South Sudan’s unity government faces many challenges

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The new government in South Sudan faces a daunting array of challenges that will test its unity. That was the message from the head of the UN’s mission to that country, in a briefing to the Security Council where recent political progress was welcomed by a wide array of the Council’s membership.

But a precarious humanitarian situation and outstanding issues around transitional security arrangements and the needs of returning displaced persons and refugees could further undermine the government’s capacity moving forward.

The political progress lauded in South Sudan after the unity government was agreed by President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar by the February 22nd deadline.

The Secretary General’s Special Representative and the Head of UN Mission in South Sudan, David Shearer says, “I acknowledge the role of President Museveni of Uganda, General Burhan of Sudan, IGAD Heads of State as well as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and the regional envoys Stephen Kalonzo, Ismail Wais for supporting the process. But the progress is attributable to the political willingness of two men who put the interests of their country first: President Kiir to make a critical concessions and Dr Machar to agree to return to the capital that he left during fighting in 2016.”

Shearer pointed to parties continuing to negotiate over the allocation of ministerial posts while transitional security arrangements, including a unified army and ensuring the safe return of IDPs and refugees remains outstanding – while calling for an end to impunity, corruption, aid dependency which requires both the government and international community to support programmes that promote self-reliance and ending exclusion by allowing all South Sudanese to participate in the democratic process.

“Most urgent is the need to move on the transitional security arrangements. The pre-transitional – structures are now redundant. Implementation of those measures is dangerously lagging.”

South Africa praised South Sudan’s leaders for presenting their country with renewed hope but urged parties to continue addressing the outstanding issues including the humanitarian situation and security concerns.

Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, Ambassador Jerry Matjila says:

We have reached a crucial milestone, however, this is the beginning. As the international community, we need to sustain our valuable support to all aspects of the peace process in order to prevent a relapse into conflict. In this regard, South Africa remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting the peace process in South Sudan with the overall aim towards building a peaceful, stable, united and prosperous South Sudan.”

Matjila warned that progress must benefit ordinary South Sudanese.

“We look forward to the convening of the National Dialogue Conference on 16 March 2020. This progress needs to be translated into peace dividends that the ordinary people in South Sudan can see in the daily lives, through socio-economic development, security and sustained stability.”

The mandate of the UN Mission to South Sudan is up for renewal by the Security Council by or before a March 15th deadline.