South Sudan President Salva Kiir has named a new transitional unity government with posts split between his government and opposition groups in a key step to the long awaited peace process.
Under the August 2015 peace deal, the 30 ministerial posts are shared between Kiir, former rebel chief now first vice-president Riek Machar, and other parties.
The naming of the cabinet was applauded by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as an “important milestone” in the peace process. He called on the parties “to immediately cease all hostility.”
The announcement of the transitional government which will remain in place until October 2018, was broadcast on government Radio on Friday morning.
Speaking to Deutsche Welle, Mayar Moses, a legal advisor, said the new government represents a new beginning for the people of South Sudan. "We expect a lot from cabinet members to live above their interests and make sure the interests of the people of South Sudan prevail," Moses added.
Simon Monoja an Associate Professor at the University of Juba told the outlet that "there is no difference. These are the same people who led us into war, and now they are back. I hope they would begin to think anew, let them begin to think anew."
When the former rebel leader arrived in Juba on Tuesday (April 26, 2016), he was quickly sworn in as the vice president, a post he held before he was sacked by Kiir in 2013, five months before the war broke out.
President Kiir dominance still remains, with the defense and finance ministries going to his allies. Kuol Manyang and David Deng Athorbei, Kiir's loyalists, were given defense and finance ministries respectively. The finance minister has a tough road ahead of resuscitating a weak economy that has had to endure two years of civil war.
Machar’s faction received the significant petroleum portfolio headed by Dak Duop Bichok. With the broken petroleum sector with some field having been grabbed by rebels, the minister has to fight nail and tooth to restore the country’s crude production.
The post of foreign minister was given to Deng Alor, a position he held previously under a united Sudan before South Sudan got independence in 2011. When the war broke out, Alor was arrested but was later set free following pressure from regional leaders. He belongs to a group of politicians known as ‘former detainees’.
The agriculture and food security portfolio was given to Lam Akol, an opposition leader, and a renowned government critic. With five million people in need of urgent food, while some areas are faced with famine, Akol is faced with a great challenge.
Annette Weber, a political and security analyst on South Sudan with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin, does not see the unity government as representing any change at all.
She told DW that the unity government “feels a bit like a déjà vu because there is no big change. After more than 50,000 people have been killed, the destruction of large parts of the country and the destruction of trust not only amongst the population but also between the government and the international community, one would have wished that the start of the new government would be more dynamic."
Weber wished that the transitional government would be seen as a government that is working for its population regardless of the party it represented. "The question in South Sudan's cabinet has always been who is with defense and who is with the finance ministries," she said. "More than fifty percent [of the budget] goes to defense, and finance was basically taken as a bank." In Weber's view, more scrutiny should be on what powers and possibilities these ministries have, rather than "who is the minister."
The war that erupted in December 2013 was fueled by allegations by Kiir that Machar was plotting a coup, claims he denied.
Recent reports revealed that South Sudan crisis was characterized by gross human rights violations. UN estimates that tens of thousands of people have been killed, and more than two million people have been displaced from their homes following the conflicts.
Image credit: AFP