Analysis | By The Center for Peace and Advocacy
June 24, 2020 (Thessherald)–Since the declaration of a new sovereign state in 2011, South Sudan has undergone multiple phases of upheaval. In 2013, its leaders plunged the country into another civil war. Conflict erupted in South Sudan after a brief period following the country’s independence. It began when President Salva Kiir accused his deputy Dr. Riek Machar of attempting a coup d’état.
Both belonged to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the political arm of the rebel army that fought for independence. Machar denied attempting a coup and fled and formed the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO).
In 2015, when a peace deal was signed, Machar returned to Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to take the post of the first vicepresident in a coalition government which was still led by Salva Kiir. Fighting erupted yet again in 2016, compelling Machar to flee once again. The United Nations estimated that around 400,000 people have been killed since the conflict began. Many more fled to the neighboring countries as refugees.
Since then, President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar, had struck twelve peace agreements. Although none of these peace agreements had brought-about lasting peace to South Sudan, the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement did provide a glimmer of hope to the suffering South Sudanese.
Many are hopeful about the prospect of unity and peace that this peace deal could finally bring about, and the impact it will have on businesses, including on the country’s oil sector, which accounts for almost the entirety of the nation’s revenue.
The civil war has resulted in rape, torture and harsh living conditions, including starvation. The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan revealed that at least 60% of the country experiences significant food insecurity.Now, almost a year and half from the signing of the Revitalized Peace Agreement and almost three months from the partial formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU), the Center for Peace and Advocacy (CPA) looks at the successes, failures and the way forward.
Successes of the R-ARCSS
Despite the general attitude towards the agreement being that of uncertainty and doubts, the ceasefire signed by the belligerent parties have been holding for some good time, with only a few skirmishes reported since the signing of the agreement. These clashes most of the times involve the holdout rebel groups and the South Sudan army, but occasionally they occur between the SPLA-IO and the holdout rebel groups like the National Salvation Front (NAS) led by the renegade Thomas Cirilo Swaka. The Center for Peace and Advocacy (CPA) applauds the parties for observing the Ceasefire and Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) although we still condemns the few clashes that are still happening.
Another significant success of the 2018 R-ARCSS is that it has been able to pave ways for unhindered humanitarian access to areas that were inaccessible before by the humanitarian actors for service delivery. Millions have been able to benefit from the services provided by these actors, especially in the most rural parts of South Sudan. The Center for Peace Advocacy (CPA) commends the government of South Sudan and the oppositions for providing access to the areas of their control for humanitarian actors. We equally appreciate the non-governmental organizations, national and international alike for their continued and relentless efforts of relieving the suffering of the South Sudanese.
Lastly, the peace deal has been able to ease the fear of movement countrywide. South Sudanese have been moving freely across the states that were initially not accessible due to insecurities. This is something that the Center for Peace and Advocacy (CPA) cannot take for granted.
Challenges to the R-ARCSS
The Center for Peace and Advocacy (CPA) has credible reasons and analyses to believe that the chances of the country returning to the status quo are very optimal. These analyses are anchored in the intransigence of the parties to the agreement not willing to move an inch in the implementation.
The parties are deadlocked on a number of issues; the most standout being the allocation of states, the constitutional amendment, security arrangements, reparation and reconciliation and the creation of the Hybrid Court on South Sudan.
A lot of people have had their hope on the 2018 revitalized peace deal. However, this new deal is not without problems. Some huddles need to be first overcome. The security arrangement stipulated in the peace deal has lagged behind by a big percentage. The arrangement would have made sure the military re-organization which is a difficult task, given that both sides have been at war for seven years.
What’s worse, South Sudan’s contemporary history suggests that conflict could erupt anytime due to the tense and uptight military activities in the country, despite the new peace agreement. Hence, the Center for Pace and Advocacy (CPA) is sounding the alarm of the risk associated with South Sudan going back to war remains high. It is already clear the new peace deal will not be implemented fully or on time. Events are likely heading in two directions.
The first one has seen the formation of the unity government terribly delayed because of very many contentious issues. In principle, there are components; including temporary security arrangements, unifying the army, local power sharing, and setting South Sudan’s internal borders that are not resolved and that have consequently stalled the formation of the new government. These issues are particularly contentious and far behind schedule.
Pushing back the formation of the R-TGoNU risk the agreement risks losing steam and allow room for suspicion and mistrust to set in. This will sap confidence in the process both from the parties to the deal as well as the donors asked to fund it and the South Sudanese general public.
The partial formation of the government on 22nd February, 2020 despite the lack of implementation of the key parts of the agreement was because of the heavy pressure from within South Sudan, IGAD, AU and the International Community. This has erringly led to the formation of the unity government despite outstanding disagreements on other elements of the accord.
The return of Dr. Machar to Juba despite these challenges has set the South Sudanese, the region and the international community into familiar and treacherous waters. In 2016, under pressure as peace implementation stagnated, Machar told his caucus he would return to Juba to push the peace deal forward from the inside. When he did so, the government deadlocked, and then imploded. We are sadly heading in the same direction!
Another challenge that has continued to pose the threat to peace and stability in South Sudan is lack of international engagement, this engagement has been left only to IGAD that has continue to destabilize South Sudan through playing out hidden agendas that are not South Sudanese-driven. This has prolonged the conflict as conflicting parties have found support within the IGAD membership. The United States which was the architect of South Sudan’s independence had no senior envoy devoted to South Sudan since 2016 until this year and no other government or body has stepped up to assume Washington’s lead role. This abdication is baffling; diplomacy is much cheaper than footing the billion-dollar annual bill for an endless humanitarian crisis.
International and regional diplomats have been quick to proclaim that South Sudan’s leaders “lack the political will” to end the war. The affliction appears contagious and the same every time. Almost two years into the signing of R-ARCSS, the world too appears to have lost the will to help draw the country’s nightmare to a close and the looming reversion to war appears imminent and real.
The Center for Peace and Advocacy (CPA) have through analysis discovered that the cycle of dishonored peace agreements will not end without, at a minimum, finding some resolution to the political gridlock created by the Kiir-Machar rivalry. But over time, a political settlement is needed that shares power more broadly across South Sudan’s groups and regions rather than the main antagonists.
For now, the Center for Peace and Advocacy (CPA) recommends that, what is urgently required is sustained third-party shuttle diplomacy among the regional heads of states who enjoy leverage over South Sudanese politicians, but back different sides and pursue their own short-term interests as much as a peaceful settlement.
Regional officials privately admit that they struggle to reach consensus or change course where necessary, particularly since policy is negotiated only at the highest levels, and meetings between heads of state are infrequent. Key decisions linger until crises hit. An empowered external actor should shuttle between Khartoum, Kampala, Addis Ababa, and Nairobi, helping to forge a coherent regional approach and pressing for sustained action.
Finally, the Center for Peace and Advocacy (CPA) recommends “the carrot and stick” approach to the South Sudan peace deals. Spoilers of peace agreements need to be identified and punished through sanctions and freezing of assets but more importantly convicting those violating the terms of the agreement and obstructing peace.
The R-ARCSS is not the best of all agreements, but when it is implemented in letter and spirit, there are high chances it will bear fruits. So, the pressure to implement it by an independent external actor is prerequisite to achieving sustainable peace, justice, equality, development and the rule of law in South Sudan.
The Revitalized peace-agreement was reached in August 2018, but the progress on the implementation of this power sharing agreement has been limited, and the political situation is volatile.
On two occasions, the pre-transitional period, which is meant to result in the formation of a threeyear transitional government of unity, has been extended, and the last deadline being the 22nd February 2020. Delayed cantonment of former fighters and the full integration of forces into the country´s military or police, as well as key decisions around the allocation of states and county boundaries are among the unresolved issues.
The ceasefire has largely held in most parts of the country during 2019, with an overall reduction of political violence between the signatories of the peace agreement, but localized attacks are still being carried out by armed groups who are not signatories to the agreement. During the past year there has furthermore been an upsurge in localized inter- and intra-communal violence, including cattle raiding and other forms of retribution attacks like the recent attacks by armed Murle youths in and around Uror, Nyirol and Akobo.
The severe humanitarian crisis continues to threaten millions of lives, and on 30 October 2019 the government declared a state of emergency due to the worst seasonal flooding seen in 30 years in the country. The flooding has aggravated the humanitarian situation further and will most likely have a severe impact on needs in 2020.
Therefore, the Center for Peace and Advocacy (CPA) calls for sustained effort to pressurize the government of South Sudan, SPLA-IO and all other signatories to implement the R-ARCSS because the potential of returning the country to some forms of normalcy lies in this agreement. Otherwise, another 2013 and 2016 is in the making and the repercussions this time round are going to be wide and far reaching amidst the global pandemic, which is COVID-19!