South Sudan: Two Years Already but Feeble Results From Peace Deal

By Deng Machol

President Kiir and Vice President Machar shake hands after a 2019 meeting in Juba. Photo credit Reuters

Juba – Two year on, the revitalized peace deal is yet to produce tangible results as political crisis violence, food insecurity and economic meltdown continue to ravage the world’s youngest nation.

After five years of brutal civil war, President Salva Kiir and his foe deputy, opposition leader, Dr. Riek Machar, including other key groups signed a revitalized peace agreement in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on September 12, 2018, following ten months of intense negotiations, with the aim of ending the devastating civil strife that had crippled the country.

However, the deal provided for a three-year transitional period, followed by general elections. 

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011, but barely two years later, the landlocked nation descended into civil war in December 2013 that has killed nearly 400,000 people.

It wasn’t the first time for President Kiir and Dr. Machar to share power, a peace deal signed in August 2015 failed to contain the violence after it collapsed following renewed violence in the capital Juba in July 2016, forced Machar to flee the country.

The implementation of the revitalized peace agreement has been worryingly slow due to a disputes between the parties to the peace agreement and also financial constraints have been major obstacles to completing the peace process, according to observers.

The parties to the peace agreement formed the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU) in February. Despite this, there are many unresolved key issues, including the unification of government and opposition forces, the formation of state government structures and reconstitution of the transitional national parliament.

The initialization of the peace agreement provided renewed hope for a return to peace and stability in the east African country.

The citizens who spokes to this new agency says their hopes and dreams has been distracted by slowly implementation of the peace deal.

The locals blamed the leaders for all this delays, as they only care about their own interests but not the common citizens

“I feel our leaders have let us down because for over two years, we are still suffering and people continue to die – I’m disappointed that nothing much has changed in South Sudan with a current peace deal,” said Sebit Lual, a Juba resident.

According to a recent report by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), sporadic violence has killed over 600 civilians in the past six months of 2020.

Half of the country’s population of an estimated 12 million people are food insecure, and over four million have been displaced both internally and externally from their homes.

“It is unacceptable for South Sudanese to continue bearing the burden and consequences of this conflict including impunity, rape, severe hunger, displacement and almost complete lack of services,” the Women Monthly Forum, a pressure group that brings together over 40 South Sudanese peace advocates, said in a joint communique on Friday.

Despite the peace deal, the violence, economic hardship and human rights abuses have continued unabated.

The group has also concerned about the recent escalation in fighting between government troops and forces of holdout rebel group, the National Salvation Front of Thomas Cirilo Swaka in Central Eqautoria state and upsurge in inter-communal violence in several parts of the country.

“We note with concern that security is not only the absence of conflict but the guarantee of freedom of movement, access to resources, food, water, shelter and education, and more importantly a general sense of safety,” said the group.

Meanwhile, the Troika’s countries have called on the country’s leaders to demonstrate ‘leadership and clear action’ to address outstanding tasks impeding the implementation of the revitalized peace deal in South Sudan.

The political analysts say while political fighting largely subsided over the past two years, the implementation of the peace deal has been at a snail’s pace.

In a statement to mark the second anniversary of the deal, the Troika countries comprising of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Norway say there has been some progress but expressed concerns at delays.

The Troika say the finalization of governance structures and the building of a national security apparatus are capable of addressing violence across the country regardless of political or ethnic affiliation.

“This week, during the first visit of all Troika Envoys to South Sudan since 2017, we urged all sides to demonstrate the leadership needed to deliver progress and maintain peace. Despite this, we remain concerned by the violence that has killed hundreds in recent months, further disrupting livelihoods and humanitarian access with more than 50% of the population facing severe acute food insecurity,” the statement said.

“Regardless of the causes of this violence, all sides must accelerate efforts to deliver the R-ARCSS in full and see that the national ceasefire is maintained,” it added.

The Troika also urged those groups who remain outside the peace agreement to demonstrate their clear commitment to peace through effective dialogue and honor their commitment to the Rome Declaration to end violence.

The Troika also emphasizes free humanitarian access across the country and participation of women at all levels of government.

Last week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that there is a risk of famine and widespread food insecurity in South Sudan and that the lives of millions of people are in danger.

“The implementation of the peace deal lacks political will, and there is also a lack of trust between the parties to the peace and this could jeopardize the peace agreement,” said Amos Garang, a student of political science in Juba.

The parties to the peace deal are lagging behind schedule in the implementation of the peace agreement as what they are trying to implement now is completely different from what is in the peace agreement.

The observers say the peace deal has not yielded many benefits for the people of South Sudan since key provisions had not been implemented – the two years have been wasted.

The analysts earlier expressed concern that the revitalized peace deal may not be fully implemented within the 36-month timeframe because the parties have wasted 24-months without achieving much yet time is running out.

Political analyst, Dr. Abraham Kuol Nyuon, Dean of the College of Social and Economic Studies at the University of Juba, said the level of confidents of working together between the signatories was extremely very low and that had delayed the implementation process.

“The different interests between the leaders were major obstacles that has stagnated the implementation process,” said Dr. Kuol. “So far, there is a little sense of cooperation among the political parties and I could see this peace have higher chance of holding despite the fact that it has limited capability of bringing the reform that is expected in the peace agreement,” he added.

Atem Simon said that the parties are trying to reshape the political arena through violence rather than focusing on the major reforms stipulates in the agreement like the security and economic reforms.

Rejab Muhandis, Executive Director of South Sudanese Network for Democracy and Elections (SSuNDE) said “the content of the agreement itself is very excellence; the only problem is the way is being implemented if the parties improve on the implementation, deliver on the task of the agreement – the agreement can deliver peace for this country.”

The civil society said the parties are not really working in harmony to stabilize the country, warning that the country’s path to peace remained bumpy and long.

Dr. Kuol says the current peace parties or regimes are not pro – reforms, therefore new government need to be installed through elections.

“The current government is not pro – reforms so it is only through elections that will be able to bring in issues of check and balance where the concept of reforms that had been outlined clearly in the current peace agreement should be made a reality,” said Kuol.

Both the citizens, civil society called upon the international community and the peace mediators to pressure the parties to implement the peace process in latter and spirit in order to ending a persist conflict.

More so, the revitalized peace deal was seen as a significant milestone that provides a clear roadmap for peace, political transformation, security sectors reforms, healing and reconciliation process, disarmament and compensation in the horn of Africa’s country, its implementation was extremely at the slow pace due to the mistrust between the signatories.

In the sense, the impression to end the political violence remains at reluctant point among the peace parties, South Sudan, tend to be in permanent conflicting mode.

“South Sudan’s leaders have a real opportunity to deliver the foundation of a stable and prosperous nation for all, and to demonstrate their commitment to peace.  We urge them to demonstrate this as a matter of urgency and will work with South Sudan to support progress,” said Troika.

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