WASHINGTON / JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN - South Sudan's main rebel group is calling on President Salva Kiir to provide funds to implement last year's peace agreement and is demanding that Sudan and Uganda apply pressure on Kiir to cough up the money.
The government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) signed the deal to end South Sudan's civil war on Sept. 12 in Addis Ababa.
The deputy chairman of the SPLM-IO, Henry Odwar, said the parties are far behind schedule in carrying out key parts of the agreement, such as integrating rebel forces into the national army.
He accused Kiir of not providing money for committees tasked with implementing the deal.
"We all banked [our hopes] that, you know, the money will come from our oil, and we produce oil — over 120,000 barrels per day. We find it very difficult [to believe] the government when they say they don't have money,'' Odwar said Wednesday on VOA's South Sudan in Focus.
Kiir has said his government does not have enough money to implement the peace deal.
Kiir, Pope to meet
On Friday, Kiir was headed to Vatican City for a meeting with Pope Francis. Kiir's spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, said the president would brief the pope on the status of the peace deal. He said the Kiir administration hoped the pope would publicly encourage more international donors to support implementation of the peace agreement.
Ateny said Pope Francis had previously appealed to South Sudan's warring parties to end to the conflict and was keenly aware of the efforts to make peace a reality in the country.
"This is a very crucial opportunity," he said. " ... [I]t will avail the president the opportunity to talk to the pope and seek the pope's influence on this, to influence donors to support, because there is not any other way South Sudan would return to normalcy without the implementation of the agreement we have." ?
?Think tank doubts
A report released this week by the International Crisis Group expressed doubt that the former warring parties would meet a May 12 deadline for creating a government of national unity.
"The accord, brokered by Sudan's Omar al-Bashir and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, is not a finished product and requires revision, a reality that mediators are not yet ready to admit. Additional political deals are necessary on two crucial matters — unifying a national army and resolving bitter disagreements over local boundaries and administration inside South Sudan,'' the report said.
Uganda and Sudan signed as the guarantors of the peace agreement, and Odwar said the two countries should honor their pledges to monitor the deal.
"Now that we are pointing fingers at the government for not coming up with the funds, we would like Sudan, Uganda [and] the neighboring countries of the [regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development bloc] to bring pressure to bear on Salva Kiir so that he can bring money for implementing this peace," Odwar said.
Odwar, who is also the deputy chairman of the National Pre-Transitional Committee (NPTC), a body tasked with overseeing and coordinating the peace process, accused the government of spending money wastefully.
?South Sudan in Focus obtained copies of letters written in October and signed by Tut Gatluak Manime, NPTC chairman of a presidential adviser on security, authorizing the NPTC secretary to prepare contracts for $94.5 million to purchase 1,000 Toyota V-8 vehicles and another $42.5 million to buy of 50,000 tons of sorghum.
Last year, the NPTC also requested the governor of the Bank of South Sudan to release an estimated 9 million South Sudanese pounds to renovate a home that belonged to the late South Sudanese liberation hero John Garang.
Odwar said he saw the letter and discussed it with Kiir, who promised to investigate.
"I asked Tut, I said this is [not] going to be good for your name, neither is it going to be good for South Sudan because people will look at it that we are squandering money that would have put in good use," he said.
Odwar said the request to the bank governor was canceled but the money was allocated anyway.
VOA made several attempts to speak with Manime for comment, but was told he was in Egypt on an official tour.
The deputy rebel chief said his group was participating in the peace deal to bring change to South Sudan.
'This government, the status quo, continues and that is why we want this peace. We want the participation of the opposition to make sure that we check on the government,'' Odwar said.
Winnie Cirino contributed to this report.