By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi
OPINION – In one of my articles in August 2018, I argued, quoting Chapter Seven, Article 3 of the then ARCSS that provided that JMEC “shall be responsible for monitoring and overseeing the implementation of the Agreement and the mandate and tasks of the TGoNU, including the adherence of the Parties to the agreed timelines and implementation schedule. In case of non-implementation of the mandate and tasks of the TGoNU, or other serious deficiencies, the JMEC shall recommend appropriate corrective action to the TGoNU.”
That provision implied that JMEC had powers to, for example, recommend appropriate corrective actions to the TGoNU regarding the validity or lack thereof in the appointment to a post or removal of a position holder under the Agreement (when there is a dispute.) Otherwise, why have a monitoring body when it shall not follow such significant processes to ensure that they occur in line with the letter and spirit of the very Agreement establishing them for the purposes of overseeing the Agreement’s implementation and recommending appropriate corrective action in case of non-implementation or other serious deficiencies?
That was the test JMEC faced when in July 2016 debates arose on the question of Machar’s replacement by members of the SPLM-IO in Juba following the resumption of violence.
On 24, July 2016, JMEC issued a statement saying: “The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission [JMEC] would like to clarify its stance on the SPLM/iO leadership debate. As stated yesterday, a change to the leadership depends on the Opposition itself and we are not here to speculate on such changes. We do not see any value in speculating when the people and friends of South Sudan are working hard to ensure a return to the implementation of the Peace Agreement.”
I went on to say that that was unnecessary, since according to ARCSS, in my view, JMEC role is never to “speculate” on leadership changes anywhere, be it in the opposition or any other party to the agreement. Thus, legally, in relation to Dr. Machar’s replacement, in my view, JMEC was supposed to ensure that, it was in line with the recommendations of the “Top Leadership” of the SPLM-IO as required by Chapter One, Article 6(4) and Chapter 1 Article 5 (2) (4) of the ARCSS. That ought to be a democratic exercise and ARCSS seeks to transform South Sudan into a Democracy.
So, it was a simple matter that only would require JMEC to monitor and verify that there was the quorum required for the meeting or voting of “the Top Leadership” of the SPLM-IO and that the replacement was in line with ARCSS. This is what they should be doing with all other related provisions of the ARCSS and then recommend appropriate corrective action in case of non-implementation or other serious deficiencies.
On this, in relation to the HLRF, I recommended in one of my recent articles that let each party or entity develop, adopt and deposit their internal Constitution or rules and regulations with JMEC and IGAD. Such internal Constitution or rules and regulations should define the mode of decision making within each party on matters related to the revitalized ARCSS, including their procedure for membership and lose thereof, the procedure for nomination of their representatives to the next TGoNU, TNLA, etc. The internal Constitutions or rules and regulations should be separate documents that IGAD or JMEC or HLRF should, on the technical aspect, assist the parties to develop as soon as possible for the purposes of protecting the revitalized ARCSS from violations.
The documents should be valid for the purposes of the revitalized ARCSS, regardless of possible change such as the expected reunification of the SPLM. This is very significant as it will ensure accountability, adherence to the revitalized ARCSS. It would also avoid a return to armed conflict or any controversy and possible pulling out by some parties/entities from the revitalized ARCSS over related issues, thereby negatively affecting its implementations.
On the stand JMEC took since July 2016 crisis, it is somehow understandable, given the nature of the violence that erupted and required politics and diplomacy as JMEC leadership itself was notably lacking enough backing from the region and apparently the wider international community.
However, to avoid the occurrence of similar crises during the period of the revitalized TGoNU (ARCSS), strengthening of JMEC mandate and gathering support for their role is absolutely necessary if the revitalized ARCSS under negotiations through the HLRF is intended to be implemented.
This was also called for by Aly Verjee, the JMEC former deputy and subsequently acting chief of staff Testimony in his last year’s testimony before the United States Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy.
“In the event the Forum produces a meaningful result, reform to the peace agreement’s supreme oversight body, the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), where I served as deputy and subsequently acting chief of staff until my expulsion by the Government of South Sudan in April 2016, must be contemplated,” Verjee told Senates Subcommittee.
“While the principal responsibility for continued conflict and systematic misgovernance rests on the South Sudanese political elites, JMEC has failed to live up to expectations. It has not moved quickly enough to take corrective action at moments of acute crisis, and not held the parties to account when they dishonoured their obligations. There has been insufficient backing for JMEC from the IGAD member states and the African Union when the South Sudanese failed to comply with the terms of the agreement. When JMEC itself came under attack, with its key personnel expelled from the country, JMEC’s regional and international backers did not protest.”
Another issue is, Chapter 7, Article 2 (6) of ARCSS provides that the terms of reference of JMEC shall be endorsed by the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government.
And in that article I argued that there was no such terms of reference available in the public arena to the best of my knowledge. This further made it difficult for the public to hold JMEC to account. JMEC may also be reluctant to live up to expectations as a result of that.
The JMEC Chairman has no security of tenure. ARCSS in Chapter Seven, Article 2 (5) only provides that “JMEC shall be chaired by a prominent African personality appointed by the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government in consultation with IGAD-PLUS Partners, and form Committees to facilitate its activities as deemed necessary. JMEC may select deputy Chairs in accordance with the number of the said Committees.”
Lack of provisions in the Agreement guaranteeing the security of tenure and a clear procedure for their removal could be a big source of undue influence and underperformance. This, I argued should be rectified in then process and JMEC needed to involve more members of the academia in decision-making positions than politicians. I wrote that involving respected, competent South Sudanese academics in top positions in JMEC would also strengthen the influence of the body within the Country and counter the arguments that South Sudan’s sovereignty under threat because of the powers given to the peace monitors.
Now given that those recommendations were not incorporated into the R-ARCSS and as a result, there have been delays and lack of consensus on the appointments of representatives of the parties to the RTGoNU bodies, those recommendations could still be incorporated into the Peace process that is supposed to resume in Rome.
I was glad to read that the incoming interim chairperson Maj. Gen. Tai Gituai, in his remarks recently said, “I will endeavour to focus on giving strategic direction to the monitoring and evaluation mechanism, in overseeing the implementation of the Agreement within the procedural guidelines and mandate of RJMEC.”
The February 2020 Rome Resolution provides for representation of the R-ARCSS non-signitories (SSOMA) into the Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) structures, and for joint monitoring of compliance of the parties to the cessation of hostilities agreement.
Now it’s about 6 months since that resolution was signed…clashes continue, and there’s no sign of honouring that provision and the Cessation of Hostilities.
All I can add is that: inorder to go for comprehensive peace, the above lessons should be incorporated into the Rome Peace process which is going on through Community of Sant’Egidio. That means building confidence, implementing the R-ARCSS while expanding it to include those parties that are outside.
South Sudan and the Region will be fine.
God bless you all.
Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, a South Sudanese journalist, is the former Managing Editor of Juba Monitor Newspaper and former Chief Editor of Bakhita Radio. He can be reached via his email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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