Tensions are on the rise in South Sudan as the country seeks a way to form a unity government in Juba by 12th November 2019. Delayed from 12th May, South Sudan’s government, led by President Salva Kiir, is looking to form a new Transitional Government of National Unity in order to comply with the terms of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ACRSS) signed on 12th September 2018.
Opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar said on a visit to the South Sudanese capital that he will not join the unity government because a dispute on security arrangements and number of states and their boundaries should be resolved first. The latter point refers to the decision by the government in 2015 to expand the number of states from 10 to 32.
South Sudan’s opposition leader warned that the country could return to civil war if a coalition government is formed by the new deadline and he asked for another 3-month delay.
Machar made an impassioned plea to a visiting United Nations Security Council delegation that met with him and President Salva Kiir to urge speedier progress in pulling the country out of a five-year civil war that killed almost 400,000 people.
The previous attempt at Kiir and Machar sharing power ended in renewed fighting and Machar fleeing the country on foot in 2016. The issues being discussed now are the same ones that led to that earlier failure, the opposition leader said.
Church leaders across the continent have urged both sides to come together to implement the 2018 agreement. Nigerian Roman Catholic Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyaken has joined African religious leaders to demand quick implementation of the agreement. Cardinal Onaiyaken is co-chair of the African Council of Religious Leaders.
Members of the Council said while the pact has reduced violence in the country, they were concerned about a humanitarian crisis that has resulted in the deaths of thousands and which continues to leave millions of men, women and children in urgent need of food and shelter.
“We are further troubled by the increasing criminal acts, human rights violations and political intolerance in several locations in South Sudan,” said the council statement, released at a news conference in Nairobi in September.
The council said the South Sudanese humanitarian crisis can be resolved only if political leaders embrace true peace and love their people and the nation.
“South Sudanese leaders have a moral obligation to their citizens to end the violence and ensure continued progress toward peace, stability and justice,” said the council. “The failure to implement the agreement risks the country collapsing back into war and destruction and exacerbates the misery and hopelessness of the millions of South Sudanese forced to flee their homes because of war, including the almost 3 million refugees living in neighbouring countries,” the religious leaders said.