South Sudan’s unity government is in doubt after former vice president Riek Machar recalled the leadership of his team negotiating with South Sudan President Salva Kiir. Machar has accused Kiir of sabotaging the implementation of the agreement signed last August in Ethiopia by establishing 28 new states in South Sudan.
Machar, who is the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition, has since petitioned heads of state in the region and also called on the international community to put pressure on and prevent the government in Juba from undermining the accord.
Both groups are supposed to form a transitional unity government with a total of 30 ministries. The accord gives the South Sudan government 16 ministries, including finance and planning, defense, information, national security, and justice and constitutional affairs.
Machar’s side got 10 ministries, including petroleum, interior, labor, mining, and land, housing and urban development. Foreign affairs and transport were given to a group of former political detainees not aligned with either the South Sudan government or the rebels. Other political parties in South Sudan got two.
But Machar now refuses to allow his officials to be part of the government.
His decision to withdraw the negotiating team came after the government refused to scrap President Kiir’s recently established 28 new states in South Sudan. Representatives of both sides are deadlocked on negotiations about the states established by the government.
Officials say the outcome of negotiations that had been taking place would be incorporated in a new constitution for South Sudan.
Botswana’s former president Festus Mogae is leading the joint monitoring and evaluation commission that is tasked with supervising the implementation of the agreement. Mogae recently said the formation of the 28 states complicates the implementation of the agreement.
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, the secretary of foreign affairs, says the government’s refusal to abide by the terms of the original agreement is creating unease and tension.
“Dr. Machar has written a letter to [former] president Mogae copied to the regional leaders, the AU, the European Union, the Troika and the U.N. secretary-general saying that we need to implement the agreement as it is. And the agreement is saying 10 states not 28 states,” said Gatkuoth.
“We are telling the world and the international community to let us implement the agreement as it is. But, President Salva Kiir is saying let us work outside the agreement by accepting the 28 states, and that is actually creating the destabilization.”
Gatkuoth says the decision to establish 28 new states violates stipulations of the agreement, which he says calls for only 10 new states to be formed. He contends that the transitional government can only be formed after a constitution has been adopted, which he says has yet to be done due to the deadlock in negotiations.
But supporters of the South Sudan government say the refusal of former vice president Machar to name his ministers to form a transitional government is delaying the implementation of the agreement. They said the opposition is to blame for the delay in the formation of a unity government.
“President Salva has decided not to implement the agreement. Dr Machar has decided today that he would recall only the leadership of the advanced team. We will meet in Pagak, South Sudan to decide on the next course of action that we need to take,” said Secretary Gatkuoth.