South Sudanese President Salva Kiir (R) is seen with South Sudan's exiled rebel leader Riek Machar in Juba, capital of South Sudan, Sept. 9, 2019. Riek Machar arrived in Juba on Monday for face-to-face talks with President Salva Kiir. President Kiir and Machar are expected to discuss and reevaluate progress and challenges facing the revitalized peace deal they signed in September 2018 in Ethiopia to end more than five years of conflict. (Xinhua Denis Elamu)
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir (R) is seen with South Sudan's exiled rebel leader Riek Machar in Juba, capital of South Sudan, Sept. 9, 2019. Riek Machar arrived in Juba on Monday for face-to-face talks with President Salva Kiir. President Kiir and Machar are expected to discuss and reevaluate progress and challenges facing the revitalized peace deal they signed in September 2018 in Ethiopia to end more than five years of conflict. (Xinhua Denis Elamu)

South Sudanese experts on Monday urged President Salva Kiir and his newly appointed first vice president Riek Machar to rebuild lost trust and confidence during the three-year transition period.

Kiir last week reappointed Machar, leader of the main-opposition group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In-Opposition (SPLM-IO) who had been fighting Kiir’s government since the outbreak of conflict in December 2013. The two leaders are currently locked in a discussion on ministerial appointments within the transitional unity government after Kiir also reappointed two deputy presidents including Taban Deng Gai, James Wani Igga, and two other newcomers Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior and Hussein Abdelbagi Akol.

Jacob Chol, professor of politics at University of Juba told Xinhua that the reappointment of Machar after he fled Juba during renewed violence in July 2016 augurs well for peace in the country.”What we should look at now is that the two leaders should build confidence in one another to be able to ensure that they run through the three years of the transitional period. It means, that business should not be as usual as in (July) 2016, it should change in terms of ensuring that the leaders do not allow any hardliners in between,” said Chol in Juba. “They should always build consensus on whatever they talk about, they should build a relationship that is cordial and friendly,” he added.

The expert noted that the decision of the former warring parties to recently compromise on the issue of the number of the states, has helped push them forward to resolve pending issues within the 2018 revitalized peace agreement. “The issue of skepticism about power struggle between the two leaders has been there, but South Sudanese have learned a hard lesson, that if we don’t implement this peace agreement or if the leaders don’t implement this agreement on time, that cannot be very good for the country and for them,” added Chol. Chol added that when South Sudanese got their independence in 2011, the challenge faced by post-independence leadership was that they concentrated on state-building and forgot nation-building, which has been the major cause of the 2013 crisis.”The nation are the communities, tribal groups, so when these tribal communities were not built through reconciliation, and empowerment, these nations when conflict began at the level of the leaders especially on their disagreement, these nations got themselves involved into trying to support their own leaders because they themselves were not empowered,” said Chol. “The United Nations came in with a concept of building South Sudanese people as a state, and later on they came and said they wanted to build a state and they forgot the people. They realized that the state itself cannot be engineered without people being engineered,” he added.

Augustino Ting Mayai, political analyst at the Juba-based Sudd Institute, revealed that the power struggle between the two leaders in 2013 sparked the political crisis in South Sudan. He added that Kiir and Machar should rebuild lost trust, and confidence to help restore peace in South Sudan. “If the parties to the conflict who have now agreed to end and do the right thing, there should be no return to renewed violence of July 2016. What we should be asking now is on whether the two leaders have enough trust between themselves to be able to deliver,” said Mayai. “If the principals are genuine in their commitment to peace, they should be able to rebuild their relationship, rebuild trust and confidence in one another, and if that is realized we should be able to see sustainable peace in the country, but again it’s a big question whether or not that can happen?” he added.

James Okuk, lecturer of political science at the University of Juba, said the two leaders have decided to avoid going back to war and further sanctions by forming the government. “The first thing they are saving their faces, and they are saving their necks from the wrath of the international community who are very angry with them. So, they are trying to cool down the international community first not the citizens of South Sudan,” said Okuk. “After cooling the international community, they are going back to their politics again, meaning each one will be working for their interests. That means, there will not be total harmony between them, there could be quarrels here and there between them,” he added.

Okuk said Kiir and Machar have already violated the 2018 agreement, by failing to appoint cabinet on time. “They have started the unity government with a violation of the agreement. For Kiir, to appoint one minister alone without a consensus of the others is a violation of the agreement. For Machar, to accept to take the oath of office without the security arrangement in place, particularly the necessary unified forces he is violating Chapter 2 of the agreement,” added Okuk. “They have met the deadline by forming the government, but the deadline is not the solution. There are a lot of overwhelming issues, that are pending to be resolved which means the citizen is still anxious about whether things will be smooth or again they could be some kind of clashes here and there,” he added.

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