Africa-Press – Uganda. A renewed deadly fighting, this time between rival faction of the Sudan People Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) led by Dr Riek Machar, entered a third day yesterday, threatening to tear apart a peace deal behind implementation.The fresh fighting erupted on Saturday after opponents of Dr Machar, South Sudan’s First vice President, last Wednesday proclaimed they had toppled him as their political and military leader for allegedly failing to represent their interests and that of the party.The rebel group’s Chief of General Staff, First Lt Gen Simon Dual Gatwech, was named as Dr Machar’s successor, throwing the rebel movement and behind-the-schedule peace agreement into turmoil.
A highly placed security source in Juba, who sought anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, told Daily Monitor that the Saturday clashes erupted following the August 3 declaration made by the SPLM/A-IO military leadership at their headquarters in Magenis, Kitgwang.“The leadership met at Magenis Sector 1 Headquarters and came up with a declaration that ousted Dr Machar as head of his party and its armed forces. However, those loyal to Dr Machar trashed the declaration, resulting in confrontation and eventual fights,” he said.
According to him, the rival group accused Dr Machar, a pivotal personality in the country’s bloodied road to Independence and subsequent civil war, of side-lining them and going against the basic principles of the party.“To come up with the declaration, the senior leadership gathered in the absence of Dr Machar for a three-day consultative meeting at Magenis-based headquarters situated in the country’s far north,” the source said.The implication of the fresh fights on Dr Machar’s current position as Vice President is not clear. But the severe danger fronted by the fresh clashes is a compromise and likely sabotage of the fragile 2018 power-sharing deal between Dr Machar and his old foe and current President Salva Kiir, according to the source.
This newspaper accessed a copy of the declaration dated August 3. It details a list of grievances that party loyalists, who have now turned into rivals, have been holding against Dr Machar as early as more than 10 years.For example, they claimed Dr Machar, without consulting the entire military leadership, abandoned the party to take up the Vice President’s appointment. Since the time of the appointment, they say he has not been able to update or guide the party on any wayforward.
According to the declaration, Dr Machar attempted to assassinate Lt Gen Dual since he took him for an obstacle in his way of leadership.“The suspicious actions of Dr Machar are aimed at destroying the mission and vision of the SPLM/A-IO like he did to Dr John Garang in 2002 and left the army fragmented and stranded,” it said.
The leadership declared dissolution of the SPLM/A-IO Political Bureau and the National Liberation Council and denounced Dr Machar from the chairmanship of the movement. The declaration means Dr Machar must no longer represent the interest of the party and the wider population in South Sudan since he has become part of the national government thus compromising the fundamental reasons that led to the crises.
It, however, sparked a furious response from Dr Machar loyalists belonging to the rival political wing of the party, who convened an emergency meeting to discuss the matter and said they still regarded him as the leader of the SPLM/A-IO.
While reaffirming their full support and loyalty to SPLM/A-IO under Dr Machar, the loyalists condemned and denounced the declaration as disgusting.Dr Machar, a wily leader who survived years of bush warfare, close attempts on his life and stretches in exile, served as vice president alongside Gen Kiir in the first government post-independence from Sudan in 2011.But the pair fell out and Dr Machar was sacked two years later. Troops loyal to each man turned their guns on each other, and South Sudan descended into five years of horrific bloodshed.
In 2018 — after a string of failed peace accords and violated ceasefires — a fresh truce paused the fighting that left nearly 400,000 South Sudanese dead.Under that arrangement, Dr Machar entered another unity government as deputy to Gen Kiir in February 2020. Security gridlockThe UN Panel of Experts’ report on South Sudan to the UN Security Council dated April 14, 2021, that this newspaper saw a copy, details a worsening security situation in the country and the resultant impact that will potentially destabilise the Horn of Africa.The panel states that political disagreements and the deliberately slow pace of reforms by the South Sudanese government were an obstacle to peace and security in the country.
“More than a year of political disputes and disagreements over how to implement the agreement has widened existing political, military and ethnic divisions in the country and has led to multiple incidents of violence between the two main signatories to the Agreement.”The experts observed that, due to SPLM/A-IO inability to influence the government’s decision-making as well as spur implementation of the agreement, in particular the security arrangements, SPLM/A-IO was breaking apart. Although the parties signed a declaration of principles aimed at fostering more dialogue, representatives of both factions have expressed doubts on a possibility of a comprehensive deal owing to the marginalisation of SPLM/A-IO. SPLM led by President Kiir and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) led by the First Vice-President, Riek Machar, are the key signatories to the agreement.
Documents this newspaper saw indicates that in January 2021, the Jieng Council of Elders, an influential body of the Dinka traditional leadership, backed the criticism of the leadership of Mr Kiir under the National Dialogue Initiative.In a second statement dated February 19, the council stated that “corruption in South Sudan is the driver of political competition” and warned that the country was returning to war because the agreement had focused on power-sharing and ignored peace building at the local level.
Amid missed deadlines and political gridlock on key provisions of the agreement, the stability of South Sudan has remained at risk. Since November 2020, divisions among the signatories to the agreement have widened at the same time as the signatories have confronted increased internal political fractures.Divisions within the political bases of the two primary signatories SPLM/A-IO and SPLM have threatened commitments to the agreement.
Impact on tradeMeanwhile, the volatility of the security situation in South Sudan has continued to influence trade between South Sudan and the rest of the East African states that access the country through Uganda from Elegu Border point in Amuru District.South Sudan is highly dependent on imports, mainly from Kenya and Uganda and the drivers’ continued protests could affect the supply of goods in the country. Last week, business at Elegu border was bought to a standstill when truck drivers driving to and fro South Sudan held a protest over the murder of one of their colleagues in Nimule.Hundreds of trucks parked around Elegu Border Town and blocked traffic while the truck drivers demanded answers and action from the Ugandan authorities on why the shooting and killing of drivers have persisted in South Sudan.
The drivers were particularly angered by the killing of Issa Umar, a 28-year-old Kenyan driver, shot 50 kilometres from Nimule while driving to Juba.In July, two Ugandan truck drivers were shot dead and one injured at Nesitu, Rumbek County in the Central Equatorial State about 120 kilometres to the Nimule border on the Juba-Nimule Highway.In April this year, a negotiation meeting between the truck drivers, delegation from South Sudan and that of Uganda to bring the shootings to an end, flopped after the truckers demanded that the heads of state of the concerned East Africa countries (EAC) be involved in the negotiation.
They argued that providing security to escort them to Juba in South Sudan would be short-lived unless the respective heads of states participated themselves.During the meeting, although it ended in a stalemate, South Sudanese agreed to take full responsibility for compensating and escorting the drivers right from the Ugandan border until they reach.
Experts argue that Uganda’s export earnings to the country could have surpassed earnings from Kenya or Tanzania had it not been because of the instability. In 2020, Uganda exported to South Sudan goods and valued at $357.34 million, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. In 2020, Uganda exported to Kenya its goods valued at $465.55m whereas its exports to Tanzania in the same year was $95.13m , the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade reported.