Q&A: South Sudan moves towards forming unity government

After two years of brutal civil war, monitoring chief says all sides are preparing to take the next step towards peace.

Botswana's former President Festus Mogae says he is hopeful both sides can keep the peace [Juda Ngwenya/Reuters]

Juba, South Sudan – Warring parties here are poised to form a Transitional Government of National Unity in the hope of bringing to an end more than two years of brutal civil war. 

A peace agreement, signed by both President Salva Kiir and his opposition rival Riek Machar in August last year, called for the formation of a transitional government for three years. 

Since Kiir reluctantly signed the deal, progress has been made – despite some missed deadlines. A new cabinet has been decided upon with 16 ministries going to the government, 10 to the main opposition, two to the group known as the Former Detainees, and two ministries allocated to other opposition parties. 

However, Kiir has yet to move his military forces 25km outside of the capital, a key condition on the formation of the national unity government. This failure has slowed down the process, but by far the most contentious issue is Kiir’s unilateral decision to split South Sudan’s 10 states into 28. 

The president made the surprise announcement in October last year, and many have argued it was not in the spirit of the peace deal.

The former president of Botswana and head of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, Festus Mogae, said it is going to have a disruptive effect on progress towards peace.             

Al Jazeera spoke to Mogae about the transitional government and his hopes for South Sudan. 

Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana

Al JazeeraProgress towards creating a transitional government has been made but there remain a number of sticking points. Can these be overcome?

Mogae: A great many things have yet to be done and one important one that has occurred, unfortunate in its timing, is the creation of 28 states because it’s inconsistent with what is envisaged in the [peace] agreement and, therefore, it is not acceptable. 

I think it’s the timing that is unfortunate and which has created problems, because as a proposal it would have been ideal for discussion in the agreed National Constitutional Amendment Committee. Therefore, it’s something that’s going to cause us some problems. 

Al Jazeera: What form are those problems likely to take, and will it impact the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity?

Mogae: In principal it should not but it is a violation of the agreement and, therefore, the other parties to the agreement are in opposition – and they are right. And also it will give them an excuse to violate the agreement in other areas. That’s how it’s going to create problems for us.

Al Jazeera: How would you apportion blame if the opposition refuses to accept the 28 states and declares the peace agreement and the transitional government null and void?

Mogae: Well they would both be to blame. The government would be to blame because they did something that started it – but the opposition will also be to blame. Just because you have a legitimate complaint, that doesn’t free you from your obligations. 

Everybody is obliged to follow the agreement and, above all, everybody is obliged to follow the spirit of the agreement, because it’s about creating peace and saving lives and stopping the current activities, which are resulting in untold suffering for ordinary people. That’s why the cessation of all this violence is very important, very very important.  

Al Jazeera: What do you predict for the future of South Sudan?

Mogae: I can tell you what my hope is for South Sudan, I can’t predict, as there are too many unknown variables. There’s a great deal of work to be done in a country with a lot of potential. 

There has to be a government that’s separate from the army and a separate police service, as well as a judiciary and a prosecution service. These institutions are yet to be established, so a great deal of work remains to be done. It’s time national institutions were established, along with the rule of law, and that human rights are actively protected. 

I’m told that almost every adult has a gun and, at some future time, the government will have to do something about that.

 South Sudan marks two years of ruinous war

Source: Al Jazeera