Despite that 17 months (twice as much time that was initially allocated for the Pre-Transitional Period) have sowed hopes and optimisms, critical Pre-Transitional tasks are still outstanding. The two major Pre-Transitional tasks, which proved to be the backbone of the peace agreement in 2015-16 and are currently delaying the formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGNU) are the Security Arrangement Mechanisms, Number and Boundaries of States. While there is hope that the ongoing IGAD summit in Addis Ababa may break the ice on the number of states (alleged to be approving 23 states), the issue of their boundaries and whether Salva Kiir and the Jieng Council of Elders would buy the idea and agree to implement it in good faith remains outstanding.
Of course the 17 months were not as peaceful as many South Sudanese would hope. There have been major violations to the permanent ceasefire agreement either by the SSPDF, SPLA-IO or NAS in various parts of the country and most notably in Maiwut and Adar of Upper Nile, Central and Western Equatoria, and Wau of Wester Bhar el Ghazal. Besides the most published main political conflict, thousands of vulnerable South Sudanese people lost their lives to much more overlooked inter-communal violence. Within the last two years alone, there have been numerous inter-communal violence, cattle raids and abduction of children and women in all the three regions of South Sudan. To mention a few, there have been outstanding tensions between the Abii sub-clans of the Dinka Bor over grazing land; grazing land disputes between the Lango and the Bothonya in Bahaz in Kerekeka sub-county; cattle raids between Murle and Jie communities of Boma County; Murle related cattle raids in Duk, Akobo Central and Nyirol counties; extended cattle-related conflicts between the Dinka Pakam, Dinka Ciec and Dinka Rek of Lakes; cattle raid violence in Eastern Equatoria by youth from Tonj; fighting between Haak Nuer of southern Unity and Dinka Rek from Tonj, sporadic attacks along Juba-Nimule road, Jali-Bor road, and cross-border conflicts between Dinka Rek of Warrap and Bul Nuer of Unity, among others. South Sudan is a country at war with itself!
The atmosphere and triggers for possible return to a full-blown civil war whether over the land in greater Upper Nile, Greater Equatoria and Greater Bhar el Ghazal or over the leadership and other resources are just a fraction of a second away. In addition to active warfare and inter-communal violence, the warring parties continue to actively recruit and train as opposed to demilitarize, demobilize and disarm; in-kind donations and supplies are being strategically withheld in Juba; screened and cantoned forces are leaving their cantonments due to lack of basic supplies; the SSPDF (government forces) are not being screened, cantoned or transported to training centers, and despite numerous attempts to expedite the Security Mechanisms and decide the Number and boundaries of States, the leaders have remained intransigence and Zero Compromises are now the quid pro quo. Above all, until today the regional bloc, IGAD, continues to keep Dr. Riek Machar under “House Arrest” as Kiir’s Juba-based administration refuses to release his passport.
Before we give or take more credit away from the leaders, let’s revisit the Peace Agreement (R-ARCSS) and re-examine what is taking the parties almost two years to implement. According to article 1.4.3 of the R-ARCSS, the following activities are what should have been implemented during the agreed (8 months) Pre–Transitional Period, and have they been implemented?:
22.214.171.124. Dissemination of the Revitalised ARCSS to South Sudanese people inside the country, in different cities and refugee camps in neighbouring countries, and in Diaspora, so that the people can understand, support and own it;
126.96.36.199. Carrying out the tasks entrusted to the Technical Boundaries Committee (TBC), Independent Boundaries Commission (IBC), and the Referendum Commission on Number and Boundaries of States (RCNBS);
188.8.131.52. A process of national healing and reconciliation that shall be led by the Parties, faith based groups and civil society groups inside and outside of the Republic of South Sudan;
184.108.40.206. The agreed security arrangement activities;
220.127.116.11. Incorporation of the Revitalised ARCSS in the TCRSS, 2011 (as amended);
18.104.22.168. Reviewing and drafting necessary bills as per the Revitalised ARCSS; and
22.214.171.124. Any other activities agreed by the Parties, including the devolution of more powers and resources to lower levels of government.
Among these seven articles, the five articles marked in red were either not attempted at all or they have had no significant progress. The ones in blue were pecked on but ended up in vain. So far none of these provisions has been completed. Notwithstanding that these activities were not completed within the first designated eight months, they were not completed during the first six months extension and nevertheless they will not be completed within the remaining two weeks of this “100 days” extension. In a nutshell, there has been very limited attempt by the parties to prioritize implementation of the critical issues and therefore whatever might seem as an achievement might not, after all, be an achievement as long as these provisions and other components of the revitalized peace agreement are not implemented. The seventeen months of what should have been an eight-month period should therefore serve as a litmus test of what the parties are capable of implementing and what they may implement during the actual Transitional Period but as they say, the evil is always in the details. Therefore, let’s revisit the details in detail.
The Security Arrangement Mechanism
Although there is a lot of political tension around the number and boundaries of states, and when the government should be formed, Salva Kiir’s government is shying away from addressing the monster in the room. The recent reports of the UN Secretary General, the reports of the head of UN Mission in South Sudan and the statement of the British envoy indicate that the SSPDF are not reporting to cantonment sites like their counterparts.
“Security forces are moving to training sites although significant resourcing and logistical issues still need to be overcome. Sixteen training sites are open, holding around 28,000 people, around one-quarter (7,000) are from the government side.” David Shearer, who is also the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, briefed the UNSC in late January 2020
“On 2 October, the Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism reported the conclusion of registration in 24 of the 25 designated cantonment sites for the opposition, while the registration of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces remains outstanding. However, while the transitional security arrangements remain incomplete, some movement on the training of trainers and a limited degree of cooperation among the parties was observed. The screening and training of forces has yet to begin” Report of the UN Secretary General covering political and security developments between 28 August and 30 November 2019
Such statements are nothing but just the tips of an iceberg. Calling a spade a spade, the entire chapter II, also known as the Permanent Ceasefire and Security Arrangement, as witnessed in 2015-16, is sidelined and neglected so far. Due to international pressure to implement this chapter before the RTGNU is formed, nearly all these articles have been pecked on; however, they are either violated or not being implemented as hoped.
Chapter II outlined the following activities. The critical parts that are sidelined or violated are highlighted:
2.2.1 “training and redeployment of the necessary unified forces shall be completed within a period that shall not exceed eight (8) months. This provision prevails on any other contrary text.”
2.2.2. “The Parties agree to the disengagement and separation of their forces, which are in close proximity, and the assembly and cantonment of their forces within thirty (30) days of the signing of this Agreement to enable registration of personnel, weapons and equipment accountability, screening, re-organization and/or disarmament and demobilization. Forces in cantonment shall receive non-military logistical supplies including food, shelter and access to medical care.”
2.2.3. The following activities shall take place during the Pre-Transitional Period:
126.96.36.199. Civilian areas shall be immediately demilitarized. This includes schools, service centers, occupied houses, IDP camps, protection of civilian sites, villages, churches, mosques, ritual centers and livelihood areas.
188.8.131.52. Disengagement, separation of forces and collection of long and medium range heavy weapons.
184.108.40.206. All forces shall be cantoned under the supervision of the current monitoring bodies at their present barracks and sites. However, cantoned forces shall be assembled in accessible areas and in a size of not less than a battalion.
220.127.116.11. Maps detailing present locations and lists stating numbers of forces not previously declared as per CoHA shall be presented to the monitoring and verification mechanisms and the Joint Military Ceasefire Commission (JMCC). Lists shall include size of forces, weaponry, equipment and ammunition.
18.104.22.168. All forces shall be screened and classified according to known military criteria followed for the purposes of recruitment for the army, police, national security and other services. Ineligible individuals shall be referred to DDR.
2.2.7. Training of the unified forces of the military, police and other security services shall start at the beginning of the Pre-Transitional Period according to the requirement of each force or service. Forces shall be trained together to ensure coherence and harmony.
2.2.8. On the completion of training the unified forces shall be redeployed at different levels and sizes (units, formations and commands).
Historically, when 83,000 unified forces were expected to be trained and deployed during the Pre-Transitional period, the parties failed to train the smallest possible unit known as “the VIP Protection Unit”, which was supposed to be composed of 3000 troops. Did this failure send a signal to the concerned parties and peace guarantors? Of course, if it did, it didn’t bother them!
To reduce the pressure of training 83,000 NUF within the Pre-Transitional period, the parties came to terms in Addis Ababa to train and deploy only 50%, or approximately 41, 000 before the Transitional Period; however, 17 months later, this process was yet to begin. Who to blame?
According to various reports, and specifically the report of the Chairperson of the RJMEC and also the report of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and Head of UNMISS, all the Security Mechanisms have fallen behind and the forces, particularly the SSPDF that are not reporting to the cantonment sites are occupying 24 out of 25 civilian sites that ought to be demilitarized and evacuated. To make the matter even worse, those that were were successfully screened and cantoned, most notably from the SPLA-IO and other opposition groups, were left to starve and suffer, and eventually deserted their cantonments as frustration takes its toll on them.
“Furthermore, I remain concerned by the continued occupation of civilian centers contrary to Article 22.214.171.124 of the R-ARCSS. This is an issue that should be straightforward to resolve, but it continues to come up. CTSAMVM’s recent report shows that in the last month, buildings in two schools have been occupied by the SSPDF. This makes a total of 25 occupied buildings, of which 24 are by the SSPDF and 1 by SPLM/A-IO. I would like to ask the JDB to explain why this continues to be an issue.” Said Lt. Gen. Augistino S.K. Njoroge, Chairperson of the RJMEC.
“Overall, my observation is that the optimism that the Security Mechanisms expressed at the last monthly meeting has not been matched by their performance in implementation since then. All of them have fallen behind the timelines of their action plans. Despite the commitment by the Security Mechanisms to coordinate their activities more closely, this still has not happened.” Lt. Gen. Augistino S.K. Njoroge, Chairperson of the RJMEC, continued.
In his recent report, Lt. Gen. Njoroge was further concerned, saying “however, I am concerned that the screening of forces has not started yet, even though the screening teams are reported to be ready to begin. Of course, no training can take place before screening, and the more it is delayed, the more the time that will be lost in beginning the training of the Necessary Unified Forces (NUF).”
It’s therefore evidently clear that the Security Arrangement is not being implemented and subsequently, the peace agreement is not being implemented.
Boundaries and Number of States:
Until president Salva Kiir issued his unilateral “Republican Decree” in open violation of the August 2015 peace agreement, less than two months after signing the then peace accord with “reservations”, it was in the best interest of every South Sudanese to see the peace agreement implemented on the basis of the Ten States. Therefore, the issue of states was not among the root causes of the conflict and it should never have been an agenda for discussion until president Salva Kiir and his inner circle figured out that it would be the best way to destruct the oppositions and keep the general public busy.
In simple terms, the idea of “28-turned-32 States Plus” is nothing but a mere destruction that was intentionally introduced to paralyze the peace agreement, and since then, Kiir’s administration has exploited the media to provoke general feelings and emotions with intention to promote such a controversial debate in order to divert attention from the root causes of the conflict and from the implementation of the peace agreement.
Caught in the middle, the opposition had no choice but to try to mitigate the damage the imposition of the 32 states would cause. Little did they [oppositions] know that entertaining such a debate would not only divert attention from the real issues but also it would eventually paralyze the peace agreement and destabilize the opposition. It is such a win-win strategy for its architects; however, if such a man-made catastrophe were to be resolved through a political discourse, then the establishment of the Independent Boundary Commission (IBC) should remain the most optimal means that would have effectively resolved this issue. At least, if it is not a means in itself, then it should be a means to an end and thus the politicians should look no further but at the IBC.
The Independent Boundary Commission IBC:
The Technical Boundary Committee, which was strategically composed of members appointed by African countries to solve an “African problem” under the stewardship of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the TROIKA, earned tremendous support of international experts appointed by the United Nations, China and the European Union. The five member Committee (C5) was an equivocal representation of the continent of African with members drawn from South African representing the South of Africa, Rwanda representing East Africa, Chad representing Central Africa, Nigeria on behalf of West Africa and Algeria representing the North of Africa. After exhaustive deliberations and considerations, all the four active members of C5 countries (with exception of Chad that did not send her member for reasons best known to the central African state) voted in favor of Ten States.
Such a committee by its composition and how well it conducted its assigned responsibilities without any prejudice, accusations or a case of corruption should have been given a veto or endorsed to make an ultimatum on the number of states, and other critical issues that South Sudan could not decide for herself in the best interests of her citizens; however, to give South Sudanese leaders a benefit of doubts with hopes to determine the fates of their country and people, a ten-member sub-committee of South Sudan nationals was still formed within the IBC to help resolve the issue on the number of states. From the ten members, the government faction had a comparative advantage for having five out of ten (5/10) members and therefore, the government faction needed to persuade only two members from the loosely united opposition to win the vote in favor of 32 States but instead the government faction lost one of its members to voting for ten states.
In other words, if the decision of the C5 members did not convince President Kiir and his supporters, then the fact that majority (6/10) of the South Sudan politicians, who were entrusted on behalf of the citizens to resolve the issue, had voted in favor of ten states should have been a simple proof that ten state is the Public Demand for the people of South Sudan and President Kiir should have revoked his 32 states decrees forthwith. In sum, ten(10) out of fourteen (14) members voted in support of ten(10) states and only 4 members from the government delegation voted in support of 32 states. Numerically speaking, 71% of the combined voters and 60% of the South Sudanese sub-committee of the IBC voted for the ten states and this justifies beyond a reasonable doubt that while ten states is the public demand, “thirty two (32) plus states” is just a political position or “the government demand” that should not be misconstrued for people’s demand.
To further consider the opinions of South Sudanese or general public, the IBC requested South Sudanese to submit their votes through email and it turned out that 1,583 submissions from a total of 2,261 submissions that the IBC received voted in favor of ten states. Without any ambiguity, it coincidentally turned out again that 70% (1,583/2,261) of South Sudan’s general public expressed their demands for the ten states, which leaves less than 30% in support of the 32 states. Given that President Salva Kiir hails from the largest tribe in the country and he is the current president, a man who controls the wealth of the country, a vote of 30% or anything less than 50% is not just a slap in the face but an expression of a deep dissatisfaction.
It should also be noted that article 1.15.12 [“the IBC shall complete its work within a maximum of ninety (90) days that shall not be extendable] and article 1.15.14 [ In the unlikely event of the IBC failing to make its final report before the end of its term, the IBC shall be automatically transformed on the 90th day of its term into Referendum Commission on Number and Boundaries of States (RCNBS) of the Republic of South Sudan.] of the Peace Agreement with regards to the mandates of the IBC were satisfactorily met and all the required obligations were established within the allotted time frame. In addition, the IBC wrote its final report and recommended a return to the ten states based on the results they obtained. This completed the work of the IBC and therefore it should have ended the debates on the number and boundaries of the states. Therefore, it was a failure of IGAD to have appointed the South African Deputy President, David Mabuza, to try mediate what was already mediated and only awaits final endorsement and implementation. Else otherwise if the IGAD Council of Ministers approved the number of states right after the submission of the final report of the IBC, IGAD would have expedited the implementation of the Pre-transitional period and the entire peace agreements that now stands on a limbo.
Maintaining the Permanent Ceasefire
While condemning and closely monitoring developments around Maiwut, tensions between the SSPDF and the SPLA-IO at the training sites like Mapel and adjacent cantonments in Central Equatoria, sporadic clashes between the SSPDF or SPLA-IO and non-signatory armed groups such as NAS OR SSOA in Western Equatoria, and the potentials for another return to a full-blown conflict, it is important to acknowledge that violence has generally declined amid increasing rapprochement between the regime authorities, SSPDF and the SPLA in Opposition in many parts of the country.
It is important that the Ceasefire is holding; however, it is more important to know why it is holding and how it can be enhanced and maintained. Parts of the reasons the ceasefire is holding are natural factors such as changes in the seasons but others are man-made such as improved working relations between the leaders of the warring factions, sanctions, arms embargoes, other international pressures and of course the fact that the conflict has taken its toll and the people of South Sudan need a break from war.
More than providing lip services IGAD, TROIKA, AU, EU and the rest of the international community must do their due diligence to improve the man-made factors that are necessary to sustain the permanent ceasefire agreement and to impose its implementations on the warring factions.
- South Sudan’s leaders should compromise to resolve their differences by themselves like Kenyans, Sudanese, Tanzanians and other African leaders before the “100 days” tension expires – otherwise, the region, troika, AU and UN should impose any decision(s) they deem to be in the best interest of the South Sudanese people to end the conflict;
- For IGAD to effectively mediate South Sudan conflict as a neutral mediator, the regional bloc should revoke South Sudan memberships from IGAD and East African Community (EAC);
- IGAD should give South Sudanese parties equal representation in its summits and adopt secret ballot voting when negotiations hit a deadlock;
- IGAD should relinquish its role to an impartial mediator from other regions of Africa to mediate the outstanding issues or reboot the entire process (new mediation);
- South Sudan government should stop wasting time and resourcing on mediating Sudan’s issues when it cannot mediate its own issues. In fact, Sudan is now showing better leadership and more respect for human rights, therefore, it should be Sudan mediating the South Sudan issues and not the opposite;
- International community should develop their own financial accountability mechanisms and release funds to support implementation of the peace agreement just like UNMISS, USAID, UNICEF and other organizations in South Sudan release their funding;
- Salva Kiir government should show political will and begin to play the role of an incumbent government by addressing serious issues affecting the people and the implementation of the peace agreement with more seriousness and transparency;
- The incumbent government should demonstrate goodwill by dropping the idea of 32 states and revert the country back to ten states, release funding and in-kind donations, screen and canton forces for training, order the SSPDF to evacuate civilians centers, and demilitarize, disarm and demobilize the rest of forces that do not meet recruitment requirements.
- Report of the Secretary-General on South Sudan (covering the period from 1 December to 26 February 2019) ;
- South Sudanese back return to 10 states;
- Situation in South Sudan Report of the Secretary-General
- Summary on IBC Decision
- Kiir meets 32 State Governors over States Impasse With Opposition;
- FULL-TEXT: SPLM-IO Updated Position on Formation of the Unity Government;
- FULL-TEXT: UNMISS Chief Speech To The Security Council;
- Government Shouldn’t be Former Without Resolving Outstanding Issues – EU
- FULL: The Statement of the Interim Chairperson of RJEM at the 13th RJMEC Monthly Meetings
The author, Deng Elijah, is a public servant in BC persecution service, Ministry of Justice in British Columbia, Canada. He is the founding Chief Executive Director of Nyamilepedia. For information, he can be reached through his personal email at dengsimon2000 at yahoo dot com and he can be followed on Facebook and Twitter through Deng Elijah.