(JUBA) – European Union (EU) has issued a strong-worded statement condemning the Friday’s unilateral decree issued by South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir which created 28 new states, saying this was a violation of the peace agreement he signed with the former vice president and armed opposition leader, Riek Machar.
- European flags are seen outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels (Reuters Photo)
“The announcement by President Salva Kiir of the presidential order to replace the 10 existing states with 28 new states goes against the spirit and the letter of the Peace agreement signed by the Government of South Sudan on August 26,” partly reads the statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Tuesday.
EU, which is composed of powerful and influential European countries, urged president Kiir to suspend his decree until when the parties to the agreement handle the matter during the constitutional making process in accordance with the peace deal.
“The agreement provides for decisions on the structure of the country to be addressed during the permanent constitution-making process under the oversight of the Transitional Government of National Unity and in consultation with the people of South Sudan. The European Union therefore urges the President and Government of South Sudan to refrain from proceeding on this fundamental matter,” it said.
The statement decried the shift in mind by the government, reminding that the peace agreement was also endorsed by the top South Sudanese leaders during the recent high-level summit of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
It also urged the parties to work out an agreement on the security arrangements which the parties have been discussing at a workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The joint statement was signed by both the EU’s vice-president, Federica Mogherini, and commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, Christos Stylianides, on South Sudan. The statement in condemnation of the presidential order is the first which has publicly come out from the international community.
EU warned that there will be consequences for those who attempt to derail the peace agreement, reminding of the previous initiated actions against peace spoilers.
“The international community has consistently said that there will be consequences for those who obstruct the implementation of the Peace agreement. The EU welcomes in that respect the African Union’s decision to publish the commission of inquiry’s report and to move ahead with the establishment of the hybrid court,” it further stated.
South Sudanese government on Monday also came under heavy criticism from foreign diplomats when senior government officials gathered representatives of the foreign nations for a briefing at parliamentary building in Juba which aimed to explain the genesis of the unilateral presidential decree over 28 new states.
Officials close to the meeting told Sudan Tribune on Monday that the diplomats questioned the timing and rationale behind the government’s decision to unilaterally decree the new states, urging Juba to respect the peace agreement and suspend the creation of the states to be handled during the transitional period by the would-be formed government of national unity.
The reaction by the ambassadors accredited to South Sudan is seen as a reflection of what would be response from their home nations before a position can be taken by the IGAD Plus mediation body and the United Nations.
However, the source said government officials at the briefing defended the decision of the president in decreeing the new states, saying it would help accommodate officials during the transitional period.
Minister of information and broadcasting, Michael Makuei Lueth, told the diplomats that the president had the right to do “whatever” he wanted as a representative of the people in the sovereign country, South Sudan.
He said the creation of the states was not a violation of the peace agreement as said by the opposition faction led by former vice president, Machar, adding that the opposition group should have instead appreciated it so that the expanded states could accommodate them more.
He revealed that according to the new states the opposition leader will nominate six governors for the new six states which were curbed from the two oil-rich states of Unity and Upper Nile.
“They (opposition) should have instead appreciated the decision because this will help them. It will solve the problem of accommodation which they have,” Lueth told the diplomats.
Lueth also explained that the power sharing agreed in the peace deal will also apply in the new states in which the opposition will get 15% of state ministerial positions from the other 18 states in greater Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria and 40% from the 10 states created from greater Upper Nile.
He did not however explain how members of the new state legislative assemblies will be shared between the parties as the peace agreement maintained the current elected members of the state parliaments. He did not also talk about how the national legislature will be affected in the new representation.
The new proposed states isolated the Nuer community, the second largest in South Sudan, from the rest of the tribes, giving them 5 states enclaves without mixing them with any of the other tribe in the country. The Dinka community, the largest in the country, however was mixed with other minority tribes in greater Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal.
Earlier, Lueth on Friday also said the order of the president which created the 28 states did not need to go to the national parliament for approval, arguing that it was an executive order and should be implemented without any questions by the national legislature.
However, president Salva Kiir’s legal advisor, Lawrence Korbandy, who also attended the Monday’s briefing of the diplomats, contradicted Lueth’s interpretations, saying the order must go to the parliament for endorsement.
“We have 30 working days during which the order will be presented to the parliament. If this is not done I will be the first to speak against this order,” he said.
Korbandy however defended the order, saying it was in the interest of the people and that local resources will be mobilized to cater for the 28 states.
The opposition faction earlier warned that the new 28 states will alter provisions of the peace agreement which was based on the current 10 states and open up the deal for further negotiations, calling on the international community to step in and stop the government from violating the agreement.
The peace agreement, signed in August by the parties, deferred the establishment of federal system of governance and creation of more states to the constitutional making process during the transitional period of 30 months.
EU warned that only a genuine and concerted effort by the leaders of South Sudan will bring an end to the suffering of the people of the world’s youngest nation, renew their hope for a peaceful future and avert an “even greater humanitarian tragedy.”