By Deng Machol
Juba – Fourteen months since the signing of the peace deal, too little progress has been made to ensure completion of the key tasks assigned to the pre – transitional period.
This indicates a lack of political will by the parties’ leadership [who undertook obligations by signing the agreement] to end the country’s five – year conflict, as these delays have cost the people of South Sudan by delaying the significant reforms outlined in the deal which are necessary to build a lasting peace.
All the parties to the deal, particularly president Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar, share responsibility for the failure to form a new transition government on November 12, 2019, something that has ‘disappointed and frustrated’ the Trump administration in the USA
This ‘frustration,’ has, resulted in the US recalling its envoy to the East African country, Thomas Hushek to Washington for consultation as it re-evaluates its relationship with the restive country over warring leaders’ failure to form a unity government on November 12 as stipulated in the 2018 peace deal.
The move has also been protested by President Salva Kiir’s administration, while urging the White House to exercise patience as the leaders’ trying to reach a viable peace.
South Sudan President Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar fell out in late 2013 – two years after the largely Christian nation won independence from Sudan with strong US support after decades of scorched – earth civil war that has claimed two million lives.
However, the two leaders reached peace deal in 2015 and was violated within months in 2016, saw deadly skirmish but again the two principals signed a revitalized peace deal on September, 2018.
Initially, the peace parties were to set up the unity government in May 2019. However, they pushed it to November 12, to allow for the implementation of key security arrangements.
But the two leaders missed a November 12 deadline to form a unity government as they disagreed over the pre – transitional period issues, prompting African mediators and guarantors to the peace deal to convene a meeting and gave them another 100 days, the second extension to complete the outstanding issues.
Before extension, president Kiir always wanted to form the transition government with or without opposition leader Machar, who insisted on the full implementation of the security arrangement issues as stipulated in the peace deal.
In regards to that, the international community had also strongly advised against the exclusion of the SPLM-IO leader or any other signatory to the September 2018 peace accord.
The White House reacted to the new extension, saying it was “gravely disappointed” with South Sudan’s leaders for not meeting the deadline.
President Trump’s administration also questioned the ability of President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar to lead South Sudan, adding that it would “re-evaluate” its relations with Juba.
The US is a key supporter of South Sudan since the liberation era to the independence time. The United States, which contributes about $1 billion a year in mostly humanitarian aid for the young country, has been especially vocal in its enragement over the lack of progress in South Sudan.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Twitter that he recalled the ambassador “as we re-evaluate our relationship with the government of South Sudan.”
But the recall has shocked the government in Juba, further begging the United States to be patient as its rival leaders work to achieve viable peace.
Juba described the withdrawal as a diplomatic concern to the government of South Sudan, urging the United States to reconsider the withdrawal while appealing to them to support the peace process.
“It’s unfortunate that Mr. Mike Pompeo, the United States secretary of state, questioned the suitability of our head of state, an act that is regrettable and in total disregards of the norms of diplomatic practices,” partly reads a statement issued on Tuesday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
But the government of South Sudan says it is still hopeful that a unity government will be formed at the end of the 100 days.
Amb. Mawien Makol, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, urged US to exercise restraint and patience with the South Sudan peace process.
“We are urging the United States to reconsider the withdrawal,” said Amb. Makol quoted by Eye Radio on Tuesday. “It is their concern; it is true they have reached that decision but we are still urging them to reconsider and try to support the country.”
Although the U.S has recalled Ambassador Thomas Hushek, statement also said “the United States stands with the people of South Sudan in their pursuit of peace and will work in partnership with the region to support efforts to achieve peace and a successful political transition in South Sudan.”
Last month, the Senate in the United States introduced a bipartisan resolution in support of the peace process in South Sudan. The Democrats and Republican senators called on the leaders to keep the momentum going to strengthen the fragile peace that exists in South Sudan.
President Kiir earlier said he accepted the 100-day extension because it was a collective need by some parties to the peace deal, and it would help the country achieve durable peace rather return to war again.
“While in Washington, Ambassador Hushek will meet with senior U.S. government officials as part of the re-evaluation of the U.S. relationship with the Government of South Sudan given the latest developments,” partly reads a statement issued by the Department of State on Monday.
South Sudanese political analyst James Okuk said the recent statement by the US government is an indication that the Trump administration has ‘lost trust’ in the ability of President Kiir and opposition leader Machar to work together in bringing peace and stability in the country.
Dr. Okuk further warned that if the two leaders do not form a unity government at the lapse of the 100-day extension, they may face ‘gigantic sanctions.’
In August this year, the United States threatened to impose fresh sanctions against South Sudan leaders if they fail to form a coalition government as scheduled.
The five-year civil war, which was triggered by power wrangles between president Kiir and ex – rebel leader Machar has reportedly caused nearly 400,000 deaths, uprooted four million people from their homes both internally and externally, and has devastated the country’s economy.
In addition to the hundreds of millions the United States has paid for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and to fund the peace agreement’s key monitoring mechanisms.
The U.S and other international partners have contributed several billions of dollars for humanitarian and development purposes, all of which are responsibility of government – ‘which gives us an interest in the peaceful transition to an elected government that acts responsibly, respects the rights of its citizens and doesn’t support corruption and conflict,” said in part of US embassy statement.
Its further said they have engaged with all parties
[both signatory and non-signatory]
to encourage them to make progress towards peace process but remain disappointed by ‘slow progress and the obvious lack of will’ on the part of the individuals who have been entrusted this important responsibility of the nation.
As a new unity government is expected to be formed on February, 2020, in attempt to help stabilise the country and bring to an end the unfolded suffering of the citizens, the security and governance issues needed to be resolved in the horn of Africa.
The U.S urge all the parties and individuals in the country to reflect on their failure and on what changes are needed in order to accomplish necessary tasks within the limited time remaining in the one – hundred days extension.
In Washington, U.S Amb. Hushek to reassess relationship with the existing, unelected government in South Sudan and to discuss what measures might be employed to discourage obstruction of the peaceful progression to an inclusive transition government.