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Africa

South Sudan's Kiir signs peace agreement despite 'reservations'

media South Sudan's President Salva Kiir in Nairobi on 11 May 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir on Wednesday signed a peace agreement aiming to end the country’s 20-month conflict. However, in a speech to east African leaders gathered for a signing ceremony in the capital Juba, Kiir highlighted “serious reservations” about an “imposed peace”.

“Something wrong must be there inside the document which people do not want to be known,” said Kiir, referring to reservations about the peace deal identified by the South Sudanese government.

Dossier: Independence for South Sudan

“A very simple example: I’m the president of the Republic of South Sudan and commander-in-chief of the SPLA [Sudan People's Liberation Army] – who doesn’t know that?” said Kiir. “In this agreement it is written that I am the president of the Republic of South Sudan and commander-in-chief; of what, I do not know.”

Kiir did not rule out revisiting the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) brokered agreement. “Let us give ourselves time and see how we can correct these things,” he said.

The IGAD peace deal had already been signed by the rebel group led by Riek Machar on 17 August but Kiir had only initialled the pages.

The agreement hopes to end a long-running conflict in South Sudan between Machar’s rebels and Kiir’s government forces that has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.

Ahead of the signing, South Sudan’s Foreign Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told RFI that the government’s reservations centred on the demilitarisation of the capital Juba and the configuration of regional government in the northern states dominated by Machar’s forces.

“Those reservations are important, they’ll also create a lot of difficulties during implementation of such an agreement,” Benjamin told RFI by telephone.

The demilitarisation of Juba outlined in the agreement provides for the redeployment of all military forces outside of the capital within 30 days of signing the agreement. It includes exceptions such as the presidential guard, security for military installations and a joint integrated police force.

In the northern states of Unity and Upper Nile, the rebels will be enable to nominate state governors, while in Jonglei state the government has the power to nominate governors. For the regional State Council of Ministers for the three states, the government gets a 46 per cent share of the posts and the rebels a 40 per cent share.

The power-sharing in these key northern states, which were the scene of fierce fighting and are also home to key oilfields, is in contrast to the division of power in the national government, where for both the Executive and Council of Ministers the government has a 53 per cent share of positions and the rebels a 33 per cent share.

The UN Security Council on Tuesday warned Kiir that not signing the peace deal would have consequences.

“We decided that we would take immediate action if he does not sign or if he signs with reservations,” said Joy Ogwu, Nigerian Ambassador to the UN, who currently chairs the council.

The US has already drafted a UN Security Council resolution that calls for an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on individuals considered as spoilers to the peace process.

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