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Will power-sharing deadline delay bring peace to S Sudan?4 minutes read

South Sudan’s president and its armed opposition leader have been given another extension to join forces

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Members of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), a coalition of rebel groups. (Photo by Dimo Silva Aurelio / AFP)

South Sudan’s president and its armed opposition leader have missed another 100-day deadline to form a power-sharing government, threatening a tenuous ceasefire that has paused years of bloodshed in the world’s youngest country.

The warring camps were given another extension to join forces after a meeting brokered by regional leaders but whether another delay will bring peace remains to be seen.

History on repeat –

It’s not the first time President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, his former deputy, have faltered on a peace agreement since a power struggle between the two threw the country into war in 2013.

Ceasefires failed, truces collapsed and the war raged on, killing hundreds of thousands and displacing millions more.

The latest pact, signed in September 2018, brought a rare lull to fighting in parts of the country. But progress toward a more permanent peace has been glacial.

Kiir and Machar agreed to share power in a new unity government by May 2019 but could not break a deadlock over security arrangements and state boundaries.

The deadline was extended until November 12 but that also proved fruitless: six months later, the rivals were no closer to breaking the impasse, and another 100 days were granted.

Army revamp –

Members of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), a coalition of rebel groups
Members of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), a coalition of rebel groups (Photo by Dimo Silva AURELIO / AFP)

A cornerstone of the September 2018 peace accord was that fighters would be gathered in military camps, retrained and deployed as a new national army.

But a lack of funding and distrust hobbled efforts to build an 83,000-strong unified force. 

Suspicions abound over the make-up and command structure of this new army, and who would control it.

Kiir promised $100 million to bankroll the process but just a fraction had trickled out so far, said Alan Boswell, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank. 

“It’s a bit unclear what’s happened to the money that was released,” Boswell told reporters.

Opposition fighters who did report to cantonment sites soon left, complaining of a lack of food and shelter.

Drawing red lines –

The drawing of state boundaries in South Sudan is possibly an even bigger stumbling block. Both sides have long disagreed over the number of states, who should control them, and where boundaries should lie.

At independence in 2011, South Sudan had 10 states. But it has since been carved into 32 in what critics saw as gerrymandering of traditional boundaries by Kiir to reward loyalists, a move that angered his opponents.

“He sees this as a part of a strategy to maintain his power in the country. It’s not a concession he has any interest in making,” Klem Ryan, former coordinator of the UN Security Council’s expert panel for South Sudan, told reporters.

Read: Sudan agrees to ceasefire after peace talks with rebels

Boswell said a deal on states, even a temporary compromise, is “very possible if the two leaders actually want to move this forward”.

“The peace deal is stalled, but it’s not yet dead,” he said.

Security fears –

Machar holds major reservations over his security in Juba and had been demanding a personal protection force to oversee his safety if he returns to the capital.

But Kiir is reluctant to order government forces from the city, keen to keep loyal fighters on hand to shore up his power at the risk of Juba becoming a tinderbox primed to explode.

It has happened before — in 2016, Machar arrived in Juba flanked by his best fighters for talks with Kiir. Three months later his bodyguards and Kiir’s men open fire on each other, and South Sudan returned to war.

“It’s just a redux of what we’ve seen before,” Ryan said.

Stalemate? –

The latest extension brokered again by regional leaders during last-minute crisis talks has sharpened criticism of Kiir and Machar and raised fresh doubts over their commitment to peace.

The United States’ top diplomat to Africa, Tibor Nagy, openly questioned “their suitability to continue to lead the nation’s peace process” amid pessimism over what difference another 100 days would make.

Ryan expected little progress come February: “There’ll be some new proposed process or mechanism at that time to keep this going, but the fundamentals just won’t shift,” he said.

Kiir and Machar have been difficult to budge. Not even Pope Francis — who knelt to kiss their feet during a stunning Vatican intervention in April — could facilitate a breakthrough.

Something worth fighting for –

South Sudan has spent more than half its short life as a nation at war: fighting has left some 400,000 people dead and forced roughly four million people — one-third of the population — from their homes.

But the September 2018 ceasefire is holding. The country is witnessing its longest truce since the civil war began in 2013, though violent skirmishes between non-signatories to the pact are still claiming lives.

Still, observers say the ceasefire has allowed for higher food production, freer movement of civilians, and greater access for aid to reach parts of the country in desperate need.

The UN Human Rights Council said civilians wanted to start rebuilding their lives and “the leaders of South Sudan owe this to their people, who deserve no less”.

A unity government is also a precondition for elections in 2022, and a further delay risks undermining the roadmap toward a democratic vote.

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East Africa News

Al Shabaab members attack hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital; kills 5

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Al Shabaab members attack hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital; kills 5
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA - DECEMBER 11: Officials take security measures around a park and surroundings, near the hotel where the suspects fled, after gunmen attempting an attack on Somali presidential residence in Mogadishu, Somalia on December 11, 2019. (photo credit: Sadak Mohamed / Anadolu Agency Sadak Mohamed / ANADOLU AGENCY)

Some gunmen suspected to be members of the militant group, Al Shabaab attacked a hotel in Somalia’s capital near the presidential residence on Tuesday, killing 5 people. 

Police said they killed two of the gunmen and rescued dozens of people from inside.

The Deputy Security Commissioner-General Zakia Hussein disclosed that two of the gunmen met their death as they launched the attack outside the hotel, while two others stormed inside. Hussein added that security forces rescued 82 people which included several officials.

In a Twitter post by the Deputy Commissioner, she warned people not to call their relatives who may be in the hotel while the operation was ongoing. See the tweet below:

This is not the first time the militant group would launch an attack in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. In fact, the group had regularly attacked the city in a to topple the government. The group had also attacked the hotel in 2016.

A witness told News Central TV that security forces at the hotel had mistaken the gunmen for police as they approached until they started shooting and throwing bombs.

Another witness narrated how he heard gunfire inside the hotel late into the night on Tuesday.

 “I saw security personnel evacuating people through the back wall using ladders. People where scampering for safety” he continued.

The militant group once controlled most parts of the capital but lost its strongholds when they were forced out of the city in 2011.

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Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed receives Nobel Peace Prize

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Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed collects Nobel Peace Prize
Ethiopia's Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy Ahmed Ali (R) receives the Nobel Peace Prize from Berit Reiss-Andersen (L), chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee during a ceremony at the city hall in Oslo on December 10, 2019. (Photo by Fredrik VARFJELL / AFP)

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was on Tuesday handed his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. 

The event was attended by the Norwegian royal family, government officials and public figures. Ironically, the prize-giving happened at a time ethnic violence was rising in the East African country.

However, the 43-year-old Prime Minister and former Intelligence Chief reaffirmed his readiness to face the challenges that come with peace.

“For me, nurturing peace is like planting and growing trees. Just like trees need water and good soil to grow, peace requires unwavering commitment, infinite patience, and goodwill to cultivate and harvest its dividends.” Ahmed said.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed collects Nobel Peace Prize
Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee Berit Reiss-Andersen (L) and Vice-Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize committee Henrik Syse (R) applaud Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy Ahmed Ali (C) during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony at the city hall in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 2019. (Photo by Fredrik VARFJELL / AFP)

Following the Nobel Committee’s announcement in October that it was honouring Ahmed for his efforts to decisively resolve the long-running conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, Ethiopians have expressed their concerns over the decision to honour him the prestigious award with many saying it came too early to the Prime Minister who only assumed office in April 2018.

Few months after the announcement by Nobel Committee, Ahmed shocked many, including the Committee itself when he disclosed that he was not going to grant interviews to international media or even field questions from young students who are usually given such opportunity at an event hosted by Save the Children.

 Following a meeting held in Asmara, Eritrea’s capital on 9 July 2019, between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki the 20-year-old cold war between the two countries was formally brought to an end.

Recall that the two countries plunged into prolonged hostility following the 1998-2000 border conflict.

The historic achievement happened barely three months after Ahmed assumed office as Ethiopian Prime Minister and was largely due to his diplomacy in tackling the issue.

Ahmed also showed his eagerness to boost the nation’s democracy when he released dissidents from jail, apologised for state brutality, welcomed home exiled armed groups, established a national reconciliation committee and lifted the ban on some political parties.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed collects Nobel Peace Prize
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Abiy Ahmed Ali speaks after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize during a ceremony at the city hall in Oslo on December 10, 2019. (Photo by Fredrik VARFJELL / AFP)

Notwithstanding all the laudable reforms, Ahmed still faces some major challenges.

His commitment to hold the first “free, fair and democratic” elections since 2005 is being threatened by ethnic violence.

About 80 people have been killed in protests in the country in less than two weeks after his Nobel Peace Prize announcement.

On arrival in Oslo, Ahmed told a Norwegian journalist that:

“The situation in Ethiopia has… new challenges but without challenges, there is no way that we can do something new,” 

“We consider those challenges as a great opportunity to do something positive.”

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Austrian, Rosenberger, Triumphant at 2019 Safaricom East African Safari Classic Rally

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After 9 exhilarating race days across Kenya and Tanzania, Kris Rosenberger emerged as the new Safaricom East African Safari Classic Rally champion, after powering his Tuthill Porsche 911 to victory in Mombasa on Saturday.

The Austrian and co-driver Nicola Bleicher finished ahead of 2015 Safari Classic champion Stig Blomqvist, also in a Porsche 911. Rosenberger held a 1 minute 19.40 seconds advantage over Blomqvist before the final stage and went on to finish second in the final Mombasa Cement stage. The Austrian, who last rallied in Kenya in 1989, cruised to the finish of the 9-day endurance rally to claim victory by 13:01:48.

“It was a fantastic rally, our tactics were 100% right. We know Stig, he is obviously the best and we knew if we stay close to him and we had the pace and as we rallied through the last stage we pushed really hard. We also know that it’s really hard to beat Blomqvist and we are aware of that for sure. He had more problems than us and we still think he is the man and we are happy to be here”, said Rosenberger.

Blomqvist, navigated by compatriot Jorgen Fornander, applied his extensive experience in endurance rallying when things got tougher in the last two days of the rally. In the last section on Friday, his Porsche 911 steering dumper broke 50Km into the last stage, while on Saturday, he had a soft roll in the last Mombasa Cement stage thus losing some time and ultimately placing second.

Kabras Sugar Racing’s Onkar Rai completed the podium dash, finishing third in a Porsche 911 navigated by Drew Sturrock. Onkar managed to post the fastest times in 6 out of the 20 run competitive stages.

“I span in this last stage and luckily we are here. To be honest, it’s been a quick safari and to be able to beat people like Stig is a pretty big achievement for me. Drew has been on the notes and I have been on the pace. We had a bit of bad luck, it’s part of rallying and we get over it and we would like to be back in 2021, Onkar said.

Other best placed Kenyans include Onkar’s older brother Tejveer Rai/Gavin Laurence who finished 8th, ALS Motorsports Aslam Khan/Imran Khan who finished 11th,, while Kabras Sugar Racing’s Baldev Charger/Ravi Sini finished 14th.

Another notable driver who emerged as the new driver to watch was 27-year-old Welshman Osian Pryce, navigated by fellow countryman Dale Furnish. Osian set the quickest time in the prologue and went on to rack up the fastest times in 4 stages, including the 14Km last stage at Mombasa Cement in Kenya’s Kilifi County.

Local rally ace Baldev Charger was the events front runner in the early days, before falling behind. He did however, manage to post fastest times in 4 stages. Out of the 20 competitors that started the 3,390km journey, 17 survived the demanding course across Kenya and Tanzania. Italy’s Gilberto Sandretto navigated by legend Fabrizia Ponz, was forced to end his run, citing important personal reasons back at home that he had to attend to. Another exit was Kenya’s Rommy Bhamra who left the rally unexplained.

In staying true to the nature of the safari classic rally, the weather played a major role in the cancellation or revision of several stages: The Day 3 itinerary was cancelled after torrential rain and subsequent flash floods rendered several sectors of the stages impassable, forcing the organizers to give the competitors a near full extra day service in Arusha, Tanzania.

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