Disagreement over deployment of rebel forces could see renewed fighting, leader says
By Parach Mach, Anadolu Agency
JUBA, South Sudan
A week after South Sudan formed a transitional government in a move to end the country’s two-year civil war, cracks are already starting to appear in the fragile peace.
A failure to agree on the disposition of rebel troops in Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal regions has prompted warnings of a collapse of the peace deal cemented by the return of rebel leader Riek Machar to the capital Juba last week.
Ramadan Hassan Lako, a senior member of Machar’s faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, said the government’s refusal to recognize rebel forces in Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal threatened August’s peace agreement.
“Peace may collapse on this issue if the government continues to deny the presence of our forces in Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal,” he told Anadolu Agency on Thursday.
“The government rejection will mean the continuation of the war.”
Laku accused government troops loyal to President Salva Kiir of recent violations of the cease-fire.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth warned that any troops involved in continued fighting would be considered bandits.
“The government position is that these people are not included in the agreement,” he told Anadolu Agency.
According to Jok Madut Jok, co-founder of the Sudd Institute, numerous rebel groups across the country have pledged to continue fighting the government.
“The [peace] agreement calls for the cantonment of hundreds of thousands of fighting men and women, from which the national army will be formed over the next three years,” he said.
“How will the government pay, house, feed, train and equip all these fighters? To commit to paying them means giving all the country’s available resources to this task and nothing else. Failure to do so will risk further rebellion. So, which way is the transitional government likely to take? And with little change of strategy, history is bound to repeat itself.”
Edmund Yakani, executive director of the Community Empowerment for Progress Organization, said political instability would trigger insecurity and violence.
“The instability that is observed in some parts of Equatoria is the result of the misbehavior of the government military to the citizens,” he said. “The key misbehaviors are looting of civilians’ food and property and the killing of civilians.”
He called on both sides in the transitional government to fully commit to implementing the peace deal.
South Sudan’s civil war was sparked in December 2013 when Kiir accused his deputy Machar of plotting a coup. The conflict saw hundreds of thousands killed and more than 3 million displaced.