South Sudan Rival Leaders Form Transition Coalition Government

On February 20, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar agreed to form a new coalition government.  The new coalition government’s formation reportedly includes Kiir’s remaining as President, Machar’s serving as Kiir’s deputy, and the swearing-in of four more vice presidents (two from the government and two from opposition groups).

Although they missed two previous deadlines to form the coalition government, Kiir and Machar made two key concessions that evidently made the February 20 announcement possible.  In Kiir’s case, it was his decision to reduce the number of South Sudanese states from 32 to 10, which Africa News termed “the main stumbling block” in the negotiations to form the coalition government.  In Machar’s case, it was his willingness to have Kiir assume responsibility for his security.  The transition coalition government is now intended “to lead to elections in three years’ time — the first vote since independence.”

Note: Ordinarily, compliance professionals pay little attention to countries such as South Sudan that rank among the most corrupt countries in the world.  But for some time, South Sudan has had the unhappy distinction not only of being suffused with corruption, but of becoming the locus of terrible violence in its civil war.  Since it wrested its independence from Sudan in 2011, that civil war between the country’s Dinka and Nuer ethnic factions (which Kiir and Machar, respectively, represent) has cost the lives of an estimated 400,000 people and displaced millions more.

Last week’s joint announcement by Kiir and Machar provides some basis for hope, however tentative, that the country can step away from the abyss of violence and move toward fragile but genuine stability.  Whether they conclude that maintaining existing corruption structures is a necessary cost of maintaining that stability remains to be seen.

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