Judging from the recent developments in South Sudan, it is now upon the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) to save the masses from their leaders.

President Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Machar have repeatedly proven that they are indifferent to the plight of the people of South Sudan. The two signed the August 2015 agreement knowing very well that they can never work together.

This was not only dishonest in their capacity as leaders with huge followings who believe in them, but was tantamount to taking the entire world for a ride in the face of humanitarian catastrophe.

Festus Mogae, the man in charge of overseeing the implementation of the peace agreement, is in despair and has said as much.

The former Botswana president revealed his experience with the two leaders on Thursday in an interview with BBC Radio where he said that the two men find very sight of each other provocative.

If that is indeed the case, Igad leaders ought to shed their complacency and move quickly to deploy neutral forces and at the same time send a strong message to the rest of the world that all is not well in Africa’s youngest nation.

Aggravating the situation is the recent decision by President Kiir to replace Dr Machar as the First Vice-President with Taban Deng Gai, outside the mechanisms of the peace agreement.

That means the principal partners in the peace agreement have parted ways and the document may no longer be the centrepiece of a new dispensation in South Sudan.

As it were, South Sudan is now staring at the very real possibility of a genocide as the two armies prepare for serious confrontation. President Kiir’s forces have been pursuing the former rebels in the forests around Yei Road on the outskirts of Juba.

Dr Machar for his part has clearly stated that he expects Igad and the region to rescue the peace agreement, failing which he will march on Juba.

These are not the actions of leaders interested in peace. It is time for Igad leaders to cast aside their vested political and business interests in South Sudan and save the ordinary people from violence.

In South Sudan, it is not the voice of reason that matters but who has the superior firepower.

Given the poisoned relations between the two, it is possible to give President Kiir the benefit of the doubt when he says that he has settled on Mr Gai because he is keen to kick-start the stalled implementation of the peace process.

However, his action did not take into account that the agreement supersedes the 2011 South Sudan Transitional Constitution.

Should a fresh war break out at this stage, it will not be easy for the region to contain it because the two sides will be seeking to annihilate each other.

Already, over two million people have been displaced both inside and outside South Sudan, while an estimated five million out of a total population of around 11 million people are severely food insecure.

Given that conflicts in South Sudan are normally a free ticket for violation of international humanitarian law and serious human-rights abuses, Igad leaders and the international community should act now to prevent a bloodbath.


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