Politics, Africa

South Sudan: New government takes shape as VPs sworn in

President Salva Kiir urges South Sudanese to forgive each other, end differences

Benjamin Takpiny  | 22.02.2020 - Update : 23.02.2020
South Sudan: New government takes shape as VPs sworn in

JUBA, South Sudan

South Sudan’s rival leaders officially started the process of forming a transitional coalition government on Saturday, in line with a revitalized peace agreement reached in September 2018.

Opposition leader Riek Machar was sworn in as first vice president along with three more vice presidents at a ceremony in capital Juba.

The event was marked by calls for reconciliation and efforts for sustained peace in the war-weary country.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir urged people in the country to forgive each other and end their differences, saying he would work with all his new deputies to lead the country on a path of peace.

“We must forgive one another and reconcile. I want to reiterate here that I have forgiven my brother Riek Machar. I also ask for his forgiveness and I also forgive all those who still are holding out on this peace agreement,” Kiir said.

“I am calling on all the people of South Sudan to forgive one another. I particularly want to appeal to the Nuer and Dinka communities to forgive one another and reconcile. I also appeal to the people of Equatoria, especially those who have experienced much of the devastation, to forgive and reconcile.”

Kiir said he does not wish to see any bloodshed in South Sudan ever again.

For his part, former opposition leader Machar said he was committed to implementing the peace agreement with Kiir.

He said the two of them would work collectively to end the suffering of the people of South Sudan.

“I want to reiterate my commitment and the commitment of the SPLM-IO [Sudan People's Liberation Movement-in-Opposition] to work closely with the peace partners, and particularly President Kiir, to implement the agreement in letter and spirit,” Machar said.

Machar was sworn in with three other vice presidents: James Wani Igga, ex-first vice president Taban Deng Gai, and Rebecca Nyandeng Garang -- the widow of SPLM founder John Garang De Mabior.

The swearing-in ceremony was attended by the head of Sudan’s Sovereign Council Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, along with diplomats and dignitaries from several regional countries.

- New structure

The coalition government is not yet finalized as new ministers and state governors are still to be appointed.

Under the peace agreement, the unity government will have 35 ministers, 10 deputy ministers, and a 550-member parliament.

The incumbent government led by Kiir will have two vice presidents, 21 ministers, five deputy ministers, and 332 parliament members.

Machar’s SPLM-IO will have the post of first vice president, nine ministers, three deputy ministers and 128 parliament members.

The South Sudan Opposition Alliance will have one vice president, three ministers, one deputy minister, and 50 parliamentarians.

The Former Detainees group will have one vice president, two ministers and 10 parliament members.

A minister, a deputy minister, and 30 parliamentarians will be from other political parties.

South Sudan slid into crisis in December 2013 when Kiir sacked Machar as vice president on suspicion of plotting a coup, followed by a protracted civil war that claimed tens of thousands of lives and forced 4 million people to flee their homes.

The formation of the coalition government and subsequent full implementation of the peace accord is widely hoped to end the suffering of the people of South Sudan, a young nation that has faced years of conflict.

The parties have been trying to agree on a number of issues, including the number of states and boundaries plus a security arrangement, but the president finally decided to return the country to a system of 10 states -- rather than the current 32 -- for the sake of peace.

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