Kiir, Machar signed a deal on unified command structure and a strategy for a united army.
President Salva Kiir and his first deputy, Dr. Riek Machar, who also serves as chairman and commander-in-chief of the major armed opposition SPLM/SPLA (IO), inked an agreement on unified army leadership and a suspension of hostilities accord that takes effect immediately this evening.
The agreement was signed after several days of talks led by Vice-President of the Sudanese Transitional Sovereign Council, General Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who traveled to Juba two days ago to meet with the parties separately and present a Sudanese proposal to resolve tensions that had recently erupted between the parties.
General Daglo’s visit to Juba comes a week after his boss, General Abdelfattah al Burhan, flew into Juba to consult with President Kiir on the implementation of the agreement, following the SPLM-announcement IO’s of its withdrawal from security mechanisms and peace monitoring bodies due to ‘continued attacks’ by President Kiir’s forces in Unity and Upper Nile states.
Ethiopia had also sent its defense minister to meet with the parties after the weekend escalation, which resulted in the deployment of highly armed security forces comprised of personnel of the South Sudan National Security Service (NSS) and the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces.
President Kiir and First Vice President Machar agreed in the agreement to establish a unified armed forces leadership within one week. The leadership of competing forces is one of numerous critical outstanding difficulties impeding the execution of the 2018 agreement to end the country’s deadly five-year civil war.
During the signing ceremony, Martin Abucha, the mining minister who signed on behalf of the SPLM-IO, said that his party is prepared to see the agreement implemented for the sake of peace and security in the world’s youngest country.
“Peace is about security, and today we (met) a milestone,” he added.
Tutkew Gatluak, presidential advisor on security affairs and head of the National Transitional Committee, for his part, stated that his group and the government are committed to implementing the revitalized peace agreement and urged citizens to rally behind the leaders in pursuing peace implementation.
“This is to notify everyone that we are for peace and that all of us should strive for peace,” said Gatluak, who signed on behalf of President Salva Kiir.
Tensions between soldiers loyal to Kiir and former rebel commander Machar have lately risen, raising worries in the international community that the world’s youngest country would revert to full-fledged violence.
Both men were present at the signing ceremony in Juba for the agreement, which calls for a 60-40 split of key leadership positions in the army, police, and national security forces.
Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, Sudan’s post-coup governing council’s number two, came in Juba on Friday in an attempt to break the standoff on security arrangements.
Sudan drafted the suggestion after Kiir signed a presidential order on the construction of the command structure on March 25, a move that Machar quickly condemned as “unilateral.”