South Sudan finally has a new government—now it wants the money it was promised

South Sudan’s vice president Riek Machar, left, and president Salva Kiir shake hands.
South Sudan’s vice president Riek Machar, left, and president Salva Kiir shake hands.
Image: AP Photo/Jason Patinkin
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South Sudan formed a new government of national unity on Friday including politicians from both sides of its two and a half year civil war.

The government, comprising a cabinet of thirty ministers of erstwhile enemies, will be in place until elections are held in 30 months’ time. It is led by president Salva Kiir and first vice president Riek Machar, who until this week led a rebellion aiming to remove Kiir from power.

The two men signed a peace deal eight months ago, and today finally shook hands and smiled. They also asked for money.

Besides killing tens of thousands of people killed and displacing millions, South Sudan’s war has devastated the economy amid a plunge in global oil prices. South Sudan depends on oil exports for over 90% of its government revenue, and faces a budget shortfall of between 40 and 60%, according to various estimates.
Economists warn of hyperinflation as the South Sudanese Pound has lost over 80% of its value against the dollar. Doctors and even parliamentarians have gone without pay.

The international community including the US said they would give money if Kiir and Machar formed a transitional government part of an attempt to persuade the two men to stop the bloodshed. The strategy apparently caught the two men’s attention, though their soldiers continue to break a ceasefire.

Since Machar returned to Juba this week for the first time since the war began, both leaders have repeatedly appealed to the international community to pay up.

Kiir said foreign donors should make good on their promise, “unless they are mocking at us.”

“Now that my brother here is in Juba, the people who were saying that you cannot be supported unless you form the transitional government of national unity, if they have agents here, they should report back to them, that the government has been established and the first council of ministers has sat,” proclaimed Kiir.

But diplomats may not be ready to front the cash. The US, UK, and Norway, who are leading donors to South Sudan, said any funding remains contingent on the new government actually carrying out the peace deal.

“The fighting must stop, decisive action must be taken to tackle the economic crisis, and there must be full cooperation with the UN and humanitarian agencies to ensure aid reaches those in need,” the three countries said in a joint statement. “We stand ready to support the transitional government if it shows it is serious about working for the good of the country and implementing the peace agreement in full.”

But the tough talk may not be enough to slow the flow of money, whether the new government keeps the peace or not.

The World Bank has said they already have 230 million dollars’ worth of projects to implement once the transitional government forms. Officials from both sides of the civil war attended the International Monetary Fund’s annual spring meetings in Washington, and the IMF is meant to come to Juba in May for an assessment mission.