By FRED OLUOCH Special Correspondent
May 31, 2014(EA) — South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar is seeking the setting up of a caretaker federal system of government to bring lasting peace to the war-torn country.
Details on what Dr Machar told President Uhuru Kenyatta at their meeting in Nairobi last week have emerged, namely that the proposed caretaker government would negotiate a peace agreement, initiate minimum reforms, set up a framework for constitutional reforms and draw up an election timetable.
Diplomatic sources said Dr Machar told President Kenyatta he would wait “patiently” for the transitional government — to be known as the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGONU) — to achieve the above mandate, over an unspecified period of time.
Sources said Dr Machar is proposing the breaking up of South Sudan into federal regions with greater autonomy but which contributes taxes to the central government. Currently, South Sudan has a centralised system of government run from the capital Juba and 10 states with limited powers.
In a meeting at State House Nairobi on Thursday, Dr Machar is said to have insisted that the transition include stakeholders drawn from political parties, civil society, religious leaders and ex-detainees, and that he is willing to stay out the entire term of the caretaker government.
The government, Dr Machar said, should spearhead minimum reforms in the judiciary, civil service, security apparatus and the electoral process. If Dr Machar has his way, an independent but powerful body is to be formed to monitor the implementation of these reforms and the running of the transitional government.
Dr Machar has also added a new dimension, that the transitional government must also have a strong federal outlook, and that those who participate in the transitional government must not take part in the elections to be called by the latter.
The former vice-president briefly met President Kenyatta on Wednesday after the latter’s tour of Eldoret to set up a formal meeting at State House the following day.
On Thursday, Dr Machar first met two Kenya’s special envoys to the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) talks, Lazarus Sumbeiywo and Dalmas Otieno, among other senior government officials. He then met President Kenyatta in a meeting that went on late into the evening.
Nairobi, having midwifed the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that saw South Sudan secede from the greater Sudan, has been careful not to take sides in the conflict, constantly engaging both sides and avoiding moves and statements likely to deepen the divide between the two protagonists — President Salva Kiir and Dr Machar.
Whereas Dr Machar views President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda with suspicion due to Uganda’s support of Kiir — Ugandan has sent troops to South Sudan — he has been open to negotiations led by Kenya. In several of his tweets since the war started, Dr Machar has accused President Museveni of using the war to further his “personal interests.”
“We don’t have a problem with Uganda as a country but we’ve a problem with its leader who uses innocent soldiers for his personal interests,” Dr Machar tweeted at one time.
The East Africa.