Articles (Opinion/Analysis)

On latest UN Security Council Briefing on South Sudan (Part One)

By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, 8th March 2022

While in this month of March the United Nations Security Council is due to renew the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) before its expiry date of 15th, so far, during yesterday’s Briefing on South Sudan, Members of the Council also examined the role of UNMISS.

This Part One of this article is looking at major Elections and related matters expressed during yesterday’s Briefing, as among what speakers told the council are that conditions are not yet in place to enable the holding of free, fair and peaceful elections in 2023 in South Sudan, while members explored ways to address outstanding issues during the remaining months of the Transitional Period established under the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS).

Relevant here, Nicholas Haysom, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMISS, in his briefing to the Council, said:

-the support of regional and international partners remains critical.

-the Revitalized Agreement remains a valid framework for building political stability.

-the call of the African Union Peace and Security Council for a trilateral AU-UN-IGAD evaluation of the electoral and constitution-making needs of South Sudan “presents a platform to leverage our comparative advantages,” adding that UNMISS “intends to be an active partner in this effort.”

“We anticipate a mandate flexible enough to support the conduct of free and fair elections, upon the request of the government. This will be contingent upon progress in implementing the peace agreement. As I have stated before, elections have the potential to be a nation-building moment, or a catastrophe. Much depends on the political will and leadership of the South Sudanese working together,” Haysom said,“…though progress has been undeniably slow, there is still space, even a window of opportunity to capitalise on the country’s relative stability to pursue and ground a democratic transition.”

Meanwhile, in his Statement to the Council, Maj. Gen. Charles Tai Gituai (Rtd), the  Interim Chairperson of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission said in RJMEC’s assessment, “the tasks most critical for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections under the Revitalised Peace Agreement are the unification of forces and their redeployment, enactment of the permanent constitution, review of political parties and electoral related laws, and reconstitution of the Political Parties Council and the National Elections Commission.”

“Given the challenges facing implementation, the critical tasks pending, and the Agreement timeline nearing expiry, RJMEC has tasked the Revitalised Unity Government to review the status of the implementation of the Agreement and develop a clear roadmap and strategy within the framework of the Revitalised Peace Agreement on how to implement the outstanding critical tasks as the end of the Transitional Period approaches. The roadmap should be consensus-based, with verifiable benchmarks and timelines,” he said.

To the council, among recommendations Gituai made, are that the council:

-actively engage the Revitalised Unity Government to ensure implementation of the critical outstanding tasks, especially the unification of forces and the permanent constitution making process, both tasks fundamental to the holding of free, fair and credible elections;

-encourage the Revitalised Unity Government to reconcile their inter-party differences and to work collegially in the best interests of South Sudan and its people;

-assist the Revitalised Unity Government’s efforts in mobilising resources from the international community to enhance implementation of the Revitalised Peace Agreement;

-support the Revitalised Unity Government to establish the Special Reconstruction Fund, and convene a South Sudan Pledging Conference to provide support to conflict-affected states and communities, as provided for in the Agreement; and

-continue supporting the full implementation of the Revitalised Peace Agreement and the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.

On her part, Riya William Yuyada, a human rights and peace activist with Crown the Woman, said there is general agreement among civil society members and citizens that the ground is not ripe for free, fair and peaceful elections, and that “any UNMISS support to an electoral process must be geared towards ensuring the process is safe, inclusive, and in alignment with international standards.”  

“The Council must also clarify that UNMISS, within its civilian protection mandate, is expected to ensure the safety and security of all voters, poll workers, candidates, and officials, as well as human rights defenders and activists,” she said “For proper elections to take place, citizens wish to see that all forces are cantoned and military forces and allied militias are unified under one central command.”

That’s according info provided on UN’s web on Meetings Coverage and Press Releases.

Conclusions:

While I have made public my views on Elections and related matters in recent articles titled Links between South Sudan’s General (National) Elections and Transitional Justice; and Cycle of “Peace” Agreements in South Sudan: Until When? To What End?, I think  the arguments that “tasks most critical for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections” are “the unification of forces and their redeployment, enactment of the permanent constitution, review of political parties and electoral related laws, and reconstitution of the Political Parties Council and the National Elections Commission” run contrary to supporting full implementation of the R-ARCSS, including Transitional Justice mechanisms: Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing, the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, and the Compensation and Reparation Authority, a process (grievances) the Agreement sought to address.

This is also because, as I have mentioned, 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.

Meanwhile, most of the related views expressed, including by others, during the briefing, are convincing or reasonable.

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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