Salva Kiir names defence minister in breach of deal

Friday, March 31st, 2023 04:30 | By
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir addresses a news conference at the State House in Juba, South Sudan March 28, 2022. REUTERS/Jok Solomun
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir addresses a news conference at the State House in Juba, South Sudan March 28, 2022. REUTERS/Jok Solomun

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has appointed a member of his own party as defence minister, according to a decree read on state media, breaching a peace deal in which the role should be selected by the party of First Vice President and opposition leader, Riek Machar.

Defence Minister Angelina Teny, who is also Machar’s wife, was fired alongside the interior minister this month, reigniting longstanding disagreements over how the two war veterans share power.

In 2018, Kiir and Machar’s forces signed a peace agreement ending five years of civil war that killed 400,000 people and triggered Africa’s biggest refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Implementation of the deal has been slow, and bouts of fighting have continued to kill and displace large numbers of civilians.

According to the decree read on state TV late on Wednesday, Kiir replaced Teny with Chol Thon Balok, a loyal general and former governor of Upper Nile state.

“The appointment of Chol Thon as a minister of defence is unilateral and a new blatant violation of the peace agreement,” said Puok Both Baluang, Machar’s spokesperson, calling for Teny to be reinstated.

A meeting this month aimed at resolving the rift between Kiir and Machar ended in a deadlock.

The impasse is likely to cause paralysis in the implementation of the peace deal, which is meant to culminate in a national election at the end of 2024, said Boboya James, a policy analyst at the Juba-based Institute of Social Policy and Research.

“(Kiir) wants to have all the powerful institutions,” James said. “What he is doing is to consolidate that level of power between now and towards the elections.”

The South Sudanese government should restore peace and security in order to win crucial financial assistance from the international community in 2023 and beyond, a visiting top European Union (EU) envoy has said.

Michael Koehler, deputy director-general for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), said  on Wednesday the continued communal violence and attacks on aid workers and convoys have kept away badly needed financial assistance to the country. “Unfortunately, we see that more and more often aid workers being attacked, South Sudanese just as much as international expatriate aid workers, we see more checkpoints and we see more attacks against aid convoys, and that is very difficult to accept,” Koehler told journalists in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

Koehler was speaking after concluding his two-day visit to the country, where he met with internally displaced persons in Bentiu Town of Unity State and senior government officials to understand the humanitarian situation. Last year, UN agencies launched the 2023 humanitarian response for South Sudan, seeking 1.7 billion U.S. dollars, but only 488.6 million dollars have been secured so far. “In international meetings, people speak about the crisis in Ukraine, the crisis in Afghanistan, Syria, and the crisis in Venezuela and Somalia and forth; we have to make sure that they keep the needs of the people of South Sudan on the radar screen, so visibility is important,” Koehler said. “The second thing is more important, you need to have good news from South Sudan, every single step that you can take yourself and it starts with peace, and it starts with ensuring that security is good and it encourages international donors to come in,” he added, saying the situation is getting worse and the nation is falling back into war and conflict.

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