By Millicent Zighe
South Sudan rival leaders have formed the long awaited Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) in an attempt to end the civil war that has engulfed the country for the past six years.
On Saturday, President Salva Kiir swore in opposition leader Riek Machar as the first Vice President of the country. James Wani Igga, Taban Deng Gai and Rebecca Nyandeng Garang- the widow of the late John Garang were the other named Vice Presidents. South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) has nominated four political officials namely Gabriel Changson, Denay Jock, Josephine Lagu and Joseph Bakasoro to be considered for the fifth Vice President position. Plans are also underway to make the cabinet inclusive by adding more opposition members. The Transitional Government will lead the country for the next three years.
“This action signifies the end to the war. Peace has come and it has come to stay … My brother Dr. Machar and I are now partners in the peace agreement.” President Kiir said during the ceremony.
A seemingly enthusiastic Machar echoed Kiir sentiments while addressing the crowd at the ceremony saying, “I want to assure you (the people of South Sudan) that we will work collectively to end your long suffering.”
Both Machar and Kiir had twice missed the deadlines to form the unified Government after they failed to agree on the contentious issue of security and the number of states. Under the terms of the agreement the leaders will now focus on four major areas including power-sharing, safety, reconciliation between communities and reconstruction of the war torn country.
The deal is a big step for South Sudan owing to the fact that the country has been embroiled in an upheaval since 2013-two years after gaining independence from Sudan. An estimated 400,000 people have since been killed and a further four million have fled to neighbouring countries triggering one of the largest refugee crisis in world.
Countless ceasefires have been signed including one that saw Riek Machar become the country’s Vice president in 2016. However, months later, the deal fell apart. Tensions ensued between the leaders forcing Machar to fly to Juba and plan uprising against Kiir. Violence spread like wildfire to Upper Nile, Unity States and Jonglei resulting in more human rights abuses.
On January this year the Roman based Catholic Movement Saint Egidio brokered another peace treaty between the opposition and the Government. In the declaration, the warring parties promised to enact the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement signed on December 2017 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia putting an end to all hostile military actions, vandalization of public property and full compliance to humanitarian and international law. Kiir hopes Pope Francis will soon pay them a visit to commemorate the country’s move towards peace and reconciliation.
While welcoming the latest move by the leaders, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres lauded the parties for the significant achievement in the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement. He called upon R-TGoNU members to “fully adhere to the letter and spirit of the Agreement”, so that the people of South Sudan can finally realize the benefits of durable peace and stability.
“The United Nations stands ready, in close coordination with the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development and the African Union, to assist the parties in implementing the Agreement”, read the statement released on the UN website.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) praised the country on the establishment of the government, however the regional trade block noted divisions and tensions in some political parties may hinder the implementation of transitional duties.
“… It is high time that these parties now overcome their internal differences and wrangles for the sake of peace. The people of South Sudan deserve to see harmony within the parties. It is not possible for a party that is not in peace within itself to be at peace with others. The parties should turn a new page as South Sudan ushers in the transitional period,” IGAD said in a statement on Saturday. Additionally the Horn of Africa organisation pledged continued support for the country and urged leaders and the people of South Sudan to uphold the peace agreement.
“In this regard, the R-TGoNU (unity government) has the responsibility to ensure that a conducive and favourable environment for free and active participation of civil society is created. The R-TGoNU and civil society should also work closely for women and the youth to be capacitated and empowered, and particularly that the 35 per cent quota for women stipulated in the R-ARCSS is observed and respected,” the statement added.
The Governments of Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States commended the people of South Sudan and their leaders saying, “We welcome the fact that the government and opposition parties have made the necessary compromises to allow this important step. For the transitional period to be a success, a spirit of continuous collaboration, supported by the active, engaged, and free voices of citizens and civil society, must continue. Nearly nine years since South Sudan’s independence, this is an opportunity for the political leadership to take their country forward towards prosperity and peace by making meaningful progress on security sector arrangements, the reform agenda, transitional justice and accountability, and preparations for credible and safe elections.”