Even with President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar’s agreement to delay by a further three months the formation of the transitional government, South Sudan is not yet out of the woods.
First, the Entebbe agreement has to be approved by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development Council of Ministers that was scheduled to meet in Addis Ababa on November 10.
International players in the South Sudan peace process—the Troika of UK, US and Norway, the AU, Igad, US and independent political bodies—had called for a deal that would restore stability in the country.
It was with this background that the guarantors to the peace, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and the head of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah Al Burhan called for the meeting in Entebbe on November 7, where President Kiir and Dr Machar agreed to extend the pre-transition period by 100 days, beginning November 12. But implementation is key.
While the parties agreed to form a mechanism by the guarantors and the signatories to supervise implementation of the outstanding issues, Machar insists on security assurance and 10 states, while President Kiir is adamant that the 32 states will not be rescinded.
James Morgan, the South Sudan Permanent Representative to the African Union said that the scrapping of the 32 states would lead to fresh inter-ethnic fighting because people have embraced it except in Malalakal.
“We cannot solve the outstanding issues while sitting in hotels abroad. South Sudanese should be involved in the issues of states and boundaries either through parliament or in a referendum,” he said.
Jervasio Okot, a South Sudan Political Analyst living in Kenya, said all will depend on President Kiir because he is the custodian of power and money for the implementation.
“While President Kiir has so far released $40 million for the implementation, it all depends on his political goodwill. While there is tremendous pressure on the two by the international community, Machar has no power to implement these issues unless President Kiir reaches out to him for a compromise,” said Mr Okot.
President Kiir had pledged $100 million for the implementation.
Edmund Yakani, executive director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, said civil societies welcome the extension, but are demanding for a clear plan for allocation of funds to the security arrangements and implementation of the pending tasks including a clear plan for resolving the issue of the boundaries and number of states.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) in a recent report had advised against the formation of the transitional government without resolving the outstanding issues.
Titled; Déjà vu: Preventing Another Collapse in South Sudan, the report says the international community should push the parties to agree on state boundaries, even if they leave the most contentious ones for later; on a credible security plan for the capital Juba; and on a new timeline for military reform.
Alan Boswell, Senior ICG Analyst, on South Sudan and one of the authors of the report, told The EastAfrican that it could have been politically dangerous to form a transitional government without resolving the outstanding issues, which was the same reasons that fresh fighting broke out in July 2016 and killed the 2015 peace agreement.
The Troika issued statement in advance of the expiry of the pre-transitional period on November 12, saying that they recognise that there are discussions ongoing about the next steps and in order to ensure the peace process stays on track and moves forward.
“We believe that the parties now have to determine how they will address the chaWllenges the agreement has faced since September 2018. This should include:
An immediate release of the funding previously promised by the government for the peace process; commitment from all sides to make faster progress in the creation of the National Unified Forces; a clear timetable for inclusion of the agreement in the constitution and a compromise interim proposal to address the number of states,” the statement said.
On Thursday, Machar’s side said they would accept the delay, but must now be told what will happen in the 100 days.
“An extension of the period, guarantees that there won’t be war. We will see how to go about it,” said James Oryema, Machar’s aide.