Wednesday, August 26, South Sudan President Salva Kiir signed a peace accord seeking to end 20 months of internal conflict inside the youngest country in the world. While the move was praised by both regional and world leaders, Kiir said he had “serious reservations” on if the peace accord will bear fruit.
Salva Kiir became the first president of South Sudan soon after it seceded from Sudan back in 2011. Few months after that internal conflict erupted between the government and a rebel group headed by Riek Machar, who was Kiir’s rival for a very long time. The two divisions have been at each other’s neck since December 2013, in a fight that has left thousands dead and 11 million people forced to abandon their homes and seek refuge. The war in South Sudan has been primarily driven by a power struggle between two ethnic groups, the Nuer where Machar comes from, and the dominant Dinka where Kiir comes from.
The prevailing belief is that President Kiir was coerced into signing the peace accord following threats from the United Nations (U.N.) to put sanctions on the already starving country. Shortly after signing the peace agreement, Kiir was quoted saying, “With all those reservations that we have, we will sign this document.”
Kiir complained that he was faced with intimidation during the peace mediation process and that the negotiations were done “carelessly” by both the regional and world leaders. He warned that signing a poor agreement could potentially backfire on the region.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon through his spokesman wrote a statement reading: “Now is the time to ensure that this agreement translates into an end to the violence, hardship and horrific human rights violations witnessed throughout this conflict.”
Leading up to the signing of the accord, were some on-off negotiations meetings mediated by Ethiopia calling for a ceasefire between the two rival camps. On their part, the rebels said on Wednesday that there has been no other fighting with the government troops and that their capture of a town located south of Juba followed an attack made on their troops.
However, Kiir said at the peace accord signing ceremony that the rebels had raided the northern parts of the country earlier in the morning. “Now you can see who is for peace and who is for continued war,” said Kiir.
Additionally, Kiir handed the regional leaders present at the ceremony a list of his concerns. He noted that he was concerned about the demilitarization on Juba and the conditions that he has to consult with the vice president on the country’s policy.
The rebel leader, Machar served as Kiir’s deputy up to the point he was sacked in 2013 which is when the mayhem began. Under the signed peace accord, Machar is to become the country’s First Vice President.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s national security adviser said that the signing of the peace agreement was a “first step” toward the end of the conflict. She went further to acknowledge that it is going to take “hard work” to implement the accord.
“However, we do not recognize any reservations or addendums to that agreement. We will work with our international partners to sideline those who stand in the way of peace, drawing upon the full range of our multilateral and bilateral tools,” said Rice.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby further warned that should Kiir act on his reservations and reneged on the agreement. He warned that the U.S. will fully support the sanctions imposed by the U.N. but fell short of saying what or how the U.S. will do.