The appointment of Riek Machar as South Sudan’s first vice president demonstrates President Salva Kiir’s commitment to the full implementation of the peace accord signed in Ethiopia on ending the young country’s conflict, according to foreign minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin.
In a press release Friday, Kiir asked Machar to report to Juba next week Friday to be sworn in as part of the process to form a unity transitional government as required in the peace accord.
However it appears Machar and his team are unlikely to meet Kiir’s demands to return to the capital, Juba.
The Sudan Tribune newspaper quoted James Gatdet Dak, a spokesman for Machar, as saying that without the implementation of the security arrangement in the peace agreement that includes the demilitarization of Juba, Machar will not return as demanded by Kiir.
“This is the reason we said the appointment of the first vice president was rushed and did not follow the sequence of the implementation of the peace agreement. Although it is in line with the provisions of the power sharing agreement, it is a redundant action because the first vice president will not take oath of office until he arrives in Juba,” said Dak.
“We will not accept this. Dr. Machar will not return to Juba until the capital is demilitarized and our forces are deployed. This is what the peace agreement says. It is for rebuilding trust as well as for protection and deterrence. Somebody has to understand that this is very important.”
But Foreign Minister Benjamin says it was wrong for Machar and his team to claim that his appointment as first vice president was rushed.
“Really it was not a sudden appointment according to the agreement on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan. We are at the implementation stage of this agreement and President Salva Kiir had implemented a lot of areas within the agreement and one of those areas was in fact to appoint Dr. Riek Machar because according to the agreement he is the first vice president designate,” said Benjamin.
“This is a message to the rest of the community, the rest of the world that President Salva is committed to implementation of the peace itself.”
Benjamin says there is a need for the first vice president to take up the post he was appointed to, and return to Juba to be sworn in as part of a unity transitional government in an effort to push the country forward by restoring peace in the implementation of the peace accord. He says the process could be expedited if Machar and his team will send troops to be trained as stipulated in the peace accord.
“As far as the demilitarization of Juba is concerned in fact the government has been waiting for the SPLM/IO [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – In Opposition] and Dr. Riek Machar to send in about 1,500 to be recruited into the joint integrated police with the government police and also his personal 350 who are supposed to be his personal bodyguards are expected to be in Juba,” said Benjamin.
“The fact that those things are not in place, then the delays are from Dr. Riek Machar. After all now, he is the first vice president of the republic. He can come and oversee those things and become a part of its implementation. Because the implementation process is not by President Salva all alone, he should also be in the country so that they can work together in order to implement it together because this is peace management by the way.”