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JUBA - 5 Sep 2019

Ceasefire monitors urge parties to vacate civilian buildings

File photo: Maj. Gen Abiche Ageno
File photo: Maj. Gen Abiche Ageno

The chairperson of the ceasefire monitoring body (CTSAMVM), Maj. Gen Abiche Ageno expressed concerns over the slow pace at which South Sudan’s parties are vacating civilian buildings as demanded by the body.

“Of the 36 buildings reported as occupied when we last met, 3 have been vacated by the SSPDF [South Sudan Peoples Defense Forces], but 4 buildings have been newly occupied by the SPLM/A-IO [armed opposition faction] - Kandila Primary School, Kandila Church, Kandila Healthcare Centre and Dogondo Primary School - all in Yei River State,” he told the 14th CTSAMVM technical meeting in Juba on Thursday.

The official, while speaking at the meeting, revealed that a total of 37 civilian buildings are now occupied, mostly by government forces.

“CTSAMVM urges the parties to vacate these buildings immediately to enable the people of South Sudan to resume their lives,” he said.

Abiche further said there were incidents involving non-signatories to the peace agreement in Aweil East, Raja and Yei River State areas. “These incidents are a matter of concern. They are being investigated by CTSAMVM, and we will discuss the findings from our investigation into Aweil East here today,” he stressed.

Abiche pointed out that the ceasefire continues to hold with no reported incidents of clashes between parties to the peace agreement.

The official, however, said the ceasefire monitoring body would continue to monitor the security situation and reports of tension in order to encourage early mediation to prevent escalation.

Abiche said while the cantonment process remains slow, CTSAMVM welcomes the IGAD Council of Ministers’ communiqué resolving that at least 50% of the 83,000 necessary unified forces be cantoned and barracked, trained and deployed before the end of September.

“CTSAMVM acknowledges an increasing number of troops have moved to cantonment areas. However, many challenges remain, and commanders consistently report to our MVTs that inadequate logistical support continues to impede the full deployment of their forces to cantonment sites,” he said.

Abiche urged the parties to the peace agreement to redouble their efforts to fully operationalize the cantonment process, including registration and screening, in order to achieve the training of the necessary unified forces and redeployment of those forces.

“This will enable the security arrangements to be in place before the Transitional Period commences,” he stressed.

The CTSAMVM is mandated by the regional bloc IGAD to monitor and verify the implementation of the Agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities as per the peace deal.

Steps toward key benchmarks in the peace deal – unifying armed forces and drawing boundaries – are lagging far behind schedule due to lack of funds.