Mistrust continues to threaten South Sudan’s fragile peace deal

By Daily Monitor

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KAMPALA. The agreement to guarantee total peace in South Sudan hangs in balance following tough demands made by rebel leader Riek Machar who has been offered the vice president of the war stricken country.

The Saturday meeting chaired by President Yoweri Museveni at State House Entebbe lasted close to ten hours with fresh demands from the opposition.

The meeting was also attended by Mr Omar el Bashir of Sudan, as well as the rivalling heads of the South Sudan; President Salvar Kiir and Riek Machar.

None of the three Heads of State; Museveni, Kiir and Bashir spoke to the media after the closed-door meeting that started at 12:00pm and ended 9:00pm.

READ: South Sudan: President Kiir offers Dr Machar vice presidency again

However, Mr Machar’s wife, Angelina Teny, told journalists that Mr Kiir’s government has to first show commitment to the peace process by meeting demands presented by the opposition.

“We want them to release all the political prisoners, all war prisoners as the first step for this process,” she said.

Mrs Machar also said that the number of outstanding issues regarding the composition of the presidency, the legislature had been put forward by President Museveni and Bashir but they were not generally accepted.

“They put proposals on table, we have put our side of the argument; we have listened carefully and as opposition, we have decided that we will go and consult further on these matters and come out with a final decision as whether we feel they can be workable or they can be amendable,” she said.

She added that, “we have a feeling that we shall come to some kind of consensus at the end of the day but we are still considering those proposals put forward by the mediating presidents.”

Daily Monitor has established that a number of proposals were generally agreeable to both parties but they were not substantively accepted as the opposition asked for more days to discuss the issues for possible consideration.

The mediating dual had proposed four grounds; including re-instating Mr Machar as First Vice President; increasing the number of positions for both the legislature and executive as well as opening boundaries for more states to participate in the country’s politics.

It was also suggested that a new position for a female Vice President be created and directly handed to the opposition.

Specific proposals included the maintenance of the current 32 states in the meantime, as the Independent Boundaries Commission studies the status quo, and the likely implication of having more states.

The Commission is expected to report in 180 days (three months) from the signing of the agreement.

Meanwhile, the national legislature of 400 will be topped by 150 to be shared by SPLM-IO (100) and the rest of the opposition (50), while the executive currently composed of 30 members will be expanded to 45 members.

The SPLM-IO (Machar’s group) will have 10 ministers and the opposition will have five.

Mr Al-Dierdiry al-Dhikheri, the Sudan Foreign Affairs Minister said that whereas the government had accepted the proposals, Mr Machar and the Opposition asked for time to consider the ideas.

“It should be stressed and emphasised that whereas the government had accepted the proposals presented by President Bashir and Museveni, the SPLM-IO and Opposition said they would discuss the issues in Khartoum [on Sunday] as the negotiations continue,” he said.

The opposition request was granted to have the Entebbe proposals digested before the next meeting in Nairobi slated for July 10, 2018.

The final peace deal is expected this month but it is clearly threatened by the lack of trust from both parties.

The Entebbe meeting occurred in the midst of counter-accusations on spontaneous attacks by the rival factions, which violated the ceasefire agreement reached only two weeks ago.

The rivals have a history of making agreements only to abort a few days later, leaving the world’s youngest country in turmoil.

The five year civil strife erupted in 2013, only two years after independence; with the incumbent, Kiir accusing his then vice president Machar of betrayal and machinations to overthrow his government.

Several lives have been lost and a million others displaced to neighbouring countries, mainly Uganda, DR Congo and Kenya.