By Deng Machol
Juba – The United Nations Security Council has insisted the South Sudanese warring parties should form a unity government by November 12 with no delay, while opposition leader Riek Machar is rejecting the date and , demanding a three-months extension.
The UN Security Council visits comes amid a mounting international pressure on South Sudanese leaders to settle outstanding issues and establish a transitional government by November 12.
The unity government, to be led by president Kiir and deputized by Machar, as part of the deal signed in 2018, would also accommodate several opposition groups in a three – year administration expected to usher the country into democratic elections and pave way for development.
The key issues to the formation of a unity government, including the security arrangements; resolving of the number of states and their boundaries, which haven’t been completed despite earlier extension from May 12.
A similar arrangement in then 2015 which provided for two armies in the country ended with heavy fighting in the capital, following a year after only three – months when Machar joined president Kiir in transitional government.
A unity government formation’s declaration came after a meeting between a delegation of members of the UNSC led by South Africa and United States and parties to the revitalized peace agreement in Juba on Sunday.
The UNSC said it will not accept more delays to the formation of a unity government, while threatening to impose sanctions on leaders if a government is not formed by November 12, urging the parties to set aside their disagreements for the sake of peace.
However, designated vice president, Dr. Riek Machar says the security arrangements and the number of states and their boundaries should be completed first the formation of a unity government.
Machar decries that the issues of security arrangements and the states were the cause of 2016 crisis, and such may replicate the same problem.
“The critical issues must be resolved,” said Machar during a briefing by a delegation of the UN Security Council. The security arrangements must be in place at least or the ceasefire which we have been enjoying for this whole year will be raptured,” he echoed.
Speaking to reporters, South African Ambassador to the Nations, Jerry Mathews Matjila says “there are minimum conditions for the parties to into November 12.”
“What Dr. Riek Machar wants is not impossible but we need political leaders who can compromise,” Amb. Mathews told the press at the end of their one – day visit.
South African diplomat further said the United Nations Security Council and the region will support the peace process in the world’s youngest nation.
“There should be no more extensions……. the remaining issues of the number of states, the boundaries and other things can be discussed by inclusive South Sudanese government,” said Amb. Mathews. If any leader needs security, we will give security. The United Nations can provide security, so the major was security. The government says we are committed, any number of people for protection is available.”
According to Mathews, the international community doesn’t see good reasons to delay the formation of the transitional government in South Sudan.
“We don’t anticipate that the remaining problems are so huge to not able South Sudan to move to November 12,” said Mathews.
Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft said South Sudan leaders should form a unity transitional government by November 12.
Craft further called on the parties to the peace deal to start making progress on the number of states and security arrangements.
The US diplomat pointed out that the UN Security Council delegation was encouraged by President Kiir’s recommitment to the revitalized peace agreement.
“We are disappointed by a statement from Dr. Riek Machar that the ceasefire would be in jeopardy when the unity government is formed by November 12,” said Craft. She stressed that the UN Security Council supports the formation of the unity government as originally planned.
But ex-rebel leader Machar says he will not be part of a unity government next month if established without the integration of the army force, a key condition of a peace accord signed last year.
“We in the SPLM-IO, our colleagues, would not be there, do not blame us because we don’t want to put the country into crisis,” said Machar, stressing that the aspect needed for the establishment of such a government is not there.”
But the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) said that the problems identified by Machar can be solved by the November deadline.
“Now it is time to make a compromise necessary for the formation of the transitional government of national unity,” said Craft, the U.S Ambassador, as they are still holding to the November 12 deadline. “We expect both the government and the oppositions to unify together and to be able to put their people first.”
Despite, Machar’s refusal, the president Kiir’s administration and other opposition groups are ready to form the unity government as schedule, according to the country’s Information Minister Michael Makuei.
“The advice given to us by the UN Security Council, is that no change of schedule, no change of the program – you are advised to advised to establish your RTGoNU on the 12th of November,” Makuei told reporters, after a meeting between president’s administration and the UNSC teams.
President Kiir and Machar, including other parties signed a revitalized peace deal in September 2018 after a string of failed deals to end a civil war that has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, uprooted a third of the population from their homes and ruined the country’s economy.
In May, the two principals agreed to form a unity government in six months and again, in September, reiterated that they will establish a unity transitional government by November 12 as part of the deal.
However, the deal has stalled because the government has said it does not have the finances to fund the disarmament and integration of the army.
Machar met with president Kiir on Saturday to discuss the security arrangements, include the states and boundaries issue, as crucial components of the pact, but they could not come to an agreement on the issues.
Country’s Cabinet Affairs Minister, Martin Elia said the head of national army Jok Riak has assured them that 3000 members of a VIP protection force will be ready before November 12.
“Machar should not complain about the delay in implementing some of the key mechanisms because he has representatives in all the committees,” said Minister Elia, who is also the Secretary for the National Pre – Transitional Committee (NPTC), a body tasked with the implementation of the revitalized peace deal.
The UN Security Council advised Machar’s side to join the government so that the government is set up and if any problems, then they will be in a position to resolve them amicably.
The revitalized peace deal is seen a significant milestone as it provides a clear roadmap for peace, political transformation, security sectors reforms, healing and reconciliation process, disarmament and compensation in the horn of Africa’s country.
South Sudan secured independence from north Sudan in 2011 after decades of a scorched – earth civil war that has killed two million lives but descended into its own political conflict in late 2013 after president Kiir sacked Dr. Machar as vice president.