The United Nations has cautiously welcomed the announcement that a transitional government of national unity will be formed by the February 22nd deadline in South Sudan, a major step in ending a five-year civil war that has killed close to 400 000 people.
President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar signed a revitalized peace agreement in September 2018 but twice missed deadlines to form a coalition government due to outstanding issues that included the number of states in the country, security arrangements and the integration of rival armed forces.
Agreement on reducing the number of states from 31 to 10 with three additional administrative areas appears to have been the major catalyst in securing consensus on the formation of a transitional unity government.
Sudanese President Salva Kiir, “We have sat and agreed to form the unity government. There are few things that are still outstanding but we will resolve them together through the transition government. In the meantime, things like security and protection of all opposition members in Juba are under my full control.”
His rival Riek Machar said, “After the President resolved the issue of states, we agreed to form the government on 22nd of February without any further delay, so congratulations to all of us.”
Machar will be appointed First Vice President in the new government – an arrangement that has twice before failed – first in 2013 when the civil war erupted and again in 2016 when Machar has to flee the country on foot, fearing for his life.
UN Security Council President and Belgian Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, “This is what we want before the end of the deadline which is coming very soon, to have indeed a transitional govt in place, yes, so we certainly hope this is true and I guess we will see in a few hours whether this is confirmed.”
The UN Secretary-General is also awaiting further details of the agreement.
His spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, “We hope that will help enable South Sudan towards a more secure and durable peace. We’re waiting for further details which we understand are forthcoming including some important areas such as the four vice presidents, the cabinet, the governor appointments of the ten states and the three administrative areas. We do expect a roadmap for the next few weeks is also ahead.”
The UN has long flagged leadership concerns just as a new Commission on Human Rights report on the country points to endemic corruption and the plundering of the public purse while millions faced starvation.
Dujarric added that the human rights report was very troubling and urged the leadership of South Sudan to address its findings.
“The Secretary General’s message to the leaders of South Sudan is the one I think he clearly delivered during his recent meetings at the AU is one to listen to their people, to put the needs of the people first, the people of South Sudan have suffered for a long time. Just today we were highlighting the difficult conditions due to drought and due to floods, you add on that the years of conflict which has impacted their ability to produce food, the sexual violence we have seen, the attacks against civilians, so we obviously welcome this announcement today. The report of this announcement and we look forward to these two leaders working together for durable peace in South Sudan.”
The UN Commission on Human Rights Report found that millions of South Sudanese civilians had been deprived of access to basic services and many deliberately starved while politicians diverted national revenues. It continues that civilians were deliberately starved, systematically surveilled and silenced, arbitrarily arrested and detained and denied meaningful access to justice while corruption had made several officials extremely wealthy despite roughly half the country’s population – around six million civilians – going hungry.