Opinion: The worst time to violate a peace agreement
I participated in the recently concluded South Sudanese Peace talks in my capacity as a civil society delegate and I am overwhelmed by the volume of questions from fellow citizens. They express doubts on the viability of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS), signed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Abba on September 12, 2018.
While the citizens express a strong desire for peace in the country, they remain pessimistic about possibilities of full implementation of the R-ARCSS. This pessimism is largely justified by the record of failure of South Sudanese leaders to fully implement the 2015 ARCSS, their persistent violations of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities signed in December 2017 and statements from several factions of Opposition groups rejecting the R- ARCSS.
Since the signing of the R-ARCSS on September 12, some opposition groups have split into two camps – one group supporting the agreement and the other opposing it and predicting its eminent collapse. The renowned United States Institute for Peace also referred to the Agreement as “Irreparably flawed” while one opinion writer describes it on Radio Tamazuj as a “Looming Disaster”.
The reports of fighting between Sudan People’s Liberation Army – In Opposition (SPLA-IO) and government troops in the areas of Yei since the deal was inked can be concrete prove to those who doubt and question the viability R-ARCSS.
South Sudanese who desperately yearn for peace are left wondering who to believe – the signatories to the R- ARCSS or the opposition groups that opted not to sign and predicted the imminent collapse of this Agreement. This is a dilemma.
At a time when a fragile society is in such a deep dilemma and the potential for confusion is high, the political leaders who signed the R-ARCSS need to demonstrate that the agreement is not irreparably flawed, that it presents no looming disaster to the country and is not destined for imminent collapse. And, they are at liberty to do this in many ways.
First, the leaders must stop all violations of the agreement. In fact, it is the worst time for their leadership credibility to violate the agreement and engage in any fighting. Second, they should show people what they have done, results of the implementation of the agreement. No positive practical action is small at this point.
Third, they should demonstrate to people that the agreement is not just “a capital city agreement for elites”, negotiated by elites in Addis Ababa, Khartoum and Entebbe and kept in the capital Juba. They should reach out to the people who need this agreement most, the ordinary citizens across the country and in refugee settlements and assure them how the deal is being honestly implemented to end their suffering.
Other stakeholders can also play their roles, but real buck rests with the parties and especially President Salva Kiir Mayardit who has to unite the country and restore peace. His statement of September 15, 2018, on the signing of the final document of the revitalized peace agreement. His telephone call to Dr Riek Machar, meeting with South Sudanese opposition groups in Khartoum, an invitation for leaders of the opposition to visit Juba and the timely establishment of the National Pre-Transitional Committee are positive steps. However, he needs to do more to build confidence and momentum for the implementation of the R-ARCSS. He should translate the R-ARCSS and his statement on September 15, 2018, into action and results.
Rajab Mohandis is the Executive Director of the Organization of Responsive Governance, a member of the South Sudan Civil Society Forum and a Civil Society Delegate to the recently concluded South Sudanese Peace Talks. He may be reached by email on: email@example.com
The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.