Opinion: Will South Sudan form unity government by November?

By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi

Former First Vice President of South Sudan and rebel leader Riek Machar (L) shakes hands with South Sudan President Salva Kiir (C), flanked by Second Vice President of South Sudan James Wani Igga (R), after the formation of the new cabinet of the Transitional Government at the Cabinet Affairs Ministry in Juba on April 29, 2016. (Photo Credit: ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Former First Vice President of South Sudan and rebel leader Riek Machar (L) shakes hands with South Sudan President Salva Kiir (C), flanked by Second Vice President of South Sudan James Wani Igga (R), after the formation of the new cabinet of the Transitional Government at the Cabinet Affairs Ministry in Juba on April 29, 2016. (Photo Credit: ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN/AFP/Getty Images)

October 29th 2019 (Nyamilepedia) – On Sunday, United Nations Security Council UNSC delegation headed by the permanent representative of South Africa to the UN Amb. Jerry Mathews Matjila, visited Juba, met with parties to the 2018 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan R-ARCSS including President Salva Kiir and SPLM/A in Opposition leader Dr Riek Machar, and insisted that the South Sudan parties should form a unity government by 12 November as per Agreement, with no delay.

The Troika (United States, United Kingdom and Norway) have also called for the formation of the unity government as scheduled. The African Union has done the same.

The unity government was supposed to be set up since May 2018 but due to delays in the implementation of several pre-transitional activities, the parties decided to extend the formation of the unity government to November 12th 2019.

Opposition hints at opting out of unity government

Speaking during the meeting with the high-level delegation of the UN Security Council, Machar said on the parties “may need to extend” the formation of unity government set.

He said he will not join a unity government until critical pending tasks in the peace deal are addressed.

“If the government will be there on the 12th, we the IO won’t be there because we don’t want to put the country into crisis. We would opt out and contain the troops,” Machar told the visiting delegation of the UN Security Council.

“We have a volatile situation that we want to control. We want this country to be peaceful,” Machar said, adding that after meeting the security sector, together with President Kiir, they found out that “what is on the ground cannot be completed within three months.”

Dr Lam Akol, the Secretary-General of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance SSOA and the leader of the National Democratic Movement NDM also reject the formation of the unity government by November.

“We saw and lived what happened when these issues were glossed over not long ago. We get amazed when some people tell us that these matters can wait to be resolved after the TGoNU is formed,” Akol said.

“This time the security situation will be more serious. Formation of the TGoNU before completing putting together the necessary unified force (NUF) would mean not two armies as was the case in 2015 but multiple armies.”

Machar’s SPLM/A- IO has called for 6-month extension of the pre-transitional period, to allow for the resolution of pending tasks, while Akol has called for two month.

However, the head of the UNSC delegations to Juba Amb. Mathews pointed out that the international community doesn’t see good reasons to delay the formation of the transitional government in South Sudan, saying “We don’t anticipate that the remaining problems are so huge to not able South Sudan to move to November 12.”

What are the pending critical tasks?

The R-ARCSS provides that training and redeployment of “necessary unified forces” shall be completed within a period that shall not exceed eight (8) months commencing from the date of the signature of the Agreement in September 2018. However, that failed to take place and for that reason, among others, in May, the parties to the agreement decided to extend the pre-transitional period by six months.

While making the extension, the parties acknowledged that the “unification of necessary forces is the most critical determining factor for the formation” of the unity government.

According to the Chairperson of the South Sudan peace monitors, the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission R-JMEC Amb. Augustino Njoroge some progress has been made on the cantonment of forces.

“Out of the 25 designated cantonment sites for the opposition and 10 barracks for government forces, 24 cantonment sites and 6 barracks are operational,” he said last week.

Last week also, another source familiar with the process said that out of the at least half of the 83,000 Necessary Unified Forces required by the IGAD Council of Ministers to “be cantoned and barracked, trained and deployed before the end of September 2019” 60, 000 troops have registered and will “soon be trained” though without mentioning how soon.

The second most critical task is the lack of agreement on the number of states in South Sudan and their boundaries.

In 2015, the South Sudan government under President Kiir partitioned The country into 28 States (and now 32 States). Since then, the opposition groups and the government have been on a deadlock over the move with the opposition initially arguing that the government action was unconstitutional and a violation of the then 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) which was reached on the basis of the 10 States sanctioned by South Sudan Transitional Constitution.

It is also argued that the creation of more states by President Salva Kiir government violated (encroached on) ancestral lands/tribal boundaries of some tribes.

According to an earlier analysis by Radio Tamazuj the then proposal by President Kiir to divide the country into 28 states would make his own ethnic group (Dinka aka Jieng) the prevailing ethnic majority in administrative areas covering 42% of the country, according to maps of the proposal.

“By comparison, in the current situation, the Dinka are the prevailing ethnic group in only 26 counties, approximately 25% of total land area, according to maps available…” Radio Tamazuj wrote. That was an analysis of the 28 States, there is been no clear data on the current increase to 32 states.

Other outstanding issues include the lack of enacting of certain legislation required to be completed during the pre-transitional period and the lack of incorporation of the R-ARCSS into the Transitional Constitution of The Republic of South Sudan.

The government is also yet to allocate a substantial amount out of the $100 million it pledged for the implementation of the pre-transitional period activities.

So far, it is reported that President Kiir told the UNSC delegation that he may consider dropping the 32 State and return the Country to the previous 10.

The last week’s meeting co-chaired by President Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Machar directed the Joint Defense Board to hasten the training of the Necessary Unified Forces -especially the VIP Protection Force -within the remaining weeks, South Sudan Presidential Press Unit reported.

The leaders also agreed to meet again to “unify” their position on the number of states and boundaries, and on the immediate security arrangements.

On Saturday, Nyamilepedia quoted unnamed sources in Juba and Khartoum as saying the parties to the peace agreement will meet in Addis Ababa next week “over a possible extension of the pre-transitional period.”

Will South Sudan form the unity government by November? It remains to be seen if the parties will iron out their differences.

Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, a South Sudanese journalist is a former Editor-in-Chief of Radio Bakhita and Managing Editor of Juba Monitor Newspaper living in exile. He previously worked for, among other media houses, The Citizen Newspaper and freelance for The Nation Mirror Newspaper both of which have been shut down by the National Security Service. He has a background in law. He can be reached via rogeryoron@gmail.com or his twitter handle @RogerYoronModi

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