JUBA – South Sudan’s peace monitors have warned that the country is running out of time to make key reforms needed to avoid war in future.
The country is marking three years since various factions signed a peace deal with President Salva Kiir’s government, paving the way for the formation of a government of national unity.
But the Revitalised Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), a peace monitoring group, warned that there is little time left to meet all goals mentioned in the agreement, which were meant to ensure stability in the country.
“There is a sense of frustration prevalent among the people of South Sudan due to the slow pace of the implementation of the Agreement. As victims of the protracted conflict, the people of South Sudan deserve better, and must enjoy sustainable peace and development,” said Maj-Gen Charles Tai Gituai, the Interim Chairperson of the Commission.
“At the time of this anniversary, we are roughly halfway through the Transitional period, so we see this crucial task is much delayed,” he said in a statement to mark the third year since the agreement was signed.
RJMEC, an organ of regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), is responsible for monitoring and overseeing the Agreement known as the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS).
On September 12, 2018 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the deal was signed by President Kiir, his then nemesis Riek Machar and several other rebel groups.
RJMEC is supposed to monitor the respect for agreed timelines and implementation schedule. It reports to the Igad Summit.
The Commission says that crucial targets have been missed, increasing the risk of conflict.
“I agree that the R-ARCSS is the blueprint for the stable and prosperous South Sudan… But words aside, much remains to be done in a very practical sense, and many fundamental building blocks are yet to be put in place across all chapters of the Agreement,” the R-JMEC said.
South Sudan, on February 12, 2020, formed the Transitional Government of National Unity including most of the participants in the agreement.
But it took several months before the government appointed governors for the 10 regional states, and it was only in August that members of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly, the law-making body in this period, were sworn in.
The Assembly, and the Council of States, are supposed to pass several laws, within the 30 months from the day the government was created last year, such as on security, constitutional amendment, elections, anti-corruption and public finance.
But the country faces an immediate problem: bringing on board rebel groups that did not sign the Peace Agreement.
Recently, talks sponsored by the Catholic Church under what is known as the Rome Corridor have appeared broken as Kiir’s side failed to send delegates. The talks in the Vatican were meant to help convince groups that continue to create unrest in South Sudan to be party to the peace agreement.
Maj-Gen Gituai said South Sudan may never enjoy peace as long as some groups remain outside the peace framework.
The country must now race against time to reform the security agencies, including the merger of various fighters that have since rejoined the government, into a national professional army.
The country was supposed to first retrain the fighters, but the programme has almost stalled.
There were reports of soldiers fleeing training camps for lack of food, while others had been imposing illegal roadblocks to extort residents.
And even after the soldiers graduate, the various parties to the agreement must also agree on the command structure before the merger can happen.
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