Obstacles and pending issues of the South Sudan peace agreement

The leader of the armed opposition Riek Machar swore today as the first vice president of South Sudan, on the day the deadline set in the framework of the peace agreement of September 2018 expires, which had been extended twice in May and November from last year due to discrepancies.

The oath of Machar and the beginning of a Government of national unity is a fundamental leap to comply with the peace agreement, but there are still differences between President Salva Kiir and the main faction of the armed opposition.


After the independence of Sudan in 2011, South Sudan maintained the number of states established by the regime of the ousted president Omar Al Bashir, who had assigned 10 demarcations to the southern part, but Kiir in 2015 decided to increase them to 32.

The opposition had claimed that there are 10 states as agreed and last week Kiir decided to reduce the number of states to that figure, but the number of administrative areas remained in the air.

Kiir added to those ten regions three administrative areas (Abyei, Pibor and Ruweng), displeasing the movement led by Machar, who considered that this step detracts from the return to the original ten states and opens a new “Pandora’s box” in the country.

Behind the differences in the administrative distribution of the country is the management of taxes and royalties derived from the country’s oil production.


The point of the peace agreement that has proved most difficult to carry out is the formation and training of a 180,000-strong national army, made up of both soldiers loyal to the Government and rebels.

The lack of funding has been one of the main obstacles to the creation of that Army, in addition to the difficulties on the ground.

The floods that the country suffered between June and October 2019 made it difficult for supplies to arrive at the troops’ training camps, according to the Government.

Subsequently, the authorities announced that they would provide $ 40 million of a total of 100 to train the uniformed and in November the opposition and government representatives agreed to train 3,000 troops on each side who would be responsible for the protection of the members of the new Government.

Sudan, which sponsored the 2018 peace negotiations, also donated medical supplies and tents for the soldiers’ training camps.

Despite the preparations to secure the new cabinet, it is difficult to imagine the military loyal to Kiir and the men of Machar, who have faced a bloody war between 2013 and 2018, cooperate and fight on the same side.


The two parties to the conflict reached an agreement in 2015, but that first attempt to end the war collapsed in 2016, when new fighting broke out in the capital Yuba and Machar had to flee the country to the Democratic Republic of the Congo overland to save his life, according to the version of the rebel leader himself.

From Congo, he was taken to Sudan to receive medical treatment and subsequently went to South Africa, where he was placed under house arrest by decision of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development in East Africa (IGAD), which mediates the conflict.

Since the 2018 peace talks, Machar is in Khartoum, where he also has no freedom of movement and when he travels he needs a permit and in general he does so accompanied by a military from the countries involved in mediation.

With his oath today Machar regains his freedom after more than three years and will return to govern with Kiir, in the same position he had before the start of the conflict.

In late 2013, the president accused his vice president of orchestrating a coup against him, which triggered a war between the Dinka, a tribe to which Kiir belongs, and the Nuer, ethnic group from which Machar comes.


The 2018 peace agreement stipulated a transitional period of eight months, during which a ceasefire was to be applied throughout the country and the formation of the National Army began.

After that period, which has extended from May 2019 to the present, a Government of national unity should be formed to take the reins of the country for 36 months, with Kiir in the lead and Machar as vice president.

According to the pact, the opposition will occupy nine portfolios of a total of 35 in the Executive, in addition to 128 seats out of a total of 550 in Parliament, while the current Government corresponds to 332 seats and the rest, 90, will be assigned to the four other opposition factions that signed the peace agreement.

Atem Simón Mabior


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