Broke South Sudan cancels Independence celebrations

Saturday July 08 2017

South Sudanese at the unveiling of a statue of former leader John Garang. PHOTO FILE | NATION


South Sudan marks its sixth Independence anniversary on July 9 amid escalating civil war, increased outflow of refugees to the neighbouring countries and cracks in President Salva Kiir’s Cabinet.

The war in the larger Equatoria region has pushed the number of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda to 970,135 by the end of June, with an average of 545 arriving daily.

READ: Alarming rise in S.Sudan children fleeing to Uganda

President Kiir’s government has cancelled Independence Day celebrations for the second year running for lack of money.

Meanwhile, the World Bank says that South Sudan’s inflation has reached 730 per cent, while the South Sudanese pound has dropped from 18.5 to the US dollar last year to around 140 in the black market.

READ: South Sudan asks donors to pay for a third of national budget


Information Minister Michael Makuei, who is also the government spokesperson, said that available resources will be used for other pressing needs.

The government usually spends $3 million on Independence Day celebrations, which are marked with military parades and spent on invited regional heads of state and diplomats. 

The EastAfrican has learnt of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle following confessions by two senior ministers that the people have lost trust in the government of President Kiir due to corruption and poor governance.
The surprise confessions by Mr Makuei and Elia Lomoro, the Cabinet Affairs Minister have increased international and local pressure on President Kiir to save the country from becoming a failed state.

Experts on South Sudan say that the criticism by Mr Makuei — who is regarded as one of the hardliners in the Kiir government — is due to international pressure the government has been absorbing from the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the African Union Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat and the main guarantors of the August 2015 Peace Agreement — the US, UK and Norway.

READ: UN puts pressure on South Sudan to form transitional government

But according to John Prendergast, the founding director of the Enough Project, which seeks to end genocide and crimes against humanity across the world, there is a lack of coherent international strategy on resolving the South Sudan conflict.
Mr Prendergast said that since the US and later the AU basically discouraged former vice president Riek Machar from returning to Juba, inadvertently emboldened President Kiir to avoid negotiations with any of the armed factions.

READ: Peace deal in South Sudan
But besides the frustrations in the Cabinet, President Kiir is not sitting pretty, courtesy of the former powerful chief of general staff, Gen Paul Malong, who was sacked in May.

Currently, Gen Malong is virtually under house arrest in Juba guarded by heavily armed men. Sources in Juba said the government has embarked on a systematic programme to dismantle Gen Malong’s influence in the army by removing and transferring his presumed loyalists to weaker positions. 

For instance, his right-hand man, Ronald Ruai Deng, was recently removed as the governor of his home state of Aweil. The government has also turned down request by Gen Malong to seek medical treatment in Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa or Germany.

Some senior SPLA officers and Mathiang Anyor militias have deserted their areas of deployment in protest that President Kiir has not been grateful from the key role played by Gen Malong in keeping the government afloat when the civil war broke out in December 2013.

New approach
On July 2, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) Council of Ministers mooted a new approach that would bring together estranged groups to discuss concrete measures, to restore permanent ceasefire, to realise full implementation of the August 2015 Peace Agreement.

They also called for the development of a revised and realistic timeline and implementation schedule towards a democratic election at the end of the transition period in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.

Mabior Garang de Madior, the rebel movement’s director of information, told The EastAfrican that the Igad proposal is in the right direction but insisted that the international community is making a mistake by trying to portray Dr Machar as a warmonger and a terrorist out to destroy the peace process.

“The focus should be on initiating an all-inclusive peace process; which will include the negotiation of new security arrangements. These security arrangements will include cantonment of forces and ultimately a comprehensive ceasefire. This is the practical way to end the war,” said Mr Mabior.

This came as a group of 13 youthful the South Sudanese known as South Sudan Young Leader’s Forum came up with a new initiative that transcends ethnic loyalty and proposes a new crop of leader excluding President Kiir and Dr Machar.

READ: Q&A with Mabior Garang de Mabior