South Sudan monitoring team cites Covid-19, defections as barriers to transition

Tuesday April 21 2020

A regional conflict monitoring team in South Sudan says the scourge of Covid-19 and defections by politicians could harm the trajectory to full time peace.

In a situational report on Tuesday, the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) said the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19) into South Sudan could limit the inability of stakeholders from meeting deadlines.

But the team, created by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), to oversee the implementation of the peace deal, said South Sudan’s political leaders could harm that agreement by defecting between parties.

“Parties should refrain from accepting into their ranks soldiers who are defecting and changing alliances,” JMEC said in the report.

“This can only undermine implementation of the permanent security arrangements and the momentum of trust and confidence-building among the Parties to the R-ARCSS,” it added referring to the initials that stand for the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan.

The R-ARCSS was signed in November 2018, but it was not until February 22this year that the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU)was formed in Juba.


The government is led by President Salva Kiir and includes five vice Presidents who are former nemesis Dr Riek Machar (of the SPLM/A-IOgroup), Dr Wani Igga and Mr Tabang Deng (from Kiir’s side SPLM), and Rebecca Nyandeng De’Mabior from another opposition group FDs).

The South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) are represented by Mr Hussien Abdelbaggi as another vice President.

Yet even after the unity government was formed and cabinet announced in February, various disgruntled leaders defected between groups, after they expressed disappointment with being left out.

Mr Dak Duop Bichiok, a former SPLM-IO (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-in-Opposition) member of the Political Bureau was the most recent defector last week, saying they did not agree with Machar’s decision to nominate his wife Angelina Teny as Defence Minister.

JMEC said South Sudan has a tight calendar to implement the R-ARCSS, which includes training and unifying forces for a national army, establishment of a transitional legislative assembly of 550 members, appointment of regional state governors as well as passing key laws to ensure the government functions.

“It is, however, regrettable that delays have persisted in the reconstitution of the transitional national legislature, notwithstanding that Article 1.14.6 determines that its term should run concurrently with that of the RTGoNU,” said the Commission chaired by Lt-Gen Agostino Njoroge.

“The failure of the Parties to provide to the NCAC their nominees to the TNLA has led to an unnecessary delay in the reconstitution of this critical arm of the unity government.”

South Sudan has registered four Covid-19cases of Covid-19, something the Commission said could slow down that calendar.

“The threat of the Covid-19 pandemic adds to the humanitarian concerns as large numbers of trainees are confined at the various sites, and centres which are in close proximity to surrounding communities,” it said of soldiers currently being trained to be part of the unified forces.

“Although restrictions on movement have been instituted by the High-Level Task Force on Covid-19, there is a need for awareness campaigns and provision of hygiene and sanitation facilities at the various training centres and cantonment sites.

“These responses are a matter of urgency especially since the DDR (disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration of soldiers) process is yet to be established to take care of combatants found to be unfit to join the National Unified Forces.”

The country has returned to normalcy, but the fear is that its five million displaced people, and returning refugees could create a new challenge amid the pandemic.