The people of South Sudan can finally look forward to a stable life even as different political factions jostle for key positions in the new transitional government of national unity.
Today, February 22, is D-Day for President Salva Kiir, his rival Riek Machar and various other factions who signed a peace agreement in September 2018 to form a government of national unity. But it also means that the more than four million refugees and internally people could return home, schools reopen and farmers go back to their land in a country scarred by perennial food shortages. Already, President Kiir and Dr Machar, now his First Vice President, have promised to work together to rebuild their country.
This peace deal, coming six years and two months after war broke out in 2013, has had several setbacks. Will it hold this time around?
Addressing members of the press on Thursday after meeting with Dr Machar in State House, Juba, President Kiir reiterated his commitment towards formation of unity government as per the peace deal.
"I want to tell the youth of South Sudan that there is nothing that can be finished in one day. There are two things am supposed to do right now, one is preparing food supplies for the cantoned forces, and the issue of having Machar as the first vice president.”
“Second, I am going to reshuffle the old government and announce a new one on Saturday. To my incumbent ministers, I am appealing to you not to get angry with me when you are left out in the new government," said President Kiir, adding that he hopes the next three years of the transitional period will pave the way for the refugees and internally displaced persons to return home.
The parties to this peace deal have failed twice before because of unfulfilled pre-transitional agreements. These include the final resolution on the number of states and their boundaries. President Kiir last week agreed to revert the country back to the 10 pre-Independence states. The main opposition group Sudan People Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) has welcomed this past week’s deal with reservations about the creation of three special administrative areas.
The security issue is still hanging. After meeting with the African Union delegation on Peace and Security on Thursday, Dr Machar promised to make the unity government work, but appealed to the AU and UN to provide a regional protection force.
Manawa Peter Gatkuoth the deputy chairperson of Information for SPLM-IO, said Dr Machar’s call for a protection force is borne out of the fact that the VIP Protection Force and the National Unified Force were not yet ready.
President Kiir has suggested that the South Sudan Defence Forces will handle Juba’s security in the interim and demanded key platoons of the different rival forces be cantoned to await training and merger.