By William Davison, Nov 11
South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar said it will be a “hard sell” to convince his allies to back a plan to end almost 11 months of civil war by sharing power with President Salva Kiir.
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development, a bloc of East African nations, gave the rebels and the government 15 days to finalize an accord at a leaders’ summit that ended Nov. 7 in Ethiopia. Machar said he may need the rest of the month to see if other rebel commanders accept the deal that allows Kiir to remain president for a 30-month interim period.
“It’s a hard sell — it’s not easy,” Machar, 61, said in an interview yesterday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. “The choices are hard: it’s either continuation of war, or making compromises, so they will decide.”
Conflict erupted in December in the oil-producing country when a power struggle within the ruling party turned violent. After Kiir arrested rivals for allegedly plotting a coup and ethnic Nuer accused soldiers loyal to the president of targeting them, commanders rebelled in three states.
Machar, Kiir’s former vice president and a Nuer, fled the capital, Juba, and became head of the insurgent forces. Thousands of people have died and almost 2 million have been driven from their homes, according to the United Nations.
Fighting has resumed in recent weeks in Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity states as seasonal rains have eased, intensifying UN concern that there may be further casualties and a famine.
Mediators said the two sides agreed on the general scope of presidential powers, a new position of prime minister and their joint responsibilities during the transition at the latest Addis Ababa meeting.
Under the deal Machar proposed the president can only appoint ministers with the premier’s consent, the prime minister commands rebel forces until the army’s reintegration, and they jointly decide who will be state governors.
The government hasn’t agreed to share presidential powers with a prime minister and has suggested the premier mainly helps devise and implement policy, Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth said.
“These are the agreed powers but the executive powers he is looking for are not there,” Lueth said today by phone from Juba. “All this is disinformation.”
While the government is pushing to have a vice president and multiple deputy premiers, rebels want only a president and prime minister, Machar said.
South Sudan, the world’s newest nation after seceding from Sudan in 2011, has sub-Saharan Africa’s largest oil reserves after Nigeria and Angola, according toBP Plc. (BP/) The government relies on oil production to generate almost all of its revenue. Output has fallen by at least a third to about 160,000 barrels per day since fighting began.
Both sides have accused the other of attacks even after a renewed pledge on Nov. 7 to cease hostilities. IGAD said rebels committed violations three times between Aug. 22 and Nov. 7, as had government forces, including this month in Upper Nile and Jonglei states.
The parties on Nov. 9 committed to a step-by-step plan to implement the cease-fire with measures such as withdrawing forces and reporting troop positions. Rebel forces have been preparing for war in response to government arms purchases and mobilization, Machar said.
Machar criticized IGAD’s plan to send more troops into South Sudan to prevent fighting if the peace process stalls again, saying it’s inappropriate for a neutral mediator and would have a similarly destabilizing effect to Uganda’s intervention in December.
“That threat is in the end regionalizing the conflict,” he said. “It’s not well thought out because what does it mean? Is it fighting the government in Juba? Fighting the rebels?”