Machar Arrives In Juba As Row Over Number Of States Deepens

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South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar arrived in Juba Tuesday for continued deliberations on issues that have led to the postponement of the formation of a joint government.

Mistrust and the quest for political power among parties to the 2018 revitalized peace agreement is embedded in the contest over security arrangement and the number of states.

On the number of states, contention centers around the fragmentation of the initial 10 states in to 32 as Kiir allegedly sought to strengthen his power grip during the civil war by creating dismal centers of power which he dished among his allies.

Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army  in opposition (SPLA-IO) has accused the government of planing to conduct nationwide demonstrations against proposed plans to reunite the states which according to the group were established illegally by president Kiir in in clear violation to the constitution.

“We consider this move as a clear undermining of the revitalized peace agreement and a confirmation of the statements of the presidential press secretary in which he said that Salva Kiir would not back down from 32 states,” Manawa Peter Gatkuoth SPLM-IO spokesperson.

“The SPLM-IO considers this move as a desperate attempt to circumvent the decision of the Independent Boundaries Commission, which indicated that the majority supports returning to the 10 states because it faces a problem in the demarcation of borders between these states and districts,” Manawa added.

Delays in the implementation of the peace deal has pitted the government of President Kiir with donors and the international community. The United State, the country’s top benefactor has since started to sanction top officials it believes are frustrating negotiations with rebel groups.

U.S. has backed Kiir’s government since independence in 2011 despite reports of human rights violations against political dissidents. However, State department announced in November that it was reviewing its relationship with Africa’s youngest nation.

Washington’s State Department imposed sanctions on South Sudan’s first vice president Taban Deng Gai, after adding two government ministers to its blacklist in December, accusing them of perpetuating the conflict.

“The people of South Sudan have suffered enough while their leaders delay the implementation of a sustainable peace,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Whereas warring parties are still tussling out on the issue of states, progress has been reported on the issue of security arrangements, especially the integration of rebel forces into the national army. Camps have started to move forces into training camps in preparation for the joint government.

The process of gathering fighters into military camps with a view to forming an 83,000-strong unified army is a cornerstone of a September 2018 peace deal which has stalled over numerous setbacks

Security officials say they are giving training priority to VIP protection unit, which will guard top officials after the new government is formed in October.

South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, descended into civil war in 2013, when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy and fellow former rebel leader Riek Machar of plotting a coup. About 380,000 people have died in the conflict and some four million have fled their homes.

The revitalized peace agreement has helped to maintain a ceasefire in most areas around the country, but fighting has been reported between government and other rebel outfits that rejected the agreement.

The holdout rebels under their umbrella organization South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOMA) also signed a ceasefire with the government, following negotiations in Rome last week.