Security arrangements and the number of states remain the key challenges in implementing the South Sudan peace agreement, three months to the due date for the formation of the transitional government.
The opposition in particular, remain sceptical on whether the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) will be formed in November and if it will include all the signatories to the peace deal.
Pagan Amum, the former SPLM secretary-general and leader of the now divided Former Detainees (FDs) faction, told The EastAfrican that some pre-transitional period tasks will not have been implemented then and that President Salva Kiir will form a government with members of the opposition that are willing to do so.
“On security arrangements, the objective of building a national army as a professional conventional army that reflects the diversity of South Sudanese and as a national defence force under a civilian rule remains a dream,” said Mr Amum.
The Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMVM) has also expressed fears over the slow progress in the implementation of the security arrangements in the peace agreement.
The chairman of the CTSAMVM, Gen Abiche Ageno said that of the 33 cantonment sites that were assessed, only 31 were found to be suitable for the forces at the time the assessment was done.
He said out of the 83 buildings identified by CTSAMVM as being occupied by the forces, 47 have been vacated.
“These figures change daily as the CTSAMVM is constantly monitoring and updating our data as our team gathers and verifies information,” Gen Ageno told a meeting in Juba on August 5.
While many soldiers, both government and rebel forces have reported to various cantonment sites, the process is not yet complete.
Gen Augustine Njoroge, the interim chairperson of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) said that the majority of the designated sites and barracks have been verified but more work is needed to operationalise the cantonment sites.
The cantonments sites where forces are supposed to receive food, medicine and shelters are to act as the basic camps once the re-training programmes start but lack of funding has been delaying their full operations.
Gen Njoroge said that lack of funding has been a key factor influencing the rate of implementation of the critical pending pre-transitional tasks. He appealed to the government of President Salva Kiir to follow through with the pledge of $100 million for implementation.
“The funds must be disbursed in a predictable and timely manner. Time is fast running out and a lot still remains to be done,” said Gen Njoroge.
Besides gathering at cantonment arrears, all the forces were supposed to be retrained and merged into one army before the transitional government is formed in November.
Col Gabriel Lam, the deputy military spokesperson of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) said that the security arrangement is still a challenge because the forces are trickling in on a daily basis due to lack of funding and sufficient assurances.
Number of states
The second challenge is that the Independent Boundaries Commission (IBC)—that is to decide on the number of states the country should have—is yet to reach a consensus.
Recently, the IBC voted to revert to the previous 10 states but the vote is seen as invalid because it lacked the quorum of seven South Sudanese members as per the agreement.
South Sudan had 10 states at independence in 2011 but at the height of the civil war President Kirr unilaterally increased the states to 32 —which the opposition maintains violated the 2015 peace agreement that was based on 10 states.
Following the September 2018 agreement, the IBC was tasked to settle the dispute over the number of states in the country.
Dr Lam Akol, a member the commission and leader of the National Democratic Movement, said that the only way of breaking the deadlock over the number of states would be to take a political decision.
He appealed to the executive secretary of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development to invite the five parties to meet in a bid to take a decision on the matter, because the issue is political.