Juba: We will not accept govt not led by Kiir

The proposed formation of a transitional government of national unity in South Sudan faces major hurdles as the government insists that it will not accept a regime that is not led by President Salva Kiir.

Government officials who visited Nairobi on Thursday also warned countries in the region that should they play along with what Juba sees as attempts by the Western countries to push President Kiir aside before his term ends in April 2015, then it will be difficult to tell which president in the region will be next in line.

The Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Michael Makuei, who is also the government spokesperson and the deputy head of the government negotiating team in Addis Ababa, argued that his government was yet to understand the meaning of the interim government, and wondered whether it meant the return of the rebels and the ministers who were sacked in July last year.

READ: South Sudan sides go for interim govt in new talks

“There is a campaign to leave out both President Kiir and Dr Machar in the transitional government. Suggestions that President Kiir stays out are out of the question and any form of government must be under him. Even if some people say that he mismanaged the affairs of South Sudan, he was democratically elected. Is this the way to remove a democratically elected government?” asked Mr Makuei, who warned that if President Kiir goes out, it will not be the end of the game.

The minister’s sentiments are in line with claims by President Kiir soon after the ceasefire agreement signed in Addis Ababa on May 9, that he and Dr Machar were coerced by Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to either sign the deal or be arrested. Dr Machar, however, denied that he was coerced to sign.

READ: We signed peace deal under duress, Kiir claims

The roadmap to the proposed transitional government of national unity is still unclear as it is left for the negotiators in Addis Ababa comprising the Government of South Sudan and the rebels to come up with its size, composition and lifespan.

The transitional government of national unity will be tasked to oversee government functions during the transitional period implement critical reforms as negotiated through the peace process oversee a permanent constitutional process and guide the country to new elections. The terms of the transitional government will be negotiated through the Igad-led peace process.

However, the other problem is that Juba is not comfortable with the proposal by the Igad and the Troika countries — the US, UK and Norway—that all negotiations take place in Addis Ababa.

Juba proposal

Juba had proposed that the international community allow the two groups to negotiate a ceasefire and security arrangements and then the second phase for an all-inclusive negotiations involving all stakeholders be moved to Juba because of the expenses involved.

Mr Makuei made it clear that Juba feels that the decision to hold all negotiations in Addis was forced on the government against its will, but maintained that South Sudan government will fully take part in the negotiations for a transitional government.

“We told them that all-inclusive negotiations will involve around 2,000 people and now that Igad has insisted that the venue remains Ethiopia, let them now transport them and maintain them for as long as the negotiations will take,” he said.

Sources within Igad said that the regional body has no finances to maintain such a large group and will be going for selected representative of political parties, civil society and religious groups.

The other headache is how to finance the deployment of the Igad Rapid Protection Force that is supposed to protect the Monitoring and Verification personnel who will be observing and recording who is violating the ceasefire agreement.

The force will comprise troops from Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Rwanda and Burundi. Rwanda and Burundi are not members of Igad but are coming in as a form of solidarity with the region.

Both President Kiir and Dr Machar had committed to unconditionally co-operate with the full operationalisation of the Igad Monitoring and Verification Mechanism team as well as to facilitate unhindered humanitarian access to all populations affected by the conflict.

SOURCE: The East African