August 26, 2015
With growing regional and international pressure, President Salva Kiir put aside his reservations on Wednesday afternoon and signed a peace deal to end 20 months of fighting in South Sudan.
President Kiir had refused to sign the deal on the August 17, the deadline earlier handed down by regional leaders and United States President Barack Obama during his visit to the region in July, citing concerns about the terms of the deal.
Mr Kiir retained those reservations, including the demilitarisation of the capital, Juba, to the end but the threat of a UN Security Council resolution and sanctions finally forced his hand.
“President Kiir and his side had and still have serious reservations about the terms of the agreement but after Riek Machar signed he couldn’t refuse to sign without becoming isolated,” a regional diplomat familiar with the matter said, speaking on the telephone from Juba.
Former vice president Machar, who heads the breakaway faction of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Army, signed the deal in Addis Ababa earlier this month and is set to return to his old position in a power-sharing government.
Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Prime Minister Desalegn Hailemariam of Ethiopia were on hand in Juba to oversee the signing after more than a year of a regional initiative under the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development to end the fighting.
Despite the signing of the deal, concerns remain over its implementation. In a statement, the Enough Project, a pressure group, noted: …”the challenges of implementing the agreement far exceed the challenges of negotiating one. Both sides contain hardline factions and interests that openly oppose the signing of the compromise agreement and continue to benefit financially from the misery of the South Sudanese people”.
They added: “Provisions for economic transparency and accountability contained in the agreement directly threaten the kleptocratic system of governance, the entrenched patronage networks, and the opaque business transactions that have provided the warring parties with the funds necessary to sustain the war effort on the ground.”
The agreement calls for a permanent ceasefire and while ending the fighting will be the top priority, the new government also faces an economic and a humanitarian crisis.