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South Sudan

South Sudan's Salvar Kiir appoints new cabinet

President Salvar Kiir and his vice-president Riek Machar in Juba
President Salvar Kiir and his vice-president Riek Machar in Juba REUTERS/Stringer

South Sudan President Salva Kiir has named his transitional unity government, sharing power with ex-rebels in a key step in a long-delayed peace process. Under terms of the August 2015 peace deal, the 30 ministerial posts are split between Kiir, former rebel chief turned first vice president Riek Machar, opposition and other parties.

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Allies of Vice President Riek Machar, the former rebel leader, secured the petroleum and interior cabinet posts, while members of President Salvar Kiir’s party got the defence and finance portfolios.

Another group of opposition members will take the top ministerial posts over at foreign affairs and agriculture.

However, there are also a lot of ministers that come from the former government. And some people in Juba are not too happy about that.

Gender Equality Lacking

Another concern is the fact that the new appointed cabinet lacks gender equality. 

"Of course the government dominates, followed by the SPLM-IO, led by Riek Machar, but it seems like the women are not really well represented. In fact, it look like it's male dominated. The women are there, but if you look in terms of gender equality, the women and children are the first victims of the war, and when the war ends, the warriors sit on the table and they exclude the victims of the war,"  Dr Arthur Bainomugisha, a political analyst and executive director of Advocates of Coalition for Develpment and Environment, told RFI.

"That's why I would have loved to see a greater representation of women, who have suffered the worse during this war. Because if women dominated a post-conflict cabinet like this one, they would invest a lot in peace making rather than war making."

Bainomugisha also said that at this stage, being efficient was not the top priority.

"It is important at this stage to bring on board experienced people, because as a new nation, they need such experience. It's true that some of them are old, but they are necessary to try and build that foundation for their country. But it's also true that most of them have not so good records, with some of them in the midst of corruption, but I think that this time around, the international community applied quite some pressure so they can move forward," he added.

"Basically, we should not expect so much from this cabinet, but accept to build that stability that is necessary until elections are held, and then perhaps new competition can bring fresh ideas. But for now, it is the former combattants."

Analysts say a lot has yet to be done, but that's a given.

'Still Hope'

However, even if one has to err on the side of caution, some argue there is still hope.

"One has to hope for the best, and the best is indeed, even it took nine months, that the rebel leader Machar and the President have managed to get together and form this government. So I think we have to look at the glass bein half full," Ariane Quentier, the UN Mission in South Sudan spokesperson, told RFI.

"It took time to get to this government, it took time for the Vice President to come back, but let's not forget that this is a peace process, and a peace process is by definition between enemies and not friends, and the peace process is full of problems and issues that need to be overcome and that's never been done overnight. So when you look at the government and the way things have been happening, there is room to be hopeful. It's not going to be an easy process, it has not been an easy process, but we have been moving forward."

Now that the old enemies have finally managed to set aside their differences, the priorities of this new unity government will be implementing the terms of the August 2015 peace agreement.

This means, among other things, transparency in public finances and pursuing justice and reconcialiation. 

"The security arrangements are the number one challenge for this government, the second is the economical situation, and the third is the question of whether the members of this coalition will get along with one another. And that will manifest itself during the security talks," Jok Madut Jok is an analyst on security, governance, democracy and development from the Sudd Institute in Juba, told RFI.

"If they don't get along, and don't manage to agree on the security arrangements, including the formation of the national army from the two groups, if things don't work out, then we can think about the possibility of the return of conflict."

The world’s youngest nation may not be out of the woods as yet given the sharp mistrust of its leaders, but at least, they have shown real committment to try and make it work.
 

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