Despite forming the transitional government of national unity (TGoNU) to end more than two years of civil war, South Sudan’s newly inaugurated leaders must prioritise security reforms and revamp the fragile economy to prevent the youngest country from plunging again into civil war, experts have said.
The government is faced with a daunting task of rebuilding the shattered infrastructure and paying salaries of a huge number of civil servants.
Many of the civil servants have undergone more than two months without being paid, including the integrated military and police part of the more than 1,500 former Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition (SPLM-IO) rebels led by Vice President Riek Machar.
Experts say the security threat posed by various militia groups may at large affect peace and stability in a country awash with small arms.
‘‘The issue of security will also be magnified by two additional problems. One is the widespread small arms across the country, making it extremely difficult for the state to ensure safety of citizens’ lives and their properties,” said Jok Madut Jok, a political and security analyst at the Sudd institute, a South Sudan think tank.
He revealed many armed groups, from Upper Nile, Bahr el Ghazal and Western Equatoria have pledged to fight the Juba government, which is another imminent threat.
The intense fighting at the height of the conflict between SPLM-IO and government troops was characterised by counter defections with several splinter commanders citing grievances stemming from resources and personal differences.
“If the transitional government does not quickly come up with a conception as to how to bring these groups into the fold, South Sudan will remain a country at war with itself into the near future,” Mr Jok observed.
He explained that the more insecure the vast majority of the public, the more likely that more people will seek to arm themselves illegally in the false assumption of self-protection.
‘‘Such insecurity would eventually begin to erode the very foundation of the state and that of the transitional government, as it did between 2007 and 2013,” the analyst said.
‘‘Particularly vexing is the question of whether the president and his deputy will abide by the powers and mandates that the peace agreement has delineated. How they will interact with one another will be a matter of regular, intense negotiation of such powers,” Mr Jok added.
He said the risk of such dialogues collapsing is too prominent and this could eventually render the government of national unity inefficient.
Meanwhile, economist Alic Garang of Ebony Center for Strategic Studies said the cash-strapped Juba government should come up with a rescue economic package, detailing fiscal and monetary policy measures to expand the meagre resource envelope and at the same time cut down on inherent inefficiencies.
‘‘Truth be told, TGoNU possesses a thin purse. South Sudan still reels from economic crisis, it sadly has limited resources at the moment,” Mr Alic said.
He added that the transitional leadership ought to instantly task Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to work on revenue generation and expenditure control measures to minimize wastage in the system.
‘‘They must resolve to trot the globe and seek concessional loans or long term loans from friendly countries. These loans must be used to enhance productive capacity and not just pay bloated public wage bill,” he said.
Meanwhile, South Sudan’s unity government plans to return more than one million children to schools after two years of civil conflict in the young nation.
Mr Deng Deng Hoc, the new Minister of Education, Science and Technology told Xinhua that his ministry will prioritise bringing back more than one million children who are out of schools because of the cycle of retaliatory ethnic conflict that caused mass displacement.
‘‘The priority is to establish more schools to enable these children mainly in rural areas to go to school,” Deng said in Juba on Sunday.
The minister added that another issue to be tackled is quality education in the country.