By Deng Machol
Juba – South Sudan president Salva Kiir and opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar have agreed to form a transitional unity government in February despite slow progress in implementation of the outstanding agreement tasks, including the number and boundaries of the states.
The two principals reached the agreement on Tuesday after a meeting at the State House in Juba, attended by the deputy chairperson of the Sudan Sovereign Council Mohamad Hamdan Dagalo, they failed to breaks a deadlock over the number of states and their boundaries.
Machar is in Juba for a visit to hold talks with Kiir as both leaders seek to end the bottlenecks over the number of states and security arrangements impede the formation of coalition government.
Kiir and Machar signed a revitalized peace deal on September, 2018 under pressure from the United Nations, United States and countries in the region to end a civil war and agreed to form a unity government by Nov. 12.
Last month, President Kiir and Dr. Machar, brought time by delaying the government’s formation for 100 days to allow for the implementation of critical security arrangements, and determine the number and boundaries of the States.
Sudan and Uganda are guarantors to the peace deal that seeks to ending the country’s five –year plus conflict.
The two principles agreed to form the government of national unity by the end of the extended 100 days of pre transitional period regardless of the outstanding issues.
Speaking to the media during a joint press conference, President Salva Kiir said, he and Dr. Riek Machar have agreed to speed-up the implementation of the security arrangements and establish humanitarian fund to assist the internally displaced persons and voluntary returning refugees.
President reiterated that the next government should be established in February next year as planned.
“I and the mediator (Hamdan) said that the government should be formed after the 100 days, if there is anything that needs to be implemented we will give the responsibility to the new government, because it is the government of national unity,” President Kiir told reporters after three days of talks with Machar in Juba. “The second thing is that we agreed to make sure that the ceasefire continues to hold, nobody has the desire to go back to war,” he added.
Both sides blame each other for not meeting milestones stipulated by the peace deal, especially the integration of different fighting forces, including the states matters.
On his part, Dr. Riek Machar said, they have agreed to fast track the implementation of the security arrangements by moving the forces to the cantonment sites, training and forming a unified army.
“We have reached a level that next week or two weeks from now, we have to ensure that forces are assembled in some of the cantonment sites for training. “We have to make sure that we meet the deadline of 100 days. We want to make sure that some soldiers are ready for deployment within the 100 days,” said Machar.
He added that the issue of the States and their boundaries remains pending and they will sit again with the deputy President of South Africa David Mabuza who is a member of C5 countries to discuss the number of states and their boundaries.
Machar however expressed hope that the South African deputy president can play a big role in bridging the deviating viewpoints of the parties.
“We haven’t made any breakthrough but we decided to wait for the South African deputy president because he was working together with our committees – “We will wait for his report perhaps he will be able to break the deadlock over the number states,” Machar told the reporters.
The deputy Chairman of the Sudan Sovereign Council, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo said, they discussed wide ranges of issues facing the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement.
“We had a good meeting in which we discussed everything in a transparent way, so we did not hide anything during the meeting,” said Dagalo.
But the peace monitoring body said on Tuesday that there is no progress in implementing the security arrangements.
There are 34 cantonment sites identified by the Joint Defense Board across the country but not all the forces have been assembled as the required by the revitalized peace agreement.
Dr. Machar often argued that establishing security arrangements through the agreed reforms are fundamental, and are the “backbone of the formation of the next government.”
Machar, exiled opposition leader also revealed that they agreed to set up a special fund to help support the implementation of the peace deal, which is lagging behind scheduled due to lack of money.
“We agreed to lobby for support from some donor countries, and we also have to put money in the fund to support the activities of the peace agreement during the transitional period,” Machar said.
Machar further said they agreed with president Kiir to allow freedoms to disseminate the signed peace agreement to help the people on the ground understand the peace process.
“We agreed to allow freedom of the media so that we can disseminate the peace agreement, we want the situation to change because there is peace,” he said, as there is a need to allow free movement of people across the country.
As about 64 days remaining to 100 days extended – deadline, JMEC, Amb. Lt Gen. Augostino Njoroge said that it is ‘deeply regrettable’ that the implementation of the critical tasks of the pre – transitional period has ‘failed’ to live up to expectation’ in 2019.
The unification of necessary forces and the resolution of the number of states and their boundaries are not yet being determined – keys behind the extension of the formation of unity government.
“To be specific, no screening, no selection and no training have taken place. This is of course, is very disappointing,” said Njoroge during the 12th RJMEC monthly meeting in Juba on Tuesday, further calling upon the key principals to the peace deal to continue their engagement to ensure that progress is made.
But the two leaders pushed back the deadline by 100 days, failed to create a unified army and determine the number of states, prompting Washington to recall its ambassador of recently.
This also comes hours after the United States on Monday imposed sanctions on two South Sudanese officials it accused of fomenting conflict, the U.S. Treasury Department announced on Monday, in its latest move to pressure the country’s politicians to form a unity government.
Minister of Cabinet Affairs Martin Elia Lomuro and Minister of Defense and Veteran Affairs Kuol Manyang Juuk were blacklisted for their role in perpetuating the conflict by obstructing the peace process, Treasury said in a statement.
The country gained independence from Sudan following decades of scorched – earth civil war from Sudan in 2011, but less than two years, the civil war broke out in oil – producing South Sudan in late – 2013. The five-year plus conflict has killed an estimated 400,000 people, uprooted over 4 million people both internally and externally from their homes, triggered a famine and created Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.