A fortnight ago, the United States recalled its ambassador to South Sudan, Mr Thomas Hushek, after President Salva Kiir and Opposition leader Riek Machar failed to form a revitalised unity government as they had agreed.
As the November 12 deadline approached, the two leaders, meeting in Kampala, announced that they had extended the implementation of the deal, signed in September last year, by 100 days.
This came after they had extended the pre-transition period by six months in May.
The conflict in South Sudan has claimed 400,000 lives and rendered three million South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries since it erupted in 2013.
Oxfam International says half of the population now faces “extreme hunger” due to the instability.
Inasmuch as the failure to form a unity government may have been unsurprising, it was an anti-climax for the revitalised deal and irreparably deflated the peace efforts by the region and the international community.
Their inability to reach a consensus on the contentious issues such as state boundaries and security arrangements points to a bigger problem: lack of political trust.
Since independence, the South Sudanese leadership has been mired in suspicion. As the elites fight each other, it’s the masses that bear the pain and suffering.
And though the conflict stopped, the political mistrust is a threat.
By postponing the anticipated government, the two men have demonstrated that they cannot put aside their differences and act in the national interest.
Actions such as unwarranted delay by the Kiir administration to fully finance the implementation of the peace process as it had pledged shows Juba’s lack of commitment.
President Kiir’s excuse that his government is broke is irreconcilable with the systematic corruption and cruel looting of resources that characterise it.
A September investigative report by The Sentry, “The taking of South Sudan”, revealed how foreign firms have actively abetted the South Sudanese conflict so as to profit from illicit financial practices.
It also illustrated what it referred to as a “kleptocratic network” that siphons huge sums of public funds using proxies, some said to be affiliated to the top leadership.
Kenyan investigative journalist John-Allan Namu’s documentary, “The Profiteers”, had earlier in the year exposed how both government and rebel forces profited from the war.
Both President Kiir and Dr Machar must be held responsible for economic crimes committed against the citizens.
It is increasingly becoming apparent that they have become as much an obstacle to lasting peace in South Sudan as a threat.
Their continued presence at the negotiation table is diminishing hopes for lasting peace.
President Kiir and Dr Machar must give way since South Sudan has been on ‘life support machine’ for far too long.
Adipo Sidang’, governance consultant and published poet. [email protected]