South Sudan forms unity government

POWER POLITICS: South Sudan’s first Vice President Riek Machar, left, and President Salva Kiir, right, shake hands following the meeting of a new coalition government, in Juba, on Friday. (AP)
Updated 29 April 2016
0

South Sudan forms unity government

JUBA: South Sudan’s transitional unity government was sworn into office on Friday, with President Salva Kiir sharing power with ex-rebels in a key step in a long-delayed peace process.
Under terms of an August 2015 peace deal, the 30 ministerial posts are split between Kiir, former rebel chief turned first vice president Riek Machar, opposition and other parties.
“We are going to work together,” Kiir said after the ministers were sworn into office, and he shook hands with Machar. “We must learn how to forgive and we must learn how to apologize.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the naming of the ministers was an “important milestone” in the peace process, urging the parties “to cease immediately all hostilities.” The transitional government is to remain in place until October 2018.
Machar returned to the capital Juba on Tuesday and was immediately sworn into the post of vice president, a position he was sacked from five months before war broke out. Fighting erupted in December 2013 when Kiir accused Machar of plotting a coup, claims he always denied.
The conflict, which has torn open ethnic divisions, has been characterised by horrific rights abuses, including gang rapes, the wholesale burning of villages and cannibalism.
“Cooperation is important,” Machar told the new ministers, saying people were still fearful and that leaders needed to show them the peace deal would work.
“If we act as groups in the cabinet, we will fail the people of South Sudan.”
Kiir loyalists remain in key positions, with Kuol Manyang staying on as defense minister and David Deng Athorbei as finance minster with the job of rebuilding an economy left in ruins by more than two years of war.
The all-important petroleum portfolio was handed to Dak Duop Bichok.
The foreign ministry goes to Deng Alor, a post he held under a united Sudan, before South Sudan won its independence in 2011.
Alor belongs to a group of influential politicians known as the “former detainees,” who were jailed at the outbreak of fighting but later released following regional pressure.
Opposition leader and outspoken government critic Lam Akol becomes minister for agriculture and food security, a crucial job in a country where five million are in need of aid, and some areas are on the brink of famine.
Ensuring they work together in a unity government, and that the thousands of rival armed forces now in separate camps inside the capital keep their guns quiet, will be a major challenge.
Both sides remain deeply suspicious, and fighting continues with multiple militia forces unleashed who now pay no heed to either Kiir or Machar.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than two million driven from their homes in the conflict, which has reignited ethnic divisions and been characterised by gross human rights abuses.
Dozens of political prisoners remain in detention, although a former regional governor and a university professor held for months were released this week, Amnesty International said on Friday.
Both Joseph Bakosoro, former governor of Western Equatoria state, and Professor Leonzio Angole Onek from Juba University, were arrested in December by the widely-feared National Security Service (NSS).
Speaking after his release, Bakasoro said he hoped the new government would work toward peace.
“I hope those who will be in the government will do the right thing, not for themselves, but for the people of this country,” he told reporters.
“The common citizens are the ones suffering, women are suffering, children are dying.”
Amnesty said the release of the two men “represents a mere fraction of people being detained by NSS and other security forces such as the military” and called for 33 other prisoners to be charged or released.
“Some have been beaten, especially during interrogation or as a form of punishment,” Amnesty added, saying their treatment may “amount to torture.”


France’s Macron forced to curb his ambitions for Europe

Updated 19 May 2019
0

France’s Macron forced to curb his ambitions for Europe

  • His pro-Europe vision has collided with populists and national interests across the continent
  • In his country, his political vision has given rise to France’s raucous yellow vest uprising over his government’s pro-business policies

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron sees himself as Europe’s savior and next week’s European Parliament elections as a make-or-break moment for the beleaguered European Union.
But Macron is no longer the fresh-faced force who marched into a surprising presidential victory to the rousing EU anthem two years ago. His pro-Europe vision has collided with populists and national interests across the continent. And at home, his political vision has given rise to France’s raucous yellow vest uprising over his government’s pro-business policies.
Macron wanted the May 23-26 European Parliament elections to be the key moment that he could push his ambitions for a stronger Europe — but instead, nationalists and populists who criticized the 28-nation bloc could achieve unprecedented success.
They argue that EU leaders have failed to manage migration into the continent and remain out of touch with ordinary workers’ concerns.
“We have a crisis of the European Union. This is a matter of fact. Everywhere in Europe, when you look at the past five to six years, in our country but in a lot of countries, all the extremes, extreme-rights, are increasing,” Macron said Thursday, making an unexpected appeal for European unity on the sidelines of a technology trade show.
“On currency, on digital, on climate action, we need more Europe,” he said. “I want the EU to be more protective of our borders regarding migration, terrorism and so on, but I think if you fragment Europe, there is no chance you have a stronger Europe.”
In person, the 41-year-old Macron comes across as strikingly, sincerely European. A political centrist, he’s at ease quoting Greek playwrights, German thinkers or British economists. France’s youngest president grew up with the EU and has been using the shared European euro currency his whole adult life, and sees it as Europe’s only chance to stay in the global economic game.
Macron has already visited 20 of the EU’s 28 countries in his two years in office, and while he acknowledges the EU’s problems, he wants to fix the bloc — not disassemble it.
Macron won the 2017 presidential election over France’s far-right, anti-immigration party leader Marine Le Pen on a pledge to make Europe stronger to face global competition against the Unites States and China. Since then, he’s had to make compromises with other EU leaders — and clashed with some nations where populist parties govern, from Poland to neighboring Italy.
Four months after his election, Macron outlined his vision for Europe in a sweeping speech at Paris’ Sorbonne university, calling for a joint EU budget, shared military forces and harmonized taxes.
But with Brexit looming and nationalism rising, Macron has had to reconsider his ambitions. He called his political tactics with other EU leaders a “productive confrontation.”
“In Europe, what is expected from France is to clearly say what it wants, its goals, its ambitions, and then be able to build a compromise with Germany to move forward” with other European countries, Macron said last week.
Macron stressed that despite her initial reluctance, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed last year to create a eurozone budget they hope will boost investment and provide a safety mechanism for the 19 nations using the euro currency.
In March, Macron sought to draw support for a Europe of “freedom, protection and progress” with a written call to voters in 28 countries to reject nationalist parties that “offer nothing.”
And he proposed to define a roadmap for the EU by the end of this year in a discussion with all member nations and a panel of European citizens.
“There will be disagreement, but is it better to have a static Europe or a Europe that advances, sometimes at different paces, and that is open to all?” he asked.
France and Germany are the two heavyweights in Europe, and Macron can also count on cooperation from pro-European governments of Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and others.
He has made a point, however, of not yet visiting Hungary or Poland, two nations led by populist leaders whom Macron accused last year of “lying” to their people about the EU.
France has also been entangled in a serious diplomatic crisis with Italy over migration into Europe. Italy’s anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has repeatedly criticized Macron and is backing his rival Le Pen’s National Rally party in the election this week that aims to fill the European parliament’s 751 seats.
Macron has little chance to repeat Europe-wide what he did in France: rip up the political map by building a powerful centrist movement that weakened the traditional left and right.
The campaign for Macron’s Republic on the Move party is being led by former European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau under a banner called “Renaissance.” The party wants to associate with the pro-market ALDE alliance to create new centrist group at the European Parliament.
But across the continent, the centrists are not expected to come out remotely on top but rank third or even lower behind the parliament’s traditional two biggest groups, the right-wing European People’s Party and the left-wing Socialists and Democrats group.
Even at home, Macron is far from certain of being able to claim victory in the European vote. Polls suggest his party will be among France’s top two vote-getters in the election, which takes place in France on May 26.
But its main rival, the far-right National Rally party, is determined to take revenge on Macron beating Le Pen so decisively in 2017.
Macron’s political opponents across the spectrum are calling on French voters to seize the European vote to reject his government’s policies.
While he won 64% of the presidential vote in 2017, French polls show that Macron’s popularity has been around half that for the past year.
It reached record lows when France’s yellow vest movement broke out last fall, demanding relief from high taxes and stagnant wages for French workers, then slightly rose as extensive violence during yellow vest protests, especially in Paris, dampened support for the movement’s cause.
Still, the yellow vests are not going away. New protests against Macron and his government are planned for the EU election day.