MWAGIRU: Kiir’s term extension threatens peace deal - Daily Nation

Kiir’s term extension threatens peace deal

Monday July 9 2018

South Sudan peace talks

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (centre) with South Sudan's President Salva Kiir (left) and South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar after the two South Sudanese arch-rivals agreed in Khartoum on June 27, 2018, to a "permanent" ceasefire to take effect within 72 hours in their country. PHOTO | ASHRAF SHAZLY | AFP 

By CIUGU MWAGIRU
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Just days after the signing of a long-awaited peace pact between warring South Sudan factions, there are doubts if the ceasefire will hold.

Hopes for stability were revamped when President Salva Kiir and opposition figure Riek Machar met in Khartoum on June 27.

During the meeting, the two agreed on a peace deal that included a ceasefire that took effect on June 30.

The truce was expected to finally silence the guns that have wreaked havoc in the world’s youngest country since 2013.

Unfortunately, a new threat to lasting peace in the long-troubled country has come in the form of a proposal to extend President Kiir’s term.

Announced earlier this week, the bid seeks to have Kiir serve an extra three years, meaning he could remain in power until 2021.

MAJORITY SEATS

A bill seeking the extension was tabled in parliament on Monday, and is expected to be passed later this month.

According to media reports, the bill would also extend the tenure of governors and Kiir’s deputies.

President Kiir’s supporters say the extension is more or less guaranteed, given that the ruling party holds a majority of seats in parliament.

Developments in South Sudan aside, after a long lull in poll activities, the continent will soon be held in thrall by the general election in Zimbabwe slated for July 30.

So far, the presidential poll has attracted a record 23 candidates, the highest number since independence in 1980.

The high number of candidates has been described as a sign of the opening up of political space in the new dispensation.

We shall, however, have to await the polls to see if post-Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe will finally be out of the woods.

INDEPENDENCE

Back to South Sudan, the country has hardly known peace since it gained independence from its northern neighbour Sudan in 2011.

The emergence into independence followed years of a brutal civil war, but failed to foster peace and stability in the new country.

Amid hopelessness, South Sudan has been described as one of the world's most dangerous countries for aid workers.

As a result of perennial wrangling, the country erupted into violence following disagreements between Kiir and Machar, his former vice-president.

The civil war and violence that followed have resulted in tens of thousands of people being killed and more than three million displaced.

CIVIL WAR
Commentators say describe the civil war as the cause of Africa's largest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The two warring sides have been accused of gross rights abuses, often along ethnic lines.

At the same time, millions of South Sudanese face near famine even as aid delivery is often blocked.

The prospect of peace and stability was therefore long-awaited, and the agreement between the foes was applauded around the globe.

In typical South Sudan fashion, government forces and rebels launched attacks on each other’s positions. On July 2, fighting between the rival forces escalated, leaving at least 18 civilians killed.