A New Chapter for South Sudan

Image: Al Jazeera

South Sudan’s opposing parties have established a new coalition government, seeking to bring peace to the country.

Opposition leader, Riek Machar, was sworn in as South Sudan’s first Vice President in Juba last week, after he and President Salva Kiir agreed to move forward with a unity government. The transitional government will lead the country to elections in three years time.

Second Vice President James Wani Igga Taban Deng Gai, a former ally of Machar who switched to the government’s side was also sworn in, together with third Vice President, Rebecca Garang, the widow of John Garang, who led a long fight for independence from Sudan.

President Kiir said that the new agreement was to be seen as an “the official end of the war,” where the peace is never to be disturbed. “This is an official end of the war, and we can now proclaim a new dawn, peace is never to be shaken ever again,” President Kiir noted at the swearing-in ceremony.

The new unity government was successfully formed after President Kiir agreed to reduce the number of states in South Sudan to 10 from the current 32. In return, Machar agreed to give Kiir responsibility for his security, however, there are many challenges that remain to be negotiated between the Kiir and Machar factions.

In 2011, President Kiir was sworn, with Riek Machar as his Deputy. Both leaders were rivals in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which led the push to separate from Sudan. A devastating conflict took place just two years after South Sudan gained independence in 2011 – with President Kiir dismissing Machar and accusing him of planning a coup.

There have been numerous attempts at peace in South Sudan that failed and pressure from international countries led to a peace agreement that was signed in 2018. In the past year, the two opposition leaders have pushed back two deadlines to take crucial steps in forming the coalition government, as stipulated in the agreement.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Awut Deng Acuil, said the new government would facilitate the return of people from neighboring countries. The reconciliation shows that, with mediation efforts from the international community, especially from African countries and organizations, the peace process in South Sudan will continue to make significant progress.