South Sudan attempts another peace plan with power-sharing deal

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir.

Rival leaders in South Sudan have signed a power-sharing agreement to end a five-year civil war and form a transitional government.

Ceremonies occurred Sunday in Khartoum, the capital of neighboring Sudan. South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and rival Riek Machar signed the deal, by which Machar’s rebel organization and other anti-government groups will participate in South Sudan’s government.

Officials said both parties reached the deal last month. It calls for a transitional government to be formed within three months, with Kiir remaining as president and Mechar appointed as one of five vice presidents.

The signing ceremony was attended by mediator and Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheire and Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen.

A similar arrangement in the oil-rich nation, independent since 2011, failed in 2013.

South Sudan gained independence after a long war with Sudan and Kiir and Machar shared power as president and vice president. The country collapsed into ethnic warfare between Kiir’s dominant Dinka tribe and Machar’s smaller Nuer group. Machar became a rebel leader, with groups opposed to Kiir’s leadership splintering.

Government troops have been blamed by the United Nations for crimes against humanity, including civilian murders and mass rapes. The effect of the civil war has been ruinous for the new country, as a third of South Sudan’s population of about 12 million has been displaced.

Officials said about 2.5 million people have fled to neighboring countries and famines have been declared in parts of the country. Oil production has nearly halted and an annual inflation rate of 160 percent has eroded the currency.

The United Nations has called South Sudan the most dangerous place to be a humanitarian worker.

Regional countries have been involved in South Sudan’s growing pains, with Uganda arming Kiir’s government troops and Sudan providing assistance to Mechar’s rebels. With the new peace plan, the neighbors are invested in seeing success through the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the East African political body sponsoring the unification of South Sudan’s warring parties.