South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir failed to meet a crucial aspect of gender balance in the formation of the government of national unity when he recently announced a reconstituted legislative assembly.
Out of the 550 lawmakers he announced through a presidential decree, only 116 female lawmakers were appointed, a move that violates the affirmative action that stipulates 35 percent of representation from a different gender.
Various Juba-based and diaspora activists took to social media, days after the announcement, to condemn the peace parties over what they called continued violation of some accord provisions.
In February last year, out of 35 ministerial posts, only 10 women were included in the unity government Cabinet, a gap that violates the affirmative action as specified in the peace accord.
During the announcement of governors for the 10 states last July, only one woman, nominated by First Vice President Riek Machar’s side made it through. And when it came to the States’ government nominations and appointments months ago, women were also less represented in those administrations.
Edmund Yakani, the head Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation, a civic education and peace building body, said not meeting the gender threshold is a serious violation of the peace accord.
“South Sudan Opposition Alliance was supposed to appoint either 18 or 17 female MPs, but only appointed 13 female lawmakers. Other political parties were also wrong by selecting just six female MPs, yet they should have been 10.
“The incumbent government was supposed to appoint 116 female MPs but appointed 102. On the other hand, the Sudan People Liberation Movement was supposed to appoint either 45 or 44 women MPs, but appointed 37 MPs. That move was really heartbreaking and a serious violation,” Mr Yakani told The EastAfrican.
The agreement stipulated the selection of at least 192 women legislators to the national parliament.
In a joint statement, the governments of United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Canada, the European Union, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden congratulated the unity government on reconstituting the Transitional National Legislative Assembly. But they were also vocal on the gender gap.
“We also look forward to the reconstitution of the Council of States, which will be crucial in tackling numerous challenges within the states, including displacement, land issues, and conflict.
“It is vital that both the Reconstituted Transitional National Legislative Assembly (R-TNLA) and the Council of States adhere to the 35 percent female representation requirement as stipulated in the peace agreement,” they said.
Gender parity is just one of the problems President Kiir’s administration faces. Since the announcement of the State governments months ago, their full installation has not happened. The agreement says a full administration also requires complete formation of States’ cabinets, local legislatures and other local structures. But that has not occurred, resulting in a series of inter-communal violence in areas of Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity and Warrap, among others.
In April, President Kiir expressed his disappointment in some governors and their deputies over the manner in which they were managing state affairs.
He cited poor co-operation and a high trust deficit between the governors and their deputies, and some senior officials of the same government. Other major pending tasks include the unification of the forces into one national professional army.
Chapter II of the peace accord, formally known as the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan-2018 [R-ARCSS] stipulates for the training and unification of the necessary 83,000 forces that fought under different factions during the war, into one professionalism army.
But many stakeholders have questioned the commitment of signatories in achieving this crucial security step.
The revitalised peace agreement also says there shall be a hybrid court in South Sudan aimed at holding war criminals accountable in the conflict that has seen nearly 400,000 people killed and forced four million South Sudanese to flee their homes.