Conflicts within South Sudan Part 4
The coalition government takes office
The division of power within the future government was decided, but no date was set for the coalition government to take office. In February 2016, Kiir reinstated rival Machar as vice president, but Machar refused to take the position unless all government soldiers first left Juba in accordance with the peace agreement.
Out in the country, the fighting continued. In March, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights accused both sides of the conflict of serious human rights violations such as looting and rape. In particular, sexual violence was described as shocking. No one knew anymore how many people were killed in the war, the numbers varied between 50,000 and 300,000.
In April, Machar returned to Juba, where he was installed as vice president. This could happen after nearly 1,400 rebel soldiers under UN auspices had been flown to Juba to be responsible for Machar’s security. Shortly afterwards, the rest of the coalition government was installed.
Peace is broken
Just two months later, fierce fighting broke out in Juba between the government army and Machar’s rebels. Around 300 people, both civilians and combatants, were killed and tens of thousands of Jubans were forced to flee before Kiir and Machar ordered a ceasefire.
It was calm again in the capital after a few days, but the violence had spread to the country where peacekeepers reported regular fighting. Foreign governments began to evacuate their citizens and the UN appealed for the strengthening of Unmiss. In August, Kiir fired Vice President Machar, who fled abroad from where he declared war on South Sudan according to simplyyellowpages.
That same month, the UN decided to send a 4,000-strong regional peacekeeping force to South Sudan to bolster Unmiss, which has been sharply criticized for failing to protect the civilian population. Kiir reluctantly accepted the decision but initially opposed the deployment of a force. In May 2017, however, the first soldiers of the RPF (Regional Protection Force) arrived in Juba and in September, Kiir ordered the country’s police force to cooperate with it. In total, about 16,000 peacekeepers are in South Sudan.
The aftermath of the fighting is one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with around a third of the population on the run and more than half of the population in need of help for their survival. There are many reports of rapes, expulsions and abductions committed by the parties to the war. The rebel side has split into several groups, and Machar no longer has control over the entire movement.
New agreements, new battles
Following pressure from mainly the United States, with then-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir as mediator, President Kiir and rebel leader Machar signed several agreements in the second half of 2018. In July, the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on South Sudan and sanctions on two former military commanders. Paul Malong Awan and Malek Ruben Riak, who had a global visa ban and some of their assets frozen.
The new peace agreement provided for, among other things, a ceasefire, a troop retreat, a prisoner exchange and the formation of a transitional government that would govern the country for three years until general elections. South Sudan and Sudan would jointly upgrade a number of oil sources in South Sudan to increase oil production. A special agreement specified how the division of power would take place.
It was not long before reports came of new fighting in several parts of the country. No new transitional government was seen. Instead, President Kiir’s term was extended to 2021. By then, nearly seven million people in South Sudan were threatened by severe famine, according to representatives of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Juba.
After missing the deadline for forming a government on two occasions, Kiir and Machar entered into a power-sharing agreement in February 2020. It happened after strong pressure from outside, including from the United States. Kiir was forced to back an important state reform and Machar had to leave his private bodyguard outside Juba when he returned there to be sworn in as vice president once again. A coalition government was formed in March of the same year with 20 SPLM ministers, nine SPLM-IO ministers and six ministers from other parties. In June, the parties agreed on how to divide the government of the country’s ten states between them. The distribution had been a difficult issue because both parties wanted control over the oil-rich areas.