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South Sudan’s Peace Implementation: mistrust, mistakes and COVID-19


by Ukongo Benson Athia

With the appointments of the Vice Presidents, the Ministers and their few designated deputies, a ray of hope seemed a reality, once again for the suffering masses of the South Sudanese. Expectedly, the State governments should have mirrored couple of days later. To the contrary, the parties to the agreement appear distrustfully in confusion over which states the other should take! What are the issues that may be suspected of frustrating the peace parties, from proceeding with the formation of state governments as part of the implementation of the 2018 R-ARCISS?

Firstly, as an independent observer; we could treat this delay partially as the international community’s share of the blame, which they must take for the laxity in the full implementation of the agreement. Inclusion of Hybrid Court to prosecute and punish the yet to be known war criminals, who may happen to possess full or partial control of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflicts in South Sudan (R-ARCISS 2018), was one of the worst international mistakes. Rather, an exit strategy (by the deliberate temporary omission of justice), in favour of holding free and fair elections after the transitional period could have been the best option. In other words, justice should not be a priority given that the crimes committed before or after 2013 maybe there but, which remain not investigated and prosecuted because no system and international will, was available to deal with the same.

Secondly, how can you prosecute persons suspected of crimes’ commission, yet they are in power? The agreement is not a self-implementing of its kind. It requires the political will of the party’s to the agreement. And when political will is threatened by looming prosecution and punishment plans, the political will paralyses. Remember that politicians enjoy their games of human rights violations yet they are the most fearful to be punished for the crimes they may be reasonably suspected and accused of.

Thirdly, with unexplained delay in forming state governments; it is too uncertain to predict the pending fate of the agreement without the implementation of all the provisions of the agreement in letter and spirit. How can people say they are prepared to prevent or fight COVID-19 when State Governments are dysfunctional? Covid-19 finds itself a victim of the situation for delay formation of state governments. Mistrust than the disease sounds a better answer, given that parties have been trading fruitless negotiations on state allocation, based on strategic location interests for one reason or another.

Fourthly, could the continuous absence of the non-signatories to R-ARCISS 2018, be one factor? And probably that the inclusion of the parties to the conflict be the last expected option for lasting peace in South Sudan? Any reader may answer differently. Absolutely, in search for durability peace, bringing on board all hold-out warring parties is highly desirable. The Saint Egidio in Rome started well and hopefully, changes may come. On the other hand, it can be encouraging when the parties, who are signatories to the R-ARCISS 2018, agree to recommit themselves to implementing their peace deal. Pact Sunt Servanda, you must implement what you signed. Regardless of the presence of non-signatories, full implementation of the R-ARCISS 2018 would send signals across the globe that peace is real in South Sudan. The friends of the people of South Sudan may simply tell, the non-signatories, to stop all sorts of demands and further rebellions, but to join the rally of South Sudanese who are seeing the fruits of implementation R-ARCISS 2018. This may only happen when progress has been made on the ground. Rhetoric and propaganda, at this point, must be clearly distinguished from practicality on the ground.

The author is a South Sudanese lawyer. Reachable at: ukongo2004@gmail.com

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