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Missed deadlines derailing South Sudan’s peace process-Analyst

By Onen Walter Solomon

A political analyst describes as “worrisome” the last intra-fighting within the opposition forces led by South Sudan’s first Vice President, Riek Machar in Magenis in Upper Nile State.

Logo Martin Leonard who heads the department of Political Science, School of Social Science at the University of Juba said the division with the army is due to missed timeline fixed for the implementation of the peace agreement that the parties signed on 12th September 2018.

Early this month, a group of army Generals from Riek Machar’s camp met in Kit-Gwang in Upper Nile State and declared that they had removed Riek Machar and replaced him by his former army chief, General Simon Gatwech.

Days later, fighting broke out in Magenis where the generals made their declaration killing more than thirty troops.

The generals who made the Kit-Gwang declaration accuse Machar of deserting them since he returned to Juba and became the country’s first Vice President.

“The former chairman had himself disconnected with military on the ground. So our forces were starving in all cantonment sites,” William Gatjiang Deng, spokesperson for SPLM/A-IO (opposition) Kit-Gwang faction said via telephone.

“We had nowhere to report all the challenges that we wete facing. When we tried to report to the former chairman Dr. Riek, he turned a deaf ear to all issues.”

Puok Both Baluang, director of information and acting press secretary of Vice President Machar said the leadership has acknowledged the appalling conditions of the forces in the cantonment sites. Baluang said Machar mentioned that he would visit all the SPLA-IO (opposition) forces after the unified forces had graduated. 

“Dr. Machar is in contact with all forces and all sectors of the SPLM/SPLA-(IO), and they are well aware about the nature of the situation in our country, and they are in agreement with the leadership regarding what the leadership has decided to do,” Baluang told Juba Echo.

The fracas within the forces prompted IGAD Special Envoy Ismail Wais and Executive Secretary Workneh Gebeyehu to rush to South Sudan’s capital, Juba to try and resolve the problem.

Their visit came a day after the regional body convened an online 73rd extraordinary Coumcil of ministers meeting of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on the situation in South Sudan.

Martin says he is glad that the IGAD Executive Secretary rushed to Juba to try and fix the problem. He said the fighting in Upper Nile is because the parties to the peace deal didn’t honor the agreement’s implementation timelines, the East African Regional body IGAD and the international community have been soft on the parties’ failures to adhere to the schedule.

“If the timeline had been adhered to, I don’t think this would be happening, and if sincerely they want to fix this problem, then this should be a lesson,” Martin told Juba Echo.

Martin warns that if IGAD does not press the peace parties to implement the agreement as scheduled then there could be more divisions and more violence in the country.

“First of all them (IGAD) being one of the main guarantors, they must be seen to be doing something – they should not just come because the world expects them to come,” he said.

IGAD is calling on Riek Machar’s groups to immediately and unconditionally cease armed confrontation and refrain from any offensive, provocative or retaliatory utterances, behaviors and other actions that will escalate tensions and hostilities.

To iron out the problem, Martin says IGAD officials should bring all conflicting parties together to discuss the issues creating the division. IGAD officials had planned to go to Upper Nile where the fighting broke out.

“Going to Magenis is a problem half-solved. The real way out is to bring both parties to sit down and iron out their issues – because at this stage we don’t need a divided opposition, neither do we want a divided government, we want all these parties to the agreement solid, so that they can go ahead with the implementation of the agreement.” Said Martin.

The IGAD Council of Ministers in its Communiqué requested the South Sudan’s ceasefire monitoring body known as CTSAMVM to investigate these developments and establish the facts on the ground and report back to the Council within several (7) days.

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