This is a brief status report on the peacekeeping efforts in South Sudan.
STATUS: South Sudan fought for and gained independence from Sudan eight years ago. It became the world’s youngest nation only to commence fighting a civil war ever since. What happens in the next four months may well determine if peace or war will be the future of South Sudan for the next generation. It is the mandate of CTSAMVM* to monitor the peace agreement compliance by the Parties, to verify agreement activities by the Parties and to investigate and report all agreement violations, irrespective of the violating Party. My role is that of legal advisor and reporting officer for CTSAMVM.
Prior to the peace agreement, deadly fighting between the Parties included heavy and medium weapons. Cattle herders and farmers (of different tribes) have always had deadly conflicts; there are multiple inter-tribal conflicts, as well. These, and other natural & economic conditions, have driven millions of refugees to neighboring countries. Additionally, nearly half the current population are facing some sort of food scarcity and shortages, as well as poor crops.
The Revised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan envisioned a Permanent Ceasefire and Pre-Transitional Period to enable a political, administrative, operational and legal environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection to build a Republic Nation. It commenced on 1 July 2018, was not to exceed eight months for entry into the Transitional Period. Despite the mandatory phasing date language, the Pre-Transitional activity agenda was not timely reached and, therefore, was once extended six months and again extended for 100 days to 20 Feb 2020. Sixty days prior to the end of the Transitional Period, the first national public election should be organized, scheduled and published in accordance with the adopted Permanent Constitution.
There are good and bad signs that some Pre-Transition milestones have been met and others are still incomplete. Two worries exist: (1) the world and donors will not support another (3rd) extended Pre-Transition Period; or (2) the Parties’ failure to reach the Transition Period peacefully.
The GOOD: The good signs include a substantial decline in fighting (combat), a reduction in the numbers of child soldiers and sexually based gender violence. Prisoners of War are being released and other prisoners are receiving Presidential Pardons. A South Sudan Court ruled and annulled the marriage of a girl (16), notwithstanding more than 50% of South Sudanese girls are wed before the legal age of 18. The major opposing Party leader (Riek Machar) has set conditions for his return to meet and confer on the Peace Agreement implementation. Some opposing forces are actually moving into cantonment areas, where heavy weapons will be surrendered, personnel will have full biometric and medical screenings and individual training on the Peace Agreement mandates can be initiated. From Cantonment, individuals will be selected for National (combined Party & Tribal) Army, Firefighter, Border & State Police, National Security Service, Wildlife Service and civilian occupation training.
The BAD: The bad signs include some continued Party fighting and interference with CTSAMVM violation investigations. These include ambushes, continued Sexually Based Gender Violence, some child soldiers, multiple military occupied civilian facilities (schools, medical and public buildings), growing Internally Displaced Persons camps, increased natural resource production, possible Ebola cases and continued Peace Agreement violations. As documented in the United Nations Reports, the major violator we investigate are the South Sudan Army and Security Services, not the civil warring Parties.
The UGLY TRUTH: The next four months may make history. If the Transition Period is entered, with the majority of Pre-Transition mandates met, the long period of civil war (commencing 2013) may end and South Sudan may hold its first, national election! If the Pre-Transition Period is too incomplete, then the civil war nation may have been for naught. The authority initiating, supervising and supporting the Peace Agreement, including CTSAMVM, are the eight African Nations of the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD).
*CTSAMVM (Ceasefire & Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Verification Mechanism)