In a major breakthrough, the president and his deputy sealed a deal to unify command of the security forces, a deal that is easing political tensions in the East African country.
In what has been hailed as a major breakthrough, rival South Sudanese leaders sealed a deal on a key military provision in a stammering peace deal and vowed to silence their guns.
President Salva Kiir and his rival, Vice-President Riek Machar, agreed on Sunday on the creation of a unified command of the armed forces, one of the many deadlocked issues blocking the implementation of the peace pact. 2018 to end the country’s bloody five-year civil war.
Feuds between forces loyal to Kiir and former rebel leader Machar have recently escalated, raising fears of a return to full-blown conflict in the world’s youngest nation.
“Peace is a matter of security and today we have (reached) an important milestone,” said Martin Abucha, who signed the agreement on behalf of Machar’s opposition, the SPLM/A-IO. “The guns must go down.”
Presidential Affairs Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin hailed the agreement – reached following mediation by neighboring Sudan – as a “necessary step…that paves the way for a stable government of the Republic of Sudan from South”.
The rivals also agreed to a cessation of hostilities, a halt to ‘propaganda’ that stokes tensions, and called on both sides to stop trying to encourage defections from the other side, according to the Machar’s spokesperson, Puok Both Baluang.
Nevertheless, people in the beleaguered country will watch with caution if the agreements are implemented, as other agreements have collapsed in the past, often leading to violence.
Both Kiir and Machar were at the ceremony in the capital Juba for the signing of the agreement, which stipulates a 60-40 split in favor of the presidential side of senior positions in the army, police and national security forces. .
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According to the agreement, appointments should be made within a week, with the graduation of unified forces within two months.
Years of instability
Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, the number two in the ruling council after the Sudanese coup, arrived in Juba on Friday in a bid to break the deadlock over security arrangements.
Sudan, the guarantor of the 2018 deal, crafted the proposal after Kiir issued a presidential decree on March 25 on the formation of the military command structure, an act dismissed by Machar as “unilateral”.
Landlocked South Sudan, one of the poorest countries on the planet despite large oil reserves, has suffered from chronic instability since its independence from Sudan in 2011, spending nearly half its life as a as a nation at war.
He has struggled to draw a line under the 2013-2018 conflict that erupted after Kiir accused Machar of an attempted coup. Nearly 400,000 people have lost their lives and millions more have been displaced by the fighting.
Although the two men formed a unity government more than two years ago, South Sudan has continued to swing from crisis to crisis, battling floods, hunger, inter-ethnic violence and political infighting.
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The fragile peace process came under pressure last month when Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) withdrew from a watchdog body to protest attacks” unprovoked” against his bases.
Machar’s spokesman told AFP news agency that the party had now agreed to return to the mechanism.