny looks on in Juba on 7 September 2014 (ST)

The information and broadcasting minister, Michael Makuei Lueth told reporters on Wednesday that the government and the armed opposition had agreed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to dispatch first a small number of the advance team to the country to help in the implementation and prepare for the ground for the reception of a big delegation and return of the opposition leader, Riek Machar.

“We need a small number of the advance team. Thisi was what we agreed in Addis. It was estimated to be 30", said Minister Lueth.

“This 30, most of them will be going to institutions established by the agreement and there will be about six or seven who will now sit with the government delegation and straighten out most of the outstanding issues which were not actually agreed in Addis [Ababa]”, he added.

Lueth said the leadership of armed opposition should have first sent a small number of the advance team of 30 people to national capital, warning “It is thereafter that we will agree on the coming in of whatever numbers. Bringing people in a situation which is unclear is not advisable. This in the opinion of the government, it’s a security risk”.

It remains unclear under what context of the information minister repeatedly made these remarks on security, which comes as the advance armed opposition are due in Juba.

Several analysts have, however, struggled to intepret what the minister might have meant to say about the risk, with some suggesting it could risks associated with the numbers of security personnel who might be required to provide protection or a risk to those who may not be provided with protection as the government did not allegedly plan for them.

The armed opposition leadership has not indicated changing its plan to send a team less than 262 people as part of its advance team to Juba on 11 December, while the rest of the members wait to follow between the 18th and the 22nd of December 2015.