South Sudan rebel leader Riek Machar visits Egypt Wednesday to urge Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to support the implementation of the peace agreement signed last August to end the South Sudan conflict.
Last week, leaders at the African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, expressed disappointment with the rebels and the South Sudan government for the lack of progress in implementing the agreement, particularly the formation of a government of national unity.
The peace agreement has been stalled due to the opposition's rejection of President Salva Kiir’s decision to create 28 states.
Purpose to states' creation
Kiir said one purpose of the new states is to decentralize power, placing resources closer to the rural population while at the same time reducing the size of the national government.
Rebel leaders have said the division of South Sudan into 28 states will bring about more community unrest because it takes away land from one tribal group and gives it to another.
Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, secretary for foreign affairs of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition, said Egypt has had historic relations with South Sudan and Machar will urge Sissi to use those relations to help the peace process.
“Egypt was a former colonial power together with the United Kingdom and now South Sudan as an independent country, many of our leaders were educated in Egypt. So, the role of Egypt is being appreciated by all of us across the aisle. So, they can also influence us to make sure that this agreement is respected by all parties,” Gatkuoth said.
The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), which is tasked with monitoring the implementation of the August peace agreement, has urged both parties to form the transitional government of national unity without further delay. January was the deadline for forming the transitional government.
Former Botswana President Festus Mogae, chairman of the JMEC, told government and opposition officials in Juba Tuesday he is disappointed in the delay, which he said was contributing to the continued suffering of the South Sudanese people.
“This disappointment stems not solely because of a day on the calendar was missed but because the potential, the opportunity, the possibility of a new government is so close, so vital for this country, that it must be taken,” Mogae said.
Gatkuoth said Machar is ready to come to Juba to be sworn in as vice president of South Sudan as soon as the JMEC facilitates the move to Juba of rebel security forces.
He said the rebels and the South Sudan government have agreed to the stipulations in the communique of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) trade bloc, which calls for suspension of the 28 states once a transitional government of national unity has been formed.
But he said if the two parties still fail to agree on the number of states, then a provision in the agreement which is 10 states will prevail.