South Sudanese peace process stalled, says African Union envoy

African News Agency (ANA)

Festus Mogae addresses the AU Peace and Security Council meeting in Addis Ababa.
Festus Mogae addresses the AU Peace and Security Council meeting in Addis Ababa.

African Union Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (JMEC) on South Sudan chairman Festus Mogae says he is “gravely” concerned about increasing reports of ceasefire violations, widespread killings and destruction of property in the country since the formation of the unity government in April.

Updating the AU Peace and Security Council on the status of the implementation of the peace accords which halted the war in South Sudan, the former President Botswana noted that progress in the implementation of the peace accords had stalled since former rebel leader Vice-President Riek Machar returned to Juba in April to take up his post as Vice-President in terms of the peace accord.

“After the return of the First Vice President, the President met with the two Vice Presidents on 31 May 2016, a month after the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity. They announced that they had reached agreement on a number of key and contentious issues which had impeded the implementation of many aspects of the Agreement. These issues include the establishment of the Boundary Commission, reinstatement of civil servants, release of prisoners of war and detainees, cantonment sites, and the expanded Transitional National Legislative Assembly.

“I had hoped that there would be more progress on these key issues. On the contrary, I regret to report that the progress I had expected has not materialised. If anything, the Parties are further apart, and there now appears to be a stalemate that threatens the implementation of the entire Agreement. From my consultations with the Parties over the past weeks, it is apparent that there is no common understanding of the terms of reference of the proposed Commission on the number of States and on the issue of cantonment sites.”

He said while the recent formation of a Council of Ministers was welcome, the lack of progress in the expansion of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and disagreements over the selection of the Speaker (of Parliament) were delaying the establishment of a parliament.

He said it was important for the country to have a parliament because it was one of the critical components of the Transitional Government of National Unity. Among other stalled reform processes, Mogae singled out the work of the National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC), which last met in December 2015. Meanwhile, he said the government of South Sudan continued to impede the work of various international peace monitoring and verfication teams.

“This important work was impeded by disagreements over several issues, among them, the issue of the 28 States, vacancies in Parliament, the chairing of the first session of the expanded Transitional National Legislative Assembly and appointment of presidential advisers. Regarding the Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements, it is disappointing that CTSAMM Monitoring and Verification Teams continue to face enormous challenges in their verification work.

“I have received reports of constant denial of access, intimidation and restriction of movement of the monitoring and verification teams in Yambio, Torit and Juba, in blatant violation of the Peace Agreement. This deliberate and institutionalised impediment to the implementation of the Agreement is regrettable…Military leaders must prioritize the work of JMCC and ensure that it is fully operational. Otherwise it leaves us with no option but to suspect that perhaps there is a serious lack of commitment to peace,” Mogae said.

Among other outstanding issues, Mogae said the government of South Sudan had failed to facilitate the training and deployment of an integrated police force and incapacitation of the Strategic Defence and Security Review Board due to difficulties in achieving quorums, which he blamed on government representatives who routinely absented themselves from the work of the critical board.

Among other recommendations to move the peace process forward, Mogae called on the AU to continue to support and prevail on the South Sudanese political leaders to commit fully to the implementation of the peace accords. He said government needed to do more towards reconstituting key institutions for the rehabilitation, integration, resettlement and safeguarding the respect for the rights of returning refugees and internally displaced persons.

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