South Sudan govt, opposition must join hands to avert a return to war

Saturday October 12 2019

South Sudan opposition leader Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir.

South Sudan opposition leader Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir before their meeting in Juba, South Sudan, on September 11, 2019. PHOTO | REUTERS 

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The implications of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir forming a transitional government without opposition leader, Dr Riek Machar are too dire to contemplate.

While the two have a month to November 12 to form a transitional government, both President Kiir and Dr Machar have given strong indications that they still do not trust each other since the July 2016 war broke out in J1—the presidential residence—that forced Dr Machar to flee to the DR Congo on foot.

Mid-September President Kiir told a prayer meeting in Juba that he would form a government on November 12 with or without Dr Machar’s Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Movement –In Opposition (SPLM-IO), accusing Dr Machar of giving preconditions.

On October 7, SPLM-IO deputy spokesman, Manawa Peter Gatkuoth said the party will not join the transitional government until the security arrangements are fulfilled and the number of administrative units in the country agreed upon.

The Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) is supposed to bring together the signatories of the September 2018 revitalised agreement. An earlier date of May 12, 2019 was not met because of the two sticking points.

Former Secretary-General, Pagan Amum, who leads a faction of Former Detainees and currently lives in exile in the US, told The EastAfrican that President Kiir unilaterally forming a government would mean the country returns to civil war.


“No progress has been on the outstanding issues at all. The government is not interested in peace as that would bring accountability for crimes it committed or transparency to stop its looting. The government focus is on formation of government without reforms and change to the status quo,” said Mr Amum.

Since the agreement last year, the signatories have largely maintained the ceasefire with no major fighting, opening the way for better access to humanitarian assistance and the return of some refugees.

The UN Security Council asked the rival parties to resolve pending issues to allow for the formation of a unity government as originally planned.

The 15-member council had appealed that senior leadership of the parties to the peace deal should continue hold regular face-to-face meetings to resolve outstanding issues to allow for "the peaceful formation of a transitional government according to the timeline agreed to by the parties in May.

Besides SPLM-IO, the South Sudan Opposition Alliance—comprising 10 signatories to the agreement—have also signalled that they are not willing to be part of the government unless outstanding issued are solved.

The leader of the National Democratic Movement, Dr Lam Akol, who is also the secretary general of the opposition alliance, maintained that they will not enter a coalition government without security sector reforms and political decisions taken to decide the number of states and their boundaries. But he said the Alliance is yet to meet to take a firm decision on the issues.

President Kiir in 2015 unilaterally created 32 states contrary to the agreement of the same year that retained the initial 10 states, but collapsed in July 2016.

When President Kiir and Dr Machar held a face-to-face meeting in Juba in September, they could not reach a consensus on the number of states and agreed to form committee to look into the final report of the Independent Boundary Commission, and come up with findings suitable for both parties and the people of South Sudan.

“Failure to resolve the number of states means that a vital infrastructure on which the peace agreement was to be implemented on will be lacking. The transitional government cannot be formed when people do not know how many states they have,” said Elijah Deng, the executive director of Nyamilepedia, an online publication.

Mr Deng said that President Kiir has set his mind to maintain the status quo at all costs and this can only be possible if he does not work with Dr Machar, who is the only politician with political and military capacity to challenge that status quo.