Covid-19 measures slow down peace-building in South Sudan

Saturday June 6 2020

Passengers from an international flight are screened at Juba International Airport in South Sudan on January 31, 2020. PHOTO | ALEX MCBRIDE | AFP

Passengers from an international flight are screened at Juba International Airport in South Sudan on January 31, 2020. PHOTO | ALEX MCBRIDE | AFP 

FRED OLUOCH
By FRED OLUOCH
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The regional body that midwifed the South Sudan peace has warned that Covid-19 pandemic could impact negatively on the implementation of the 2018 agreement.

Dr Ismail Wais, the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad) Special Envoy for South Sudan, said the spread of the virus has restricted mobility of the mediators, and the peace process requires trust-building through face-to-face meetings.

“The restrictions imposed for Covid-19 do not portend well for the implementation as there is real danger of lack of participation by the mediators, officials and parties,” he said.

Dr Wais was addressing a virtual meeting on June 3 organised by the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa under the topic; Rethinking the Covid-19 Response in South Sudan.

He said due to movement restrictions, the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) is facing challenges in the timely monitoring and verification of reports of violations of the permanent ceasefire and transitional security arrangements.

“With unification and deployment of forces delayed and most of the forces confined in cantonment and training sites, and with Covid-19 related movement restrictions, errant armed groups are likely to be emboldened and continue posing security threats,” he observed.

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South Sudan, with limited healthcare facilities and personnel has recorded over 1,317 cases with experts suspecting there could more than double the number since the country lacks sufficient testing kits.

But more challenging to the peace building is a number of cabinet ministers in the transitional government who were supposed to spearhead the implementation of the peace agreement have tested positive for Covid-19.

Three out of the five vice-presidents have tested positive. They include the first vice-president Dr Riek Machar, who was heading the National Taskforce on Covid-19, Hussein Abdelbagi and James Wani Igga. Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth, who is also the government spokesperson, has also tested positive.

But more challenging is that the bulk of the resources that were meant for neither the implementation peace programmes are nor being diverted to deal with the pandemic.

Dr Wais said that Covid-19 pandemic in South Sudan has hit the poorest hard and challenging barely existing health facilities and is diverting the meagre funding available for the implementation of the September 2018 Revitalised Peace Agreement.

“The pandemic is threatening the well-being and lives of the forces assembled in cantonment and training sites, with scenarios of this state of affairs further diminishing the State's ability to establish presence and control over its territory and citizens,” he said.

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