With only20 days before to the February 22 deadline for the formation of a unity government, security arrangements in South Sudan appear to have gained momentum as former holdouts to the peace process are sending feelers for their inclusion in the government of national unity.
A number of the security arrangement requirements since the parties signed the permanent ceasefire chapter in July 2018 have been met, but the issues of screening, training and unification of armed groups still remain a challenge.
The crucial issue of the number of states remains unresolved.
The parties agreed to a permanent ceasefire that would facilitate transitional security arrangements and voluntary repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons.
The security arrangement, which is contained in Chapter 2 of the Revitalised Agreement of September 2018, required the signatories to carry out cantonment of all armed forces, screening and training, unification of the armed forces and demilitarisation of the major cities.
So far, screening and training is ongoing at 23 out of the initial 30 cantonment sites for both the opposition and government troops through provision of food, clean water, shelter and medicines.
Garang Akol, the head of the Joint Transitional Security Committee, said that they have been supervising the screening of the forces who have been unified so far, with international peace monitors acting as observers.
In his address to the African Union Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa on January 27, interim chair of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission Augustino Njoroge said that although the mobilisation of troops to cantonment sites and training centres is going on, the implementing agreement mechanisms have not worked to the expectations.
For instance, the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration commission was reconstituted, and developed its work plan, but is not yet fully functional due to lack of funds. Gen Njoroge said the first batch of the money for the implementation was only released on December 27 last year.
However, the more serious issue is the number of states, because the exercise will continue for the next three years of interim period from February 22.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir is hoping that the holdouts parties that recently signed a declaration of principles agreement with the government, in Rome, will hold, since they have expressed the desire to join the peace process.
The Opposition Movements Alliance—comprising those who refused to sign the peace agreement, Gen Thomas Cirillo, Gen Paul Malong and Pagan Amum—signed a document known as the Rome Declaration, and agreed to continue dialogue with the government.
Mr Amum said the Rome declaration is about creating a conducive environment for talks to resolve the root causes of the conflict, after the affirming commitment to cessation of hostilities was signed in December 2017.