By Dr. James Okuk, PhD
“Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies.” – President J.F. Kennedy.
February 12, 2016 (SSNA) — On Thursday February 11, 2016 President Salva Kiir Mayardit appointed by Republican Decree No.60/2015 the Chairman of SPLM/A-IO, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, as the First Vice President of the Republic in accordance with provisions of Article 6 of Chapter I of the August 2015 Agreement On Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS).
The move is supposed to affirm that for the duration of the transition, there shall be established the Office of the First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan, to supervise the implementation of the reforms outlined in the ARCSS and exercise the powers, functions and responsibilities outlined therein.
After taking the oath of office, Dr. Riek Machar would be expected to exercise the following powers:
1) Coordinate the implementation of the ARCSS and initiate institutional reforms as prescribed in the Agreement;
2) Serve as Commander-in-Chief of the South Sudan Armed Opposition forces (SPLA-IO) during the Pre-Transition Period and the period or until the establishment of the shared unified command of the National Defence Forces of South Sudan (NDFSS);
3) Serve as the Acting Commander-in-Chief of the unified NDFSS in the event of any temporary absence of the President after the unification of the forces;
4) Chair the cabinet clusters;
5) Serve as Deputy Chair of Economic and Financial Management Authority (EFMA) Board;
6) Serve as Deputy Chair of the National Security Council (NSC);
7) Serve as Deputy Chair of the National Defence Council (NDC);
8) Oversee the preparation and consideration of Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) business and programmes;
9) Follow up and ensure the implementation of Council of Ministers’ decisions with the relevant Ministries and institutions;
10) Oversee implementation of laws passed by the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA);
11) Chair the Council of Ministers in the absence of the President; and
12) Carry out other functions as may be prescribed by law, as long as such laws do not contradict the terms of the Agreement.
In the event of temporary absence, the First Vice President may delegate a senior SPLM/A-IO Minister to carry out functions and duties as stipulated above. And in case Dr. Riek doesn’t make it for one acceptable reason or another (like what happened to Dr. John Garang de Mabior during the implementation period of the 2005 CPA), including mental infirmity or physical incapacity of the office holder, his replacement shall be nominated by the top leadership body of the SPLM/A-IO. The process of replacement shall not exceed forty eight (48) hours after the declaration of vacancy of 1st VP post. The successor shall serve in Office until the end of the transition period unless another tragedy happens to him/her that would require another replacement.
However, the announcement over the SSTV would not become practical from the ideal world until Dr. Riek Machar takes the decision to pack his things and come to Juba to take oath of office as well as his full duties and rights. But it is highly improbable that Dr. Riek Machar shall risk coming to Juba before completion of architecture of the special security arrangements for the capital city as provided in Chapter II of the ARCSS and in the Minutes of Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements (PCTSA) Workshop that took place in Addis Ababa in September 13 – 18, 2015.
As Dr. Riek Machar doesn’t trust protection provided by President Salva Kiir, he will not risk being slaughtered in Juba as he said over the BBC last year, but will first ensure that his 1,500 police and 350 1st VP Presidential Guards are first deployed inside Juba together with 620 Guards for his Commanders and 200 for military police in addition to 140 for logistical battalion, 50 for administrative battalion and 50 for National Security Service. In short, Dr. Riek will not feel safe in Juba until he ensures that a total of 2,910 of his forces are inside Juba and well-armed for his protection in case of any eventuality. He has learnt his lessons in the past and he will fear even a rope put on his way for a snake.
The condition of bringing in the well-armed armed SPLM-IO forces is that the GRSS’ well-armed armed forces that are not authorized by the ARCSS should first be redeployed 25 km zone radius from the center of Juba. Also Dr. Riek Machar doesn’t have instant means of transporting his authorized forces to Juba.
Thus, until these two hurdles are resolved there shouldn’t be celebrations over the announced appointment of Dr. Riek Machar as 1st VP because the cart of war is still blocking the horse of peace.
The solution is in an urgent ARCSS implementation prioritization by the warring parties who are supposed to have become peace partners by now.
The international and regional communities who are guarantors to the ARCSS must also increase the pressure on the GRSS to quickly redeploy the unauthorized armed forces from Juba while beefing up logistical support to transport the authorized SPLM-IO armed forces to Juba as soon as possible before the economy could entrench further its red pangs on the population.
Dr. James Okuk is a lecturer of politics reachable at email@example.com.