Articles (Opinion/Analysis)

Will South Sudan form unity government by November?

By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, 29th October 2019

On Sunday, United Nations Security Council UNSC delegation headed by the permanent representative of South Africa to the UN Amb. Jerry Mathews Matjila, visited Juba, met with parties to the 2018 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan R-ARCSS including President Salva Kiir and SPLM/A in Opposition leader Dr Riek Machar, and insisted that the South Sudan parties should form a unity government by 12 November as per Agreement, with no delay.

The United States and African Union have also called for the formation of the unity government as scheduled.

The R-ARCSS which aims at ending the five year old conflict which has killed nearly 400,000 people and displaced more than 4 million, with about 1.8 million of those internally displaces, was signed by five parties in the Ethiopian Capital Addis Ababa under the mediation of the East Africa’s Intergovernmental Authority on Development Igad.

According to the R-ARCSS, the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity RTGoNU shall comprise of five parties: 1-The Incumbent Transitional Government of National Unity TGoNU, comprising of: the former Government of the Republic of South Sudan GRSS; the former SPLM/A-IO (led by Gen. Taban Deng Gai); and the Other Political Parties in TGoNU and represented, as such, at the High Level Revitalization Forum HLRF; 2- The SPLM/A-IO (led by Dr Riek Machar); 3- The Former Detainees (FDs); 4- Other Political Parties (OPP) outside of the Incumbent TGoNU including Alliance, Umbrella and political parties participating as such at the HLRF; and 5- The South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA).

In the unity government whose term shall last Thirty Six (36) months, President Kiir shall continue as President of the Republic of South Sudan, and Dr Machar shall assume the position of the First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan to oversee Governance Cluster, the Agreement says, adding that here shall be four (04) Vice Presidents in the Republic of South Sudan, who shall be nominated as follows: 1- Vice President to be nominated by Incumbent TGoNU to oversee Economic Cluster; 2- Vice President to be nominated by SSOA to oversee Services Delivery Cluster; 3-Vice President to be nominated by Incumbent TGoNU to oversee Infrastructure Cluster; and 4- Vice President to be nominated by FDs, who shall be a woman, to oversee Gender and Youth Cluster.

The unity government was supposed to be setup since May 2018 but due to delays in the implementation of several pre-transitional activities, the parties decided to extend the formation of the unity government to November 12th 2019.

One of the tasks of the unity government is to initiate and oversee a Permanent Constitution-making Process during the Transitional Period “which shall be based on the principles of: Supremacy of the People of South Sudan; Initiate[initiating] a Federal and democratic system of government that reflects the character of South Sudan in its various institutions taken together, guarantees good governance, constitutionalism, rule of law, human rights, gender equity and affirmative action” among others.

The Agreement also provides for, inter alia, unification of armed forces, several institutional and legal reforms, Transitional Justice, Accountability, Reconciliation and Healing, and general elections towards the end of the transition.

Opposition hints at opting out of unity government

Speaking during the meeting with the high-level delegation of the UN Security Council, Machar said on the parties “may need to extend” the formation of unity government set.

He said he will not join a unity government until critical pending tasks in the peace deal are addressed.

“If the government will be there on the 12th, we the IO won’t be there because we don’t want to put the country into crisis. We would opt out and contain the troops,” Machar told the visiting delegation of the UN Security Council.

“We have a volatile situation that we want to control. We want this country to be peaceful,” Machar said, adding that after meeting the security sector, together with President Kiir, they found out that “what is on the ground cannot be completed within three months.”

Dr Lam Akol, the Secretary-General of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance SSOA and the leader of National Democratic Movement NDM also reject the formation of the unity government by November.

“We saw and lived what happened when these issues were glossed over not long ago. We get amazed when some people tell us that these matters can wait to be resolved after the TGoNU is formed,” Akol said.

“This time the security situation will be more serious. Formation of the TGoNU before completing putting together the necessary unified force (NUF) would mean not two armies as was the case in 2015 but multiple armies.”

However, the head of the UNSC delegations to Juba Amb. Mathews pointed out that the international community doesn’t see good reasons to delay the formation of the transitional government in South Sudan, saying “We don’t anticipate that the remaining problems are so huge to not able South Sudan to move to November 12.”

What are the pending critical tasks?

The R-ARCSS provides that training and redeployment of “necessary unified forces” shall be completed within a period that shall not exceed eight (8) months commencing from the date of the signature of the Agreement in September 2018. However, that failed to take place and for that reason, among others, in May, the parties to the agreement decided to extend the pre-transitional period by six months.

While making the extension, the parties acknowledged that the “unification of necessary forces is the most critical determining factor for the formation” of the unity government.  

According to the Chairperson of the South Sudan peace monitors, the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission RJMEC Amb. Augustino Njoroge some progress has been made on the cantonment of forces.

“Out of the 25 designated cantonment sites for the opposition and 10 barracks for government forces, 24 cantonment sites and 6 barracks are operational,” he said last week.

Last week also, another source familiar with the process said that out of the at least half of the 83,000 Necessary Unified Forces required by the IGAD Council of Ministers to “be cantoned and barracked, trained and deployed before the end of September 2019” 60, 000 troops have registered and will “soon be trained” though without mentioning how soon.

The second most critical task is the lack of agreement on the number of states in South Sudan and their boundaries.

In 2015, South Sudan government under President Kiir partitioned the Country into 28 States (and now 32 States). Since then, the opposition groups and the government have been on a deadlock over the move with the opposition initially arguing that the government action was unconstitutional and a violation of the then 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) which was reached on the basis of the 10 States sanctioned by South Sudan Transitional Constitution.

It is also argued that the creation of more states by President Salva Kiir government violated (encroached on) ancestral lands/tribal boundaries of some tribes.

According to an earlier analysis by Radio Tamazuj the then proposal by President Kiir to divide the country into 28 states would make his own ethnic group (Dinka aka Jieng) the prevailing ethnic majority in administrative areas covering 42% of the country, according to maps of the proposal.

“By comparison, in the current situation, the Dinka are the prevailing ethnic group in only 26 counties, approximately 25% of total land area, according to maps available…” Radio Tamazuj wrote. That was an analysis of the 28 States, there is been no clear data on the current increase to 32 states.

Other outstanding issues include the lack of enacting of certain legislation required to be completed during the pre-transitional period and the lack of incorporation of the R-ARCSS into the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan.

The last week’s meeting co-chaired by President Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Machar directed the Joint Defence Board to hasten the training of the Necessary Unified Forces -especially the VIP Protection Force -within the remaining weeks, South Sudan Presidential Press Unit reported.

The leaders also agreed to meet again to “unify” their position on the number of states and boundaries, and on the immediate security arrangements.

Will South Sudan form the unity government by November? It remains to be seen if the parties will iron out their differences.