On the 22nd of January, the former South Sudan Vice President, Riek Machar and current President Salva Kiir failed to establish a transitional government. The decision for unitary government was finalized during the peace talks in August last year, which ended the two-year civil war between the government and rebel forces. In 2013, the President of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO), Mr Kiir, dismissed his entire cabinet and blamed the former Vice President Machar for instigating a failed coup after his removal. While Mr Machar denied the allegations, there are still disagreements whether the coup actually took place. The political quarrel escalated into ethnic violence between the ethnic groups Dinka and Nuer as Mr Kiir belonged to the former and Mr Machar belonged to the latter. The already war torn country was thrown into a civil war as a result, which forced millions of people to flee their homes. Last week, the UN released a report accusing both President Kiir and Mr Machar’s forces of “hundreds of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, gang-rapes, sexual slavery, forced abortion and massive child soldier recruitments”. Despite its fragile state, many believed that the South Sudan secession from Sudan in 2011 would bring peace to the region, after the longest running civil war in Africa.
A peace deal in August was nevertheless signed between the two parts under immense pressure and threat of UN sanctions. Mr Kiir however expressed “reservations” on the matter. Since the peace deal was established, Mr Machar and President Kiir have accused each other of breaching the terms of the agreement. On the 2nd of October, President Kiir unexpectedly issued a decree that created 28 states. This was a considerable expansion from the previous 10 states. Mr Machar, as the current opposition leader, argued that the expansion would derail the implementation of the peace agreements.
The President’s announcement was surprising since he rejected the proposal to create 21 new federal states during the peace talks in Addis Ababa. The unilateral decision, outside of the unity government agreement, has opened up means for renegotiation as the changes impact the settled representational, administrative and institutional structures that are coherent with the 10 states. Mr Machar has announced that he won’t approve of a new government until President Kiir revokes his plans of state expansion. For many, it is no surprise that the newly independent country has still not yet established a transitional government. The inability of the two rivals to honor the peace agreement has resulted in a standstill of the government transitional development.
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