What kind of interim government for South Sudan?

CIMG0999After a long time with political tensions in South Sudan, armed conflict broke out in December last year between President Salva Kiir (from the Dinka-tribe) and the opposition represented by the former vice-president Riek Machar (from the Nuer-tribe). What started as a conflict about political power and positions spread quickly along ethnic lines.

Frustration has been growing about the lack of progress in the IGAD-led peace talks that have taken place in Ethiopia since January this year. Much time has been spent on procedural issues and clarifying the parties’ starting points for a solution they can agree on. The broad participation in the negotiations by groups whom represent everything from political actors, civil society and religious leaders, in itself essential, has not made it easier to find a good structure and framework for negotiations.

Many argue that the parties are not interested in a negotiated solution, but instead try to gain time while they build up their military capacity and are positioning themselves for new military offensives as soon as the rainy season is over. But there is also a general belief that a lasting solution to the conflict can only be achieved through dialogue and reconciliation.

The agreements reached to stop all armed conflict has been broken repeatedly, and both parties blame each other. There is also reason to believe that there are several armed groups not controlled by the opposition leader Riek Machar.

The parties appear to have agreed on establishing a transitional government in principle, but there are fundamental disagreements about which role this should have and who should be included. The current government says that the elected president and vice-president must lead the new transitional government, while the opposition can get the proposed position as prime minister.

I am afraid that the composition of a transitional government with the same people who directly or indirectly are key players in the ongoing conflict is not a good solution. They will lack basic confidence amongst large sections of the population. South Sudan needs a comprehensive reform where also the fundamental causes of the conflict are addressed.

A good solution to the conflict could be a transitional government assigned to only ensure the daily management of state affairs. In other words, a purely technocratic government. At the same time a national assembly should be elected with broad representation from all parts of the population, where political parties, civil society, youth, women, religious leaders and other central actors are represented. This assembly will have the mandate to draft a new constitution and other political reforms necessary for South Sudan to establish the democratic measures that must be in place to build a sustainable democracy in the country. This assembly must be given sufficient time to accomplish the job they are assigned.

Unfortunately, it does not look like this model is being discussed under the ongoing negotiations in Ethiopia. A new constitution should be adopted through a referendum and a national election must eventually take place to establish a new parliament and a new government.

Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) is the fundamental political party in South Sudan. It is essential for a democratic development in the country that both the SPLM and the other political parties develop a party structure and culture of democratic principles. It is equally important to work for change in the attitude among political leaders where democratic elections are respected, where they respect that it is the population who have elected the political leaders and that these leaders should be servants of the people and not vice versa. Only the future will tell whether this is possible.

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