The five VPs diluted my powers- President Kiir

The five VPs diluted my powers- President Kiir
President Salva Kiir delivers a speech during the commemoration of the 10th anniversary at the State House in Juba. [Kitab Unango, City Review]

Slightly over two months after delivering a tell-all passionate interview with Kenyan TV station, Citizen TV, where he explored the dynamics of the 2018 peace agreement, President Salva Kiir broke the silence again to echo the level of his commitment to the accord.

Addressing the SPLM Youth League on Saturday, the head of state went a nostalgic path to remember the circumstances that forced the youngest country to embrace a bloated presidency comprising five presidents- a set-up that he keeps ruing but has no reservations to live with for the sake of a united country.

According to the President, a plot to institute the five centres of power below the rank of the president was triggered by the urge to neutralize the executive powers of the office of the president. He was aware of if but had to compromise because of peace.

“I don’t want us to return to a war that is why I have accepted five deputies. You can tell, now where did you find a country with five vice presidents?’’ he posed.

 He added: “It was because I knew that mediators [wanted] to divide and take all my powers. They felt short of telling me to get out of this office, but that my powers are divided so that I don’t dominate the people and I accepted.”

Kiir went to say that unless elections were held to allow citizens to choose the leaders they want, unsettling and vicious power struggle wars would never stop in South Sudan.

The president told the youthful party members that  that only elections would end the power struggles, hence bringing stability to the African young nation even if he failed the race.

“Let’s do our things in a way that we implement the peace agreement so that after the end of the interim period, we go for elections because those who think of shortcuts will not end, but only through the election so that the youth select the leaders they want,” said President Kiir.

Kiir emphasised the country would hold the general elections in 2023 to allow South Sudanese to choose their leaders, compatible with other countries with only one vice president. In this process, he warned that some old guards could be trashed in political dustbins.

 “The interim period will finish and we shall go for elections. But when we shall go for election, not all of us will come back even we who are in the government will all go out and new people whose faces have never been seen will come in. That way peace will come in our country,” Kiir said.

South Sudan which is expected to have its first general election as an independent nation by 2023, has got pending issues to accomplish within less than one and a half years. This prompts the question of whether or not to extend the interim period which ends in 2022.

The peace agreement provides for the implementation of critical tasks ahead of general election such as repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons as well as national population and household census.

Some of the key provisions of the revitalised peace agreement, including repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons, conducting of the general household and population census, critical to holding the election, remain pending.

Others such as the Chapter Two of the security arrangement provisions, transitional justice, and reconciliation were also yet to be fully implemented.

In April 2021, Manawa Peter Gatkuoth, SPLM-IO Spokesperson who doubles up as the national Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation expressed concern over rushing to election without completion of critical tasks of the agreement.

“We agreed that we should implement Chapter Three, resource and economic and financial management. This includes institutional reform in the country and the agreement is clear about justice and reconciliation. How do you go for election without implementing these?” he asked.

“This thing will happen if we have the political will in place. Now we agreed that we should not go back to war, now we should have the political will to implement the agreement. This one will lead us to transitional justice, accountability reconciliation, and healing,” said

‘No turning back’

However, Kiir on Saturday called on the SPLM members, especially the youth, to immediately launch ground preparation for the holding of the election, arguing that was a means to ending war and bringing stability in South Sudan.

“The election will be held at the end of the interim period, in 2023. So your work has now started. Our present challenge is the implementation of the Revitalised Peace Agreement. For those of you who read the Revitalised Peace Agreement, it has covered many aspects of institutional reforms in our country,” the President said.

“While these reforms are critical to moving our country forward, the most important aspect of the Revitalised Peace Agreement is the conduct of free, fair, and credible democratic elections.

This coming phase calls upon you as the youth of the SPLM Party to prepare yourselves for peaceful competition for power. This means you must prepare yourselves to engage with grassroots,” the head of the state said.

South Sudan descended into war in 2013 following an alleged power wrangle between Kiir and his deputy Dr. Riek Machar which claimed thousands of lives and displaced over 4 million population to both within and neighbouring countries.

In 2018, the principal leaders reached a deal to end the conflict, but the implementation remains pending though little has been gained, especially the Chapter One of the accord.