Machar, Kiir must not obstruct Juba peace process
As the clock ticks ominously towards the November 12 deadline for the formation of a unity government in South Sudan, a dark cloud is gathering over the process.
Rebel leader Dr Riek Machar, One of the two protagonists in the country, has said he will not be a party to the formation of the unity government because he is not satisfied that enough has been done to meet the conditions agreed upon. This stand is unfortunate.
This is the second attempt at forging a government of national unity to address the political crisis that has bedevilled South Sudan.
It will be recalled that fighting broke out between the forces of these two men in December 2013, when President Salva Kiir accused then Vice President Machar of planning a coup.
The first peace agreement was signed in August 2015, culminating in the return of Machar to Juba in August 2016, when he was appointed VP.
The deal collapsed barely a year later when fighting between troops loyal to the two leaders again engaged in fierce battles.
Machar fled to DR Congo, and later to South Africa, where he has been living under house arrest.
If Machar makes good his threat to abandon the peace process, this is the second time attempts to forge lasting peace in South Sudan will have collapsed, bringing more foreboding for the long-suffering people of South Sudan. As the two bicker and joust, the humanitarian crisis in the country worsens.
Why won’t these two old warhorses put aside their hostile stances and animosity towards each other to give South Sudan the much-needed peace?
Machar must stop prolonging the agony of the country and take his place at the table where the challenges facing the peace process are being prosecuted. Staying away solves nothing.
In fact, it will roll back all the gains he has achieved since they signed the current peace agreement last year.
His continued mind games of now-on-now-off showing up in Juba might be good for his ego, but it is taking a terrible toll on Sudan people, and keeping its neighbours in a state of perpetual anxiety.
This is not to say that Machar does not have genuine concerns, especially about his personal safety.
But he needs to demonstrate more commitment to the whole process by taking the same leap of faith he took when he began a civil war as a rebel leader in the hope of ousting Kiir from leadership.
In this respect, the key underwriters of the peace process in South Sudan have three key roles.
The first is protecting Machar, and ensuring his personal safety before and after the formation of the unity government.
This is cardinal to the peace process. There are hotheads in President’s Kiir’s government who might be tempted to “end this.”
The second major role is the compulsion of the two leaders to stick to the peace agreement and see it through.
They need to compel Machar to demonstrate commitment and refuse to accept his self-serving game. Too much is at stake. Ethiopia is in pole position to ratchet up to such pressure.
The arbiters also need to compel Kiir to honour the peace process. All the conditions he is required to meet the call for him to demonstrate political will, something he has employed very grudgingly.
He needs a strong dose of political pressure from countries such as the US and Kenya.
Thirdly, funding is critical. The key financiers of the peace process must ensure that lack of financing is not the excuse, or reason, that Kiir fails to live up to his obligations under the peace process.
Both Kiir and Machar have, through their obstinacy and egos, subjected South Sudan to untold suffering, largely because they and their families continue to live in luxury and with maximum security within and outside the country.
The two must be given an ultimatum with well-defined sanctions on them and their henchmen. The US has already taken a stand on the matter and declared that formation of a unity government on November 12 date is not an option.
They have warned of dire consequences for whomever they will adjudge as responsible should the peace process collapse. They must follow that threat through. —[email protected]