By Deng Machol
Juba – The UN Mission in South Sudan, Special Representative of the Secretary General David Shearer has said the current delays in the peace process will likely have the unfortunate effect of pushing elections beyond the timeline.
The UN Chief said the transitional national legislative assembly is yet to be reconstituted, so necessary new laws are not being passed and progress on the Constitution has been delayed.
Shearer, was speaking during a press conference on Tuesday in Juba on his recent briefing to the African Union Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council on the situations in South Sudan, said he had been telling both bodies the the crucial issue right now is continuing progress on the peace process.
The COVID-19 has slowed the peace process, but the pandemic is not entirely to blame, he said.
The peace agreement is limping along – it needs to move faster, so we really need urgently breathe new life into the peace – my concern about the delay is that it risks pushing elections out well beyond the timeline in the agreement. This will just add to growing disillusionment amongst communities about whether the political will exists to give South Sudanese citizens the opportunity to choose their leaders,” Shearer stressed.
According to the September 12, 2018 revitalized peace deal, the elections will be held a months before the three years of transitional period elapse. However, the observers are also skeptical on elections.
Recently, Dr. Abraham Kuol Nyuon a political analyst said the implementation delay is a tactic from the leaders to extend their terms.
“By the end of the day, these politicians will be able to come up and saying look here we have never completed the certain milestone that was supposed to be done and as the result of that they should be able to come together and agree on the extension of transitional period and that is what I foreseen,” said Dr. Kuol, then the elections will not be done within next two years.”
“To avoid that ,it is role of mediators (IGAD – plus) to make sure that despite the fact that they are behind the scheduled – they should be able to put things in place – things that should be able to end the transitional period such as the elections,” Kuol stated.
On the positive side, the fragile 2018 deal to which NAS is not a signatory, paved the way for the establishment of a unity government in Juba, which took control in late February, including the state governors, formally ending the war but there continue to be delays finalizing the number and appointments of the executive at the states level, created a power vacuum.
But the progress has been slow in other areas as well as the cabinet is meeting irregularly.
“This is being worked on by the parties, but it needs to be resolved and agreed quickly so that the power vacuum is filled,” he said.
Shearer further unveiled that the international community and regional partners play an important role but the peace parties themselves must also step up their efforts to regain lost momentum.
UN Chief urges the warring parties to join the meeting with a genuine willingness to secure durable peace. The Rome talks mediated by Sant’ Egidio are scheduled to resume next week between the government and holdout groups.
Efforts to unifying soldiers stuck
The United Nations special envoy also said that, the unifying process of is struck, adding that urgent momentum action is needed to move the process forward so that elections aren’t delayed.
The pledge to bring government and rebel groups soldiers under a national army was a cornerstone of a September 2018 peace agreement that paused five years of bloodshed in which nearly 400,000 people died.
But fighters brought together at joint training sites across the war – torn country were deserting because of a lack of food and other essentials, said Shearer.
“Critically, there has been almost no movement on the critical areas of security sector reform and it is important to bring together soldiers from all sides into an inclusive army force,” said Shearer. “At the moment, the process is stuck. It hasn’t even moved past the first stage, where forces are trained and graduated. Urgent action is needed to move the process forward.”
The UN Chief stressed that there was a risk of renewed violence as soldiers disillusioned with the promise of peace return to their villages hungry and frustrated, he said.
“Disillusion is not a good thing – it could lead to frustration and anger and possibly violence – “a number of people who are there with a promise of joining the armed forces are now going back to the villages… and could cause further instability on the ground,” said Shearer.
Shearer also acknowledged the huge challenges faced by South Sudan, including falling oil prices, an ongoing lack of financial accountability, delays in paying civil servants and security sectors, and a doubling of the street exchange rate since March. This is putting a huge burden on ordinary families.
Conflict is adding to the suffering, as we have talked about before, he added.
“The role of the Government in managing the country’s finances is pretty straightforward,” said Shearer, further explained that Step one, account for the money coming into the country. Step two, account for how that money is spent.
“It’s a simple process, but what it requires and depends on is transparency and accountability. Every citizen of this country – as is the case with every other country in the world – has the right to know what is being earned by the state and what is being is spent on their behalf,” he added.
That information is not available in South Sudan. There has been no public record of government expenditure since 2017, said Shearer.
Criticise Juba gov’t
Shearer also criticised South Sudan’s government army for interfering with peacekeeping missions by UN troops tasked with protecting vulnerable civilians and aid workers in hotspots plagued by armed unrest across the country.
The UN Chief revealed that from January to July, UNMISS documented 575 incidents of subnational violence – three times the number compared to last year.
Last month, Shearer said 92 blue helmets were prevented from taking up positions at a new UN base in Lobonok, some 110 kilometres (68 miles) from Juba, by government troops who have been fighting the National Salvation Front (NAS), a holdout rebel group.
“As a result, we are often receiving requests for support from our peacekeepers – from communities around the country to send peacekeepers in to help cool the situation and encourage reconciliation between groups,” said Shearer, but in the last few weeks, due to a change in approach by the SSPDF, these kinds of operations have not been able to be put in place.
Eastern African’s youngest nation, turned ninth year from an independence struggle with Sudan, crying for permanent peace, stability and development remained challengeable.
As the time, the US –backed secession was hailed as a way forward to freedom, peace and stability but it did not end the plight of the South Sudanese, was being blighted by violence and corruption in the landlocked country.
South Sudan was just emerged from the conflict that has uprooted four million people, creating the worst refugee crisis in Africa since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
The peace implementation is at the slow path. The clashes, banditry and attacks on aid workers continue.
The citizens believe the current leaders have betrayed the ideals that they fought for, are yet to move the country towards sustained peace, security and development with this revitalized peace deal.