South Sudan transitional govt formation vulnerable to politics

Saturday January 11 2020

South Sudan’s Peter Biar Ajak (right) is one of 30 political prisoners released through a presidential pardon as a gesture of national reconciliation and healing. PHOTO | AFP


With only six weeks left for signatories to the September 2018 South Sudan peace agreement to form the transitional government, it is a mixed bag of progress and delays.

The formation of the transitional government was extended by 100 days last November and it is supposed to be formed on February 22.

A midterm evaluation by the opposition—led by the National Democratic Movement—paints a positive picture of several major achievements, but which remain vulnerable to political manoeuvres.

One is the recent release of 30 political prisoners, including activist Peter Biar Ajak and businessman Kerbino Wol through a presidential pardon, as a gesture of national reconciliation and healing.

However, a number of prisoners of war and political detainees remain jailed.

South Sudan rights groups say the release of the political prisoners through a presidential pardon is not in line with the peace agreement because it implies a crime was committed.


“President Salva Kiir's pardoning of Mr Ajak and other political detainees is a step in the right direction, but that action does not absolve him and other elites from having illegally imprisoned peaceful political activists in the first place,” said Dismas Nkunda, the executive director of the Uganda-based Atrocities Watch Africa.

Article 2.1.6 of the agreement stated that all political detainees and prisoners of war be released immediately and handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The security situation remained calm due to the fact that the permanent ceasefire is generally being observed throughout the country.

However, there have been clashes and incidents reported in some parts of the country, especially in Yei area in Central Equatoria State and in Maiwut area in Upper Nile State.

The disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration commission, was reconstituted and developed its work plan, but is yet to start its activities on the cantonment sites.

The parties agreed on the establishment of a new mechanism as per the Entebbe Tripartite—which extended the timeline by 100 days—to supervise the implementation of the critical pre-transitional security tasks.

But the new mechanism is yet to be constituted despite the fact that it was supposed to play a key role in the 50-day evaluation of the implementation process as stipulated in the Entebbe Tripartite statement.

Although 30 cantonment sites for both the opposition and government troops are operational, provision of food, clean water, shelter and medicines remain a challenge and the major reason for troops deserting the sites.

The evaluation report by National Democratic Movement—headed by Lam Akol—says that there are sites that did not receive food delivery since their establishment. Some sites last received food in the June and August period and the most recent food deliveries were in November last year.

Funding also remains a challenge for the cantonment centre.

After the Entebbe Tripartite meeting in November the government announced that it had released $40 million for the implementing institutions and mechanisms as part of the $100 million it pledged. But only $16 million has been available so far.

On the controversial number of states and boundaries, the Independent Boundaries Commission reached a consensus last year in favour of reverting to the 10 states.

Only the government—out of other signatories—still insists on maintaining the 32 states or more and is insisting that either the parties adopt its position or there will be no agreement on the matter.

“This cannot be dialogue but dictation. Consensus is not synonymous with unanimity and hence this matter must be brought to a conclusion,” said Dr Akol.

The evaluation report finds that the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad) after brokering peace, has not been active in overseeing its implementation to ensure the adherence to the agreement in letter and spirit.

“Since signing the agreement Igad did not play its part of ensuring accountability and imposing punitive measures against any party found to have violated the agreement. This has emboldened some parties to continue with violations and to be selective in implementing the provisions of the agreement,” says the report.

On January 6, Mr Nkunda’s Atrocities Watch Africa launched an online platform in which South Sudanese citizens are encouraged to nominate individials for the Spoilers of Peace Awards.

Mr Nkunda said the purpose of the awards is to hold those who bear the most responsibility for prolonging the misery of the people of South Sudan accountable.

“The awards not only include individuals and entities who are a part of South Sudan's elite, but will also include foreign individuals, entities and governments who have aided and abetted the stalling of South Sudan's peace process, as well as catastrophic destruction and suffering in the country,” he said.

The organisation says that peace in South Sudan will not happen until the spoilers are exposed and held accountable.

“Identifying the peace spoilers will enable the international community to use their political and economic leverage to cut off their ability to wage war and profit from it,” said Mr Nkunda.