February 12, 2016 (JUBA) – South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir, has called on Riek Machar, his main rival and newly appointed First Vice President in absentia, to report to Juba “immediately” and within 7 days from Friday, 12 February 2016.
- President Salva Kiir speaks during the inauguration of the new SPLM premises in Juba on 15 November 2013 (Photo Moses Lomayat)
In a two-page press statement he issued on Friday, President Kiir said after appointing Machar on Thursday evening, in accordance with the peace agreement they signed in August 2015, it was time to form a transitional government of national unity (TGoNU) within 7 days.
“Having taken key steps towards the implementation of the Agreement, I now call upon Dr. Riek Machar, who is the First Vice President of the Republic, to report to Juba immediately so that together we can form the TGoNU within seven (7) days from today, Friday the 12th February, 2016,” he directed.
The president of the young war-ravaged nation further said he was ready to form a transitional government as an urgent matter, adding that he had already consulted with the other parties to the peace agreement including the former detainees.
“Now I take the Opportunity of this press statement to confidently state that I am ready to form the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU)…It has become very important and urgent that I receive the names of the SPLM/A-IO within the seven (7) days I specified earlier,” he said.
President Kiir also emphasized that the rest of the outstanding issues in the peace agreement will thereafter be handled “within the context” of the transitional government.
“All other issues in relation to the Agreement shall be dealt with here in Juba and within the context of the TGoNU,” he further explained.
It was not clear what “within the context of TGoNU” entailed with observers telling Sudan Tribune that this is a worrying trend as the president and his faction may become happy with misinterpretation of the peace agreement and want to dwell on resolutions of the new government on contentious matters.
The SPLM-IO and other opposition factions may find it difficult to try to interpret the agreement’s provisions as they will also have no constitution to refer to in such outstanding matters.
The opposition leadership said it was surprising that President Kiir appointed Machar before he could arrive back to the capital after two years in the bush fighting the government, but welcomed the move as a step forward in the implementation of the peace agreement.
Officials of the SPLM-IO however reminded that President Kiir should not form a government surprisingly without the First Vice President in Juba.
The opposition however said Machar will not travel to Juba from his headquarters of Pagak, Upper Nile state, until security arrangements are implemented in the national capital, Juba, per the sequence of the peace deal and to build confidence.
The agreement called for amendment of the current constitution to incorporate the peace deal, withdrawal of government forces from Juba and deployment of joint police and military forces from both sides within 90 days from its signing before a transitional government can be formed to run the country for 30 months prior to elections.
While the opposition groups want such prerequisite provisions to be implemented first sequentially before forming a new government, President Kiir’s administration is comfortable with the delay in the amendment of the constitution and security arrangements implementation.
A recent IGAD communiqué which called for formation of the government without a constitution seemed to have supported the position of the government, despite its call to first deploy joint forces in Juba as called for by the SPLM-IO and in accordance with the accord.
Observers and other opposition factions such as the breakaway faction from SPLM-IO of the Federal Democratic Party (FDP) said the rush by the government to form a unity government without a constitution was a strategy to revive their “reservations” to kill the peace deal.
There are fears that the government wanted lack of constitution to refer to as a law of the land in regard to the peace agreement, which may be in line with the initial reservations it had during the signing of the deal.
Without opposition forces entering Juba before Machar arrives in the capital, observers fear that the peace agreement may be subjected to misinterpretations by the government, which may result to renewed factional conflicts within TGoNU and detention of opposition leaders including Machar.
SPLM-IO faction earlier said it was unrealistic for the government to be formed soon unless the joint forces arrive in Juba, adding Machar will not return to the capital until such forces, not only bodyguards, arrive in Juba.
President Kiir in the statement said he ordered the army leadership to withdraw forces from Juba and also designate a location to accommodate the expected Machar’s bodyguards who will accompany him to Juba.
He did not however mention the fate of the deployment in Juba of the would-be joint forces of 1,500 police and 1,410 soldiers from the side of the SPLA-IO.
Observers with knowledge of decision making processes in the presidency told Sudan Tribune that President Kiir’s rush to form a unity government without a constitution and joint forces in Juba was an assurance to his political and military leaders who are opposed to the agreement that he is still in control of the status quo and could take others for a ride.
A controversial creation of 28 states is one of the hot issues that threaten a return to war in the country and await discussions by TGoNU.