December 25, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudanese armed opposition faction leader, Riek Machar, has condemned the appointment on Thursday of 28 governors to the controversial 28 states created by president Salva Kiir, urging him to withdraw the decision in the interest of peace.
- SPLM (IO) Chairman, Riek Machar, addressing the 2nd National Liberation Council (NLC) meeting in Pagak, November 5, 2015 (ST Photo)
Machar, the leader of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), who signed a peace agreement with Kiir in August to end 21 months of civil war in the country, said the decision was wrong as president Kiir had abandoned the option to table the 28 states as a proposal to the parties for discussion first under the established institution of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) which is tasked to oversee the implementation of the peace deal.
“We are shocked by this act, since our advance team is ready in Juba and JMEC is functioning, the government should have tabled this proposal to create 28 states for discussion in JMEC. But the government acted unilaterally totally disregarding the agreement and its implementation institutions. This raises serious concerns about the commitment of GRSS [Government of the Republic of South Sudan] to the agreement,” Machar said in a statement he issued on Thursday night, dated 24 December, and extended to Sudan Tribune on Friday.
“We have in numerous occasions condemned President Salva Kiir’s decision to declare 28 states. We again condemn this decision and urge him to rescind this decision to give peace a chance. This is not the time to derail the implementation of the agreement,” he said.
The opposition leader, who will become the first vice-president of a transitional government that will be formed by January 2016 as per the agreement, called on the East African regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which mediated the peace negotiations, to intervene and put pressure on president Kiir to reverse his decision.
“We also urge IGAD and its partners and the international community to condemn this decision and to use all the leverages at their disposal to pressure President Kiir to withdraw his decision.”
He said it became a surprise that president Kiir unilaterally decided to violate the peace agreement only 8 hours after he [Machar] sent out a Christmas message to the people of South Sudan to consolidate peace and reconciliation among the people.
The move to announce 28 governors came just four days after the arrival to the national capital, Juba, of 150 members of the advance team from the armed opposition faction, including their chief negotiator, Taban Deng Gai. This also happened after the parties met twice under the chairmanship of JMEC, Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana.
The presidential order to create 28 states on 2 October, which was later on endorsed by the national legislature in Juba, was condemned by the SPLM-IO, former detainees, 18 opposition political parties, civil society organizations, IGAD, Troika countries (United States, United Kingdom and Norway) as well as the United Nations as a violation of the peace agreement.
Critics feared that the new 28 states, whose boundaries are not yet agreed upon or demarcated, pose tribal conflicts due to border conflicts can reignite another war as many communities in the country said their lands have been taken away from them and given to other communities.
The peace agreement, which the two parties signed in August this year, is based on the 10 states as the basis for the power sharing deal and can only be altered in the upcoming transitional amendment or permanent constitution making process during a transitional period of 30 months before elections.