Articles (Opinion/Analysis)

Cycle of “Peace” Agreements in South Sudan: Until When? To What End?

By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, 28th February, 2022

Several questions can be asked about the South Sudan crises, this can include: why the continuous cycle of peace agreements and transitional government? Until when? Are these deliberate making by the South Sudanese, in collaboration with some in regional, international communities and bodies involved? Until when?

While other processes have been made and continue to be made, the main one is the 2018 Revitalised Agreement on The Resolution of the Conflict In the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) under which the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU) operates. R-ARCSS contains many provisions in Eight (8) Chapters including on Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements; Humanitarian Assistance and Reconstruction; Resource, Economic and Financial Management; Transitional Justice, Accountability, Reconciliation and Healing; and on Parameters of “Permanent” Constitution to guide the elections toward the end of the Transition.

Throughout the years, indeed, the processes, in various ways, connected to and or also concern its parties, the government; the Civil Society; IGAD, the African Union, United Nations Security Council as well as many partners/countries/diplomatic community involved.

True also is that delays in implementation, gaps  in a holistic approach, ideas and intellectual contribution for success of the processes existed and continue to exist. As a journalist, a South Sudanese and human rights defender, I avail my contributions for success on my website rogeryoronmodi.com as well as through other media sites.

Last Week, a team of 15 delegates from the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union arrived in Juba to evaluate the implementation of R-RACSS.

“We will be here for three days. We will talk to a cross-section of stakeholders from the government, the civil society, political parties, and some of the development partners just to get a sense of how the peace process is going, where are the challenges and how can the Peace and Security Council of the African Union continue to support South Sudan during this transition,” Ambassador Jean Kamau, who is also the leader of the delegation said.

The PSC in a Communique during its 1060th meeting held on 25 January 2022 on the situation in South Sudan, among others, “decides to undertake a solidarity visit to South Sudan on the second anniversary of the formation of the Transitional Government on 22 February 2022 aimed at encouraging the country as it embarks on the end-phase of the transition, and start the laborious process to the post-transition era.”

The PSC  in the Communique also said it “welcomes the efforts of H.E. President Yoweri Museveni and his intention to convene a retreat in Kampala, Uganda, for the South Sudan Presidency to resolve the outstanding areas of the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement and encourages IGAD to support these efforts.”

So far, the principals of the R-ARCSS is said to have received an invitation letter to attend the retreat of South Sudanese leaders, now said expected to be held early next month.

Earlier in January I wrote an editorial titled Issues around Ceasefire, Arms Embargo & Supporting South Sudan’s peace process, it is still relevant and contains relevant details as well, on major issues that concern the implementation of Chapter 2 of the peace agreement which is about the Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements; Arms Embargo and Sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council and the peace process as a whole, and  that the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General and head of UNMISS Mr. Nicholas Haysom and IGAD  Executive Secretary Workneh Gebeyehu, Ph.D welcomed the decision to host or hold the retreat.

On Sharing Top Command of the Army or Command Structure

While reports of violations of the Ceasefire continues, controversies also continue regarding implementation of related parts of the R-ARCSS, graduation of the unified forces, and purposes of the retreat that is said shall include agreeing on sharing top command of the army or command structure.

“Pertaining to the very critical issues of the permanent ceasefire there is concern that the ceasefire is under pressure and could be fracturing, there is an area where it has apparently been undermined since the last CTC meeting,” the new chairperson of  Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangement, Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) General Asrat Denero said.

Meanwhile, this month, Dr. Martin Elia Lomuro, the Minister of Cabinet Affair, also the acting chairman of the National Transitional Committee (NTC), said the principals to the R-ARCSS met and agreed to “expeditiously” graduate 50,000 unified forces, during a meeting in which the Joint Defense Board (JDB) briefed the Presidency in the presence of a visiting Sudanese delegation led by the Deputy President of the Sudan Supreme Council, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo.

Lomuro said:

“This meeting was chaired by the President of South Sudan in the presence of the First Vice President and the Vice Presidents and Generals from JDB representing all the parties to the agreement.

“The report identified the total number of forces that have been screened, reorganized, and are ready for graduation. It showed that we have 50,000 (soldiers) comprising of the army, police, National Security, military intelligence, prisons, fire brigade, and civil defense.

“It classified the number of forces in Greater Equatoria, Upper Nile, and Greater Bahr el Ghazal and it told us the forces in Greater Equatoria and Upper Nile are ready for graduation.

“What the meeting decided was to give 7 days for the parties to the agreement, particularly to the President and First Vice President and the head of SSOA, for us to conclude the representation of these opposition forces in the command of the army.

“Sudan has come up with proposals as to how we should share the command up in the top because we now have the ranks identified. So, we are now going to sit over the proposal that has been advanced by Sudan and conclude in the next 7 days so that these forces are graduated.”

“I think this is a very big development and we are happy that the comments, particularly from the SPLM-IO leader Dr. Machar with regards to the report, were very positive. His only concern is for us to agree finally on exactly how to share the top command of the army and not necessarily the command structure because we already have ranks identified so it is a question of unifying them and arranging them according to seniority.

On the elections, Dr. Lomuro, according to Radio Tamazuj, said:

“it will depend on the government’s total assessment of the peace implementation process, the critical provisions, and actions that must be taken and implemented to make sure that the elections are credible, free, and fair.

“It is better for us to do it (graduate the forces) and let those who sanctioned or embargoed us feel the shame.”

On their part, later the same week, Puok Both Baluang, SPLM-IO Director of Information and Acting Press Secretary for First Vice President Dr Machar said priority should be given to the unification of top command structure before graduation of the forces.

“Before the graduation of forces, the parties should agree on command structure and the agreement on the command structure is very important and second to that it is the parliament to pass the security bills,” Baluang said.

“There are very crucial and important tentative that must be there if we want free, fair and transparent elections that will lead to stability of South Sudan.”

While all these including the delays in the implementation, for the benefit of the reader, here are relevant provisions of the R-ARCSS:

-Throughout the Transitional Period training of personnel selected for the military, police, security and other services shall continue. Programme of DDR shall continue for ineligible personnel.

-During the Transitional Period, all collected heavy and medium range weapons and ammunitions shall be disposed of as shall be determined by the JDB.

-Building of the national army, police, national security service and other organised forces shall be completed before the end of the Transitional Period.

-By the end of the Transitional Period the national army and other organized forces shall be redeployed throughout the Republic of South Sudan pursuant to the plan laid down by the Strategic Defense and Security Review Board (SDSRB).  (See Articles 2.3.2.; 2.3.3.;2.3.3.;2.3.5).

-All the Heads of Opposition Armed Groups shall continue as Commanders-in-Chief of their forces until the end of the Pre-Transitional Period or until the end of the unification process. (2.4.1 )

-The Joint Defence Board (JDB) shall be formed at the level of Chiefs of Staff and Directors General of National Security Service, Police, and all other organized forces to exercise command and control over all forces during the Pre-Transitional Period. (2.4.2.)

The CTSAMVM, including the national monitors, shall be responsible for monitoring, verification, compliance and reporting directly to IGAD Council of Ministers and the reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) on the progress of the implementation of the PCTSA and shall last for the duration of the Transitional Period. The  meetings shall be in Juba during the Transitional Period. It shall consist of a Board and Secretariat, both of which are chaired by a representative of IGAD (See Annex B: CTSAMVM diagram.) (Article 2.4.7). 

Article 2.4.8:

The CTSAMVM Board membership shall comprise the representatives of:

Three each from the warring parties (3×3=9); Former Detainees: one (1); Other Political Parties: three (3); Women’s bloc: one (1) and Other Women groups: one (1); CSOs: two (2); Youth: two (2); Business Community: one (1); Academia: one (1); Eminent personalities: one (1); IGAD: three (3); AU: one (1); China: one (1); Troika (United States, United Kingdom, Norway): one (1); UNMISS: one (1); IPF: one (1); EU: one (1).

In addition to their other responsibilities, all security forces shall prepare for elections-related security tasks at least six (6) months before the end of the Transitional Period.  (Article 2.4.11.)

The R-ARCSS says the restructured  Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR)  shall report regularly to the RTGoNU and RJMEC.

Article 2.5.3: Within thirty (30) days of the signing of this Agreement (inclusive of  formation of the Board), the SDSR Board shall undertake the Strategic  Security Assessment. The Board shall make use of previous documents, including a) the Strategic Security Assessment; b) the Security Policy Framework; and c) the Revised Defence Policy. The results of the assessment shall inform the requirements of the armed forces, national security service and other organised forces which shall be the basis for the formulation of the country’s Defence and Security policies leading to the overall restructuring of the security organs. The restructuring shall include the future command, function, size, composition and budget of the national army, national security service other organised forces, and requirements for DDR.

Article 2.5.4. says The SDSR process shall be comprehensive, inclusive, transparent and underpinned by the principles and strategies of national interests in promoting and defending the sovereignty and dignity of the country and its people. The SDSR shall be conducted in four (4) Stages:

2.5.4.1. Stage 1 (complete within one hundred twenty (120) days):

2.5.4.1.1. Firstly, a strategic security assessment that examines the military and non-military security challenges that affect the Republic of South Sudan currently and in the future, including an analysis of all state, state-aligned and nonstate, or other independent security actors and armed groups (drawing on the information provided by forces in cantonment);

2.5.4.1.2. Secondly, a security policy framework, clarifying the responsibilities of different bodies and agencies in responding to these security challenges, including the management and oversight of the security sector;

2.5.4.1.3. Thirdly, a revised defence policy, identify the specific role and mission of the national army, NSS, and other organised forces and outlining a vision for their modernisation.

2.5.4.2. Stage 2 (complete within one hundred and fifty (150) days):

2.5.4.2.1. An analysis of the operational capabilities that national army and other security forces shall be required to meet the challenges identified in Stage 1, and the supporting systems, structures and resources that are needed to ensure effective utilization of these capabilities.

2.5.4.2.2. The key output should be a range of strategic models, specifying the level of human resources, equipment, and training needed to develop the military to respond to defence and security priorities, and the associated financial implications.

2.5.4.3. Stage 3 (executive approval within one hundred and eighty (180) days):

2.5.4.3.1. The findings of Stage 2 are submitted to the principals for evaluation and adoption.

2.5.4.3.2. Their task is to decide which model, or combination of models, best meets the needs of the nation, along with the level of expenditure required.

2.5.4.3.3. The findings of the review should then be published in a white paper on Defence and Security and a Security Sector Transformation (SST) Roadmap, approved firstly by the Council of Ministers and then by the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA).

2.5.4.4. Stage 4 (implementation):

2.5.4.4.1. DDR and the SSR processes.

2.5.4.4.2. In addition, the relevant ministries shall produce annual plans to turn the Republic of South Sudan’s vision of defence and security into practical, costed programmes.

Conclusions and Recommendations:

In their January Communique,  the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union also “requests the AU Commission to undertake the following:

i. To liaise with the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General and the IGAD Executive Secretary to coordinate a trilateral evaluation of the electoral and constitution-making needs of South Sudan, and to submit a report of the evaluation within two months of Council’s decision;

ii. To commence consultations with the UN Secretary-General and the IGAD Executive Secretary on the convening of the South Sudan Pledging Conference as provided for in Chapter III, Article 3.2.8 of the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement;

iii. To deploy all the necessary technical support for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) and Security Sector reform (SSR) programme in South Sudan.”

Still a lot can be asked, in search for answers and understanding to issues raised in this article,  including why the continues cycle of peace agreements and transitional government, delays in implementation of the R-ARCSS, gaps  in a holistic approach, ideas and intellectual contribution for success of the processes and interconnections between the R-ARCSS provisions and related process as a whole. That also include  issues that need to be looked into such as studying factors leading to group formation (armed or related), cycle of  violence and transitional government, studying genuine grievance versus mere political rhetoric, as I also cited in a recent article that a letter in April 2021 from the UN Panel of Experts on South Sudan addressed to the President of the Security Council highlighted a spark of “warlord politics”, whereby “armed groups were fighting for control of resources and territorial control rather than the protection of civilians and law and order.” While it seems that’s the direction being taken by some for  one reason or another, the questions remain important and relevant.

In a Press Release last week, RJMEC “urges the establishment of the Transitional Justice mechanisms, especially the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing, and the Hybrid Court for South Sudan without further delay” adding that “Accountability and justice are important building blocks for peace and reconciliation, and these mechanisms are a cornerstone in building accountability and the rule of law for the Republic of South Sudan.”

Questions can be asked, for example, regarding the Unification of the Unified Forces and Truth, Reconciliation and Healing, and the Hybrid Court, which one should come first for the success of the processes? In 2016, when the ARCSS of 2015 was in place, the forces were together and they fought at the State House (J1) in July, and armed violence resumed. Could fast-tracking or moving forward with the Transitional Justice (Truth, Reconciliation and Healing, and the Hybrid Court) contribute far better for the success of the processes? My recent article Links between South Sudan’s General (National) Elections and Transitional Justice is relevant and contains relevant details on that, including that improvements on the R-ARCSS are possible, including through the ongoing processes with its non-signatories and without necessarily extending the term of the transitional government or extending it unreasonably, concurrent activities should go on, harmonizing the processes. And that the credibility of transitional justice will go a long way into building a just, reconciled and  peaceful country,  avoiding a revert to armed conflict that may be related to elections and R-ARCSS implementation or when grievances that the processes sought to resolve remain unresolved.

In the meantime also, related concerns involve delays in parts of the R-ARCSS regarding lack of civil and political space.

About the Arms Embargo and its relation to the gradation of the Necessary Unified Forces, in her statement at the Security Council briefing last month, the United States Representative to the UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the arms embargo provisions are not responsible for delays in the training and graduation of the Necessary Unified Forces.  “Its purpose is to create space to advance the peace process and space for South Sudanese civil society to participate in its own democracy and governance. The arms embargo helps protect civilians by stemming the flow of weapons into the country,” she said “Should the South Sudanese government require any arms or materiel in order to implement the peace agreement, there is a clear exemption procedures in place. The Committee only received one arms embargo exemption request this year, which you just heard, and that request was granted.”

But is the graduation of the unified forces now being reduced to simply graduate them so as to make  “those who sanctioned or embargoed us feel the shame” as Lomuro was quoted as saying? These are all matters that need a holistic approach for success of the processes, avoiding manipulations.

Regarding the Pledging Conference highlighted in the PSC Communique, well, the R-ARCSS provides that in collaboration with the Chairperson of IGAD, Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Secretary General of the United  Nations (UNSG) shall convene a South Sudan Pledging Conference to raise money to resource Special Reconstruction Fund, and to support the implementation of the R-ARCSS, however, there are several issues that are connected or can be said to be connected to it, including institutional and legal (accountable, transparent use of resources) reform provided for in the R-ARCSS.

On the Special Reconstruction Fund (SRF), here are the provisions on the R-ARCSS, in its Chapter 3:

-The RTGoNU, in collaboration and support of international partners and  friends of South Sudan, shall establish a Special Fund for Reconstruction (SRF), within the first one (1) month of the Transition, to be administered by the Board of Special Reconstruction Fund (BSRF), comprising membership drawn from the RTGoNU and international partners and friends of South Sudan.

-The BSRF shall be composed of thirty (30) members, to be nominated as follows:

-RTGoNU: Five (5), (one representative of each of the Ministry of  Finance and Planning; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of  General Education and Instruction; Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security; and Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management).

-Greater Equatoria and Greater Bahr El Ghazal six (06): three (03)  representatives each, Greater Upper Nile (Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile): six (6): two (2) representatives each.

-Civil Society: one (1) representative;  Academia – one (1) representative; IGAD: one (1) representative; Troika (Norway, United Kingdom, United States): three (3)—one representative from each; People’s Republic of China: one (1) representative; African Union: one (1) representative; United Nations (UN): one (1) representative; European Union: one (1) representative; The World Bank: one (1) representative; IGAD Partners Forum: one (1) representative; African Development Bank: one (1) representative. The BSRF shall be chaired by an international member of the BSRF and deputised by the Ministry of Finance and Planning.

-The international members of the BSRF shall select the Chair. The BSRF shall define its working modalities and Terms of Reference to allow for efficient planning and disbursement of its responsibilities. The Board shall be assisted by a team of local and international experts whose recruitment shall be determined by the Board.

-The BSRF shall, in coordination with the RTGoNU, relevant National Ministries, the State and Local Governments, lead in assessing and determining the priorities for reconstruction of infrastructure in the country, with priorities to conflict-affected States, and areas.

-The BSRF shall prepare a programme and detailed action plan for the reconstruction of conflict-affected States, and other areas to guide the work of the SRF. The said programme shall include but will not be limited to the provision of assistance and protection to IDPs, returnees and families affected by the conflict, and shall be completed within six (6) months of its establishment.

-The RTGoNU shall provide the SRF with initial funding of not less than one hundred million dollars (US $100 million) per annum for the Transitional Period, and shall cooperate with international donors in the administration of pledges to the Fund.

-Within nine (9) months of the establishment of the SRF, the BSRF in collaboration with the Chairperson of IGAD, Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Secretary General of the United Nations (UNSG) shall convene a South Sudan Pledging Conference to raise money to resource this Fund, and to support the implementation of this Agreement. The Fund shall supplement core financing by the RTGoNU.

-A report on the income, expenditure and the projects supported by the Fund shall be placed by the Board before the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and the Council of States which shall exercise oversight over the Fund.

This month, Lomuro has urged citizens in the country to contribute money or food to the implementation of the R-ARCSS.

“The only contribution we have received is from the business community, where are the rest of South Sudanese? The world over, people help their government. South Sudanese can contribute money or food to make the peace process move forward,” he said.

Well, on this issue of raising funds to support the implementation of the R-ARCSS, as I pointed out here, there are several issues that are connected or can be said to be connected to it, including institutional and legal (accountable, transparent use of resources) reform provided for in the R-ARCSS that need to be done and seen as done. My other articles relevant to that include: South Sudan MPs Salary Increase vs Reforms & Country’s “Most Corrupt” Rating and On Controversies about R-ARCSS Incorporation & lawmaking in South Sudan.

Finally, hopefully this article is useful in this search for answers and understanding to issues raised in this article, including why the continues cycle of peace agreements and transitional government, delays in implementation of the R-ARCSS, gaps  in a holistic approach, ideas and intellectual contribution for success of the processes and interconnections between the R-ARCSS provisions and related processes as a whole.

Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, a South Sudanese journalist, is the author of the book Freedom of Expression and Media Laws in South Sudan.  Roger is also the Producer and Host of The Weekly Review: Making Sense of News and Relevant Topics. For more, keep in touch with this his website rogeryoronmodi.com

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