Predictions: Crisis looming in South Sudan ahead of elections

November 12th will mark the deadline for Sudanese president Salva Kiir’s government and opposition groups to form a transitional unity government, in a power-sharing arrangement. The risk of political unrest and instability in the region is very high, regardless of whether an agreement is met and a government is formed, a travel risk management firm with clients’ in the region has warned. We believe a crisis is looming, regardless of whether a unity government is formed or not.

While President Kiir is prepared to form the government, opposition leader Riek Machar has demanded a delay due to what he calls ‘un-met transitional tasks'. This includes the unification of Armed Forces.

Even if an agreement is met at the eleventh-hour between the two leaders to share power, there are still major conflicts of interest and disputes over state boundaries, allocation of funds and security arrangements that will create turmoil between the two groups; that could lead to the unity governments demise.

Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Traveller Assist, at the request of UK and South Africa based insurers, in a proactive move, has evacuated expat and local national staff of their clients’ operating in the region after their insurance policies were triggered at the risk of political instability.

The risk of a dispute over state boundaries and security arrangements risks reigniting a war in the regions that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced over a third of the country’s population.

South Sudan is on the brink of a potential collapse and such a crisis will see neighbouring countries suffer with significant economic disruption caused by a loss of oil rich resources from South Sudan and sudden influxes of refugees from the country; not to mention border conflicts.

To avoid this, it’s imperative that the Intergovernmental Authority for Development, an East African trade bloc and regional body, to push for an agreement between the parties on state boundaries and to reach a unity on a realistic and incremental timeline to unify all armed forces into one national army.

Government aid agencies, NGOs and oil companies are already pulling their staff out of the country which will have a significant financial impact on South Sudan.

In 2013, a power struggle led to a firefight between Kiir’s and Machar’s loyalists in a ‘coalition’ presidential guard unit, that led to a six-year civil war. South Sudan then slid into political turmoil and crisis when president Kiir fired Machar as vice-president on suspicion of plotting a coup, and what followed was a civil war that claimed the lives of tens of thousands, and displaced four-million people, who fled their homes.

Leaders in the region need to urge Kiir to form a government only with Machar’s agreement, and insist that both parties reach an undisputed agreement on security arrangements, budgets and state boundaries.

Without a unanimous agreement, the two side could end up sharing control of the capital, and as in 2016; political tensions could rise leading to regional volatility in the run up to the 2022 elections that could spark new fighting.

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