Kiir’s Concession: Too Little Too Late To Bring Peace To South Sudan?
At least 10 people were killed on Thursday when armed groups attacked a UN base in Malakal, northeast of the country, in continuation of a civil war that has created one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises; outside the conflict in Syria.
In South Sudan, factionalised rebel groups and opposition forces are the biggest concern, along the bellicosity of President Kiir. International Crisis Group’s Casie Copeland described the situation as “shifting into a multi-polar war with localised conflicts.”
Since the conflict broke out on December 2013, more than 50, 000 lives have been lost while at least two million others have been displaced.
“I, Salva Kiir Mayardit, president of the Republic of South Sudan, do hereby issue this republican decree for the appointment of Dr Riek Machar Teny as the first vice-president of the Republic of South Sudan,” said the decree issued last week and as part of the peace agreement of august 2015. Though, silent on the role of the current vice president, James Wani Igga, it is believe that Wani will remain in his post, but rank below Machar.
While President Kiir declaration may have put pressure on Machar to return to Juba from Addis Ababa, where he had been on exile, violence remains unrelenting in South Sudan, as fighting continues between militia forces said to be driven by local agendas or revenge. These groups may care less about paper peace deals.
In his reaction to Kiir’s gesture, Machar, who was vice president from 2005 until he was sacked in 2013, said: “It is welcome news because it is a step forward in the implementation of the peace agreement. It means we are implementing the peace agreement as stipulated.”
However, in reaction to when he would travel to Juba to take up his post, and what it would take for him to feel secure enough to return, Machar said, “If I get the support needed for the implementation of security arrangements, I think within a few weeks I will be able to take up my position,” he said.
And saying that the most important thing was trying to make peace, the returnee vice president declared: “Do you want war to continue, or do you want to bring peace? If you want peace, then you have to follow the political will to implement the peace agreement.”
Civil war erupted when Kiir accused his former deputy, Machar, of planning a coup, setting off a cycle of retaliatory killings that have split the poverty-stricken country along ethnic lines.
The two leaders come from the south’s two main ethnic groups, Kiir from the Dinka and Machar from the Nuer, tribes that are themselves split into multiple and sometimes rival clans.
Kiir and Machar are former rebel leaders who rose to power during Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war between north and south, after which South Sudan seceded in 2011 to form the South Sudan.
Of serious concern to the international community are the allegations of war crimes by both the government and rebel groups. They have been accused of perpetrating ethnic massacres, including recruiting and killing children. There has also been reports that both sides carrying out widespread rape, torture and forced displacement of populations to cleanse areas of their opponents. Last month, a UN panel of experts recommended sanctions on both Kiir and Machar for their role in the brutal war.