The leadership of the armed opposition faction of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-IO) Tuesday welcomed the call of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), to suspend the controversial 28 states and form a transitional unity government.
SPLM-IO further said political decisions made by President Kiir’s government outside the peace agreement are seen by the armed opposition’s leadership as proposals that have no legal binding on the constitution and the peace deal agreed by all parties in August last year.
On the other hand in Juba, the government has “accepted” the communiqué from IGAD, but it concentrated on the call to form a transitional government.
The East African regional bloc, IGAD, on Sunday issued a communiqué, calling on all the parties to the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) to form a transitional unity government at the national level without an amended new constitution.
IGAD also called on President Kiir’s government to “suspend” the implementation of the 28 states he unilaterally created on 2 October after the peace agreement, describing the decision as “inconsistent” with the provisions of the peace deal which only recognizes the existing 10 states in the country.
The communiqué also called on the parties to establish an inclusive boundary commission with membership of all parties to the peace agreement in order to review creation of more states, and in case of disagreement, the parties should revert to the 10 states as provided for in the accord.
A media official of the armed opposition faction said the SPLM-IO leadership welcomed the IGAD decision to suspend the unilateral creation and implementation of the 28 states, adding it should therefore be treated as a mere suggested policy on governance by President Kiir’s faction.
“The leadership of SPLM/SPLA (IO) has commended the decision which calls for suspension of the 28 states. The parties should abide by the peace agreement and form a Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) in accordance with the provisions of the Agreement,” James Gatdet Dak, official spokesman of the opposition leader, Riek Machar, told Sudan Tribune.
He said since the current constitution only recognizes 10 states as also stipulated in the peace agreement, there is no reason not to incorporate the provisions of the peace deal and pass a new constitution as the basis for formation of a new unity government.
He however said the decision to suspend the 28 states implies that the 10 states which have been in the constitution and in the agreement shall prevail until in the future when consensual change may take place on the number of the states.
The 28 states, he said, should be treated like the rest of political proposals from other parties in the country if “President Kiir’s administration” wanted to table it for discussion in the future.
“If it is a political decision of one party or faction to create 28 states after signing the peace agreement based on the existing 10 states, then this decision is not legally binding and should not therefore appear anywhere in the constitution, as it is not in the peace agreement. It should be treated as a suggested policy proposal from one party,” he added.
Dak also said the SPLM-IO has a party policy which has suggested creating 21 states in South Sudan which are based on former colonial districts and their boundaries as they stood from 1956, but added they don’t want to impose it and violate the agreement.
“We don’t try to impose on the constitution our party policy to create 21 states. We keep it as our proposal to be tabled before the other parties to the agreement at an appropriate time,” he said.
He said if President Kiir has suggested 28 states as a political decision or policy of his faction, the two or more suggestions will then be discussed when time comes using the mechanisms in the peace agreement.
Meanwhile, he said, the parties should abide by the agreement which should be incorporated into a new constitution based on the 10 states as recognized by both the constitution and the “supreme document”, the peace agreement.
Besides violating the power sharing deal for the states, the controversial 28 states, he added, are problematic as they are intended to grab lands from certain ethnic groups and annex them to another ethnic group.
The decision by IGAD, a body which mediated the peace process between the South Sudanese parties, seemed to have partially echoed previous decision by the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) over the 28 states.
Festus Mogae, chairperson of JMEC, a body which is established by the peace agreement to oversee its full implementation, described the creation of 28 states as “political” and not “legal” matter, urging the parties which involve the armed opposition faction of SPLM-IO led by former Vice President, Riek Machar, and former detainees and other political parties to reach a consensus on the “political matter.”
Mogae, former President of Botswana, however called on them to form a unity government at the national level and delay formation of state governments until they reached a consensus on the number of states.
JUBA ACCEPTS THE TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT
Information minister, Michael Makuei Lueth, told reporters after the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) meeting on Tuesday that there is an agreement to form TGoNU
“JMEC had its fourth meeting, and in this meeting, the meeting went on very well and in the meeting we discussed the communiqué which was issued by IGAD and we adopted the communiqué as it is, as the best option and the way forward and as a roadmap for the implementation of the agreement and the establishment of the Transitional Government of National Unity,” Lueth said.
He said they also agreed to deploy about 3,000 components of the joint police and military forces from the opposition faction.
“So we have agreed that, yes, within this coming short period we need to work hard and ensure that the security elements from the [SPLM] IO are brought in. That the police of 1,500 for Juba town and the police for the greater Upper Nile of 1,200 are also brought in and the other security forces of 1,410; all should be brought in as soon as possible so that the first Vice President [Riek Machar] comes in and the transitional government of national unity is established. This is what we discussed. This is what we agreed,” he added.
It is not clear whether the government has also accepted to suspend the 28 states and withdraw its excess forces from Juba.
President Kiir last week said the issue of 28 states was a “red-line” and a decision which will not be reversed, adding it was a demand of the people of South Sudan.
During the peace negotiations in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the SPLM-IO proposed creation of 21 states based on a federal system of governance, saying federalism was a long time popular demand of the people of South Sudan. The government however refused the proposal at the time, saying there was no money to fund more states and threatened to take the matter to the people for a referendum.
IGAD stepped in and forced the parties to sign the agreement based on 10 states, but provided a mechanism in the agreement for all parties to discuss the future system of governance during a transitional period of 30 months in a permanent constitutional making process.
However, 39 days later after the signing of the agreement, the government unilaterally made a U-turn and decreed creation of 28 new states. Other parties and mediators condemned the action, saying it violated the agreement and called on the government to reverse the decision.