Sudanese Prime Minister Salva Kiir Mayardit, who recently was freed from house arrest after more than five years in captivity in Libya, defended a June deal with the armed forces, saying that it was to “avoid bloodshed” and was not intended to be a transition pact as it has been described.
The deal—which centered on integrating the regime’s security services into a new intelligence service, and is being called the “final phase” of a two-pronged reform agenda—has been criticized by rebel factions in Darfur, and some inside the party itself, as a kind of surrender to Khartoum’s entrenched power structure. But Mayardit told reporters Wednesday that he is confident the government’s current reform blueprint will change people’s perceptions about the president, as he said he can “inspire confidence” with the agreement, and because he can also cast his new alliance as a measure of the new openness of the regime under President Omar al-Bashir, who is in his late 70s.
Kiir warned that this version of the deal, and the exchange of non-combatant prisoners of war between the regime and two Darfur rebel groups, is “not a new thing; it is the implementation of the agreements that existed before” in resolving the conflicts. He added that, as a former defense minister himself, he is aware of the challenges facing reconciliation in Darfur and on the other sides of the country. He emphasized that none of the agreements is final, because they are being reconfigured and reviewed, and he acknowledged that “the next steps won’t be the same.”
Asked about the introduction of a new defense ministry in the new government, Mayardit pointed out that, in a military culture “like ours,” and especially at this juncture, discipline “has to be maintained, and the system has to be revamped.” A new ministry at this point, he added, is “just a supplementary and natural step” in the reforms, not an attempt to find a way to end the internal discord that has kept the regime in power for two decades.
The reconciliation measures will be implemented in a wide number of ways. First, the government aims to “recruit and re-purpose civil servants for new positions, and to deal with recruitment delays by removing vested interests,” according to Kiir.
Another way to improve the army’s capacity will be to give everyone a stake in its development, providing service-grade officers with incentives to follow through with needed reforms, and to replenish the treasury to secure the next military acquisition program. A salary increase for the army’s 42,000 senior military leaders will play a part in the effort, which will “be important to the strength of the government’s military forces,” according to Mayardit.