19 Jul South Sudan talks: A lasting peace or marriage of convenience?
Peace talks. In modern-day politics, it is unfathomable that a leader can make a return to the vice presidency for a third time to be part of a government led by his adversary. But in Africa’s youngest nation ripped apart by conflict, anything is possible, writes Emmanuel Mutaizibwa.
The last time President Kiir and Riek Machar tried to have a government of national unity, it culminated in a shootout, leaving a coterie of bodyguards dead on the evening of July 8, 2016.
Kiir revealed shortly after that Machar had arrived at J1 Presidential Palace with a pistol and was plotting to kill him. When I visited Juba in October 2016, the lasting vestiges of this battle were still visible at the presidential palace.
Machar was later pursued with his roughly 1300 SPLA-IO bodyguards from Juba as he fled by foot to DR Congo where he was rescued, later flown to Khartoum and then South Africa.
This was a second time he had escaped. Earlier in 2013, Machar had fled Juba in haste after President Kiir dressed in military fatigue addressed the nation on television alleging that his former SPLM comrade had orchestrated a coup, which was crashed.
In the aftermath, Gen James Hoth Hai, a chief of staff, and consummate military was sacked. To his allies, his cardinal sin was being Neur, the ethnicity of Machar. Gen Hoth Hai was among the officers who used to carry the derogatory tag ‘Garang boys’ because of his close ties to the late SPLM leader John Garang.
In some African regimes, where the army occupies the super-structure of government, paranoia runs high when it comes to ethnicity and the question of allegiance.
As Kiir lost territory in areas such as Bor in Jonglei state, his major ally, Uganda, heeded to the clarion call of the battle trumpet.
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