South Sudan Fate in Salva Kiir, Riek Machar's Hands

South Sudan President Salva Kiir, right, shakes hands with opposition leader Riek Machar during a meeting at State House Entebbe, Uganda on November 7, 2019.
6 November 2019

The November 12 deadline for the formation of South Sudan's transitional government of national unity is less than a week away.

Unfortunately, all indications are that the long-awaited dream will not be realised, at least in the desired form.

Former vice-president-turned-top rebel faction leader Riek Machar is adamant that more time is needed to resolve some fundamental issues.

Of particular concern to him is the security arrangements in the context of a unified military. President Salva Kiir, on the other hand, is oozing confidence. He is raring to form the transitional government with any 'like-minded' parties.


The grandstanding by the two leaders must, surely, be traumatising to the war-weary South Sudanese. All the external parties to the current peace agreement must also be feeling equally frustrated that the ultimate price remains elusive. But there can be no legitimate government in Juba without Dr Machar.

First, Dr Machar is mentioned by name in the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCiSS) -- unlike in its 2015 precursor, where the term used was "SPLM-IO Chairman".


The latter document created a loophole, which President Kiir exploited to replace his then-nemesis with Mr Taban Deng Gai.

Secondly, the Dr Machar-led SPLM-IO is the main armed opposition signature; it would be unrealistic to envisage a return to stability in the youngest nation without SPLM-IO in government.

The protagonists must realise that the destiny of their country is in their hands. There is a limit to what all the external actors, their financial muscle and global clout can do for the country. They are getting fatigued. President Kiir, in particular, should worry about his legacy. He must be ready to listen and act judiciously.

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