The statement by His Excellency Festus G. Mogae, Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), given to the Peace and Security Council of the African Union in Addis Ababa on January 29, 2016.
Thank you for the opportunity to address the Peace and Security Council today, in addition to the opportunity to submit a detailed written report, which complements these remarks. When I accepted this position at the request of the leaders of IGAD, I knew that South Sudan, the continent’s newest country, faced enormous challenges in nation building, only further complicated by the war and destruction of the last two years. In the short time I have held the position of Chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), the body charged with overseeing the implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, I have been left in no doubt as to the enormity of the work ahead and the obstacles we face, not least the lack of political will that shows that building peace is much more difficult than the appalling resort to, or threat to resort to, war.
I am here today to report to this august institution that while some progress has been made since the Agreement was signed, it has been much too slow. South Sudan continues to face a multi-faceted crisis which threatens regional peace and security: the crisis is humanitarian, with more than half the population in need or projected to soon be in need of international assistance; the crisis is economic, where amidst rapidly declining oil revenues, the public resources of the country have been largely squandered on financing the conflict; the crisis is developmental, with little national investment in health, education and service delivery, leaving the pre-eminent role in these sectors to international actors. The result is a state that is hollow and offers little for its people. Militarily, while there has been a significant reduction in violence in the most conflict affected states of Unity, Jonglei and Upper Nile, where the permanent ceasefire is largely holding, the security situation is fragile in most parts of the country, and worryingly, there have been outbreaks of violence in other areas that were largely unaffected since 2013, particularly Western Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal.
I witnessed the magnitude of this crisis myself when I recently travelled to Bor, Malakal and Bentiu. In those three towns, I met internally displaced persons who remain in protection of civilian (POC) sites in vast numbers, but are themselves only a fraction of the population affected by the conflict and its resultant crisis. In my engagement with the representatives of humanitarian organizations, I have learned that South Sudan’s food security crisis will only worsen this year as conflict, drought, and poor harvests have limited agricultural production. With humanitarian agencies unable to preposition adequate supplies before the rainy season arrives given general insecurity and access restrictions by the authorities on both sides, South Sudan faces further crisis. But let us be clear: South Sudan’s leaders have the ability to act to remedy the situation.
A high level, coordinated international effort was required to help achieve signature of the peace agreement in August 2015, due to the combined efforts of the IGAD Member States and the AU High Level Ad Hoc Committee of Algeria, Chad, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa, as part of the IGAD Plus mechanism, of which the African Union was a principal part. However, the two years of mediation effort and the coming together of a wide array of international partners from the continent and beyond will be in vain if that level of engagement and oversight does not continue. Now more than ever, in the difficult but necessary phase of implementation, the unified voice of Africa is needed to help the South Sudanese realize the potential of their country. The history of war that has shaped South Sudan should become precisely that, history, something consigned to the archives.
The pre-transitional period of 90 days provided for in the Agreement ended in late November without the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU). The subsequent ‘reset’ date, which should have led to the establishment of the TGoNU between 15 December 2015 and 15 January 2016, was also missed. The implementation calendar issued in my capacity as Chairperson of JMEC accelerated implementation of the Agreement’s provisions in the latter half of December, but ultimately, the TGoNU has still not been formed by the new date, 22 January 2016. I had recently expressed my hope that by the time of this African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, the TGoNU would be in place, but even those additional days have not proven enough to bridge the impasse.
JMEC has now convened three meetings, with the next meeting scheduled to take place immediately following the African Union Summit, on 2 February. While the Parties have repeatedly said they will cooperate and ensure the provisions of the Agreement will be implemented, the true test is in their actions, and to date, only limited progress has been made. The Joint Military Ceasefire Commission (JMCC) has made the most progress, in beginning to establish the new national architecture for security sector management, while reducing the sites for cantonment to a more reasonable number, even if the overall process of cantonment and the implementation of transitional security arrangements lags far behind schedule. The Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) and the National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC) have also met, and one of the key formative tasks for the establishment of the TGoNU, the selection of ministerial and deputy ministerial portfolios, was achieved by consensus in early January.
Despite these achievements, without the formation of the TGoNU, the real work of the transition – restoring peace and stability, ensuring a rapid increase in the provision of humanitarian support, and beginning the vital processes of reform and accountability required by the Agreement – cannot begin.
The TGoNU has not been formed, in part, because of the Government’s action to create 28 new administrative states, replacing the 10 states that comprised South Sudan at independence in 2011 and which existed at the time of signature of the Agreement. On 24 December 2015, the President of South Sudan issued decrees formally dissolving the 10 states and creating 28 new states. A number of provisions of the Agreement are predicated on the continuation of 10 states, with the expectation that states – both in terms of numbers and boundaries – could be re-examined in the process of developing a permanent constitution. Both the SPLM/A (In Opposition) and the SPLM (Former Detainees) have made clear their opposition to the formation of 28 states.
The Government’s action has led to an impasse and a challenge in sequencing the implementation of the Agreement: it refuses to agree to a new text for the transitional constitution that does not provide for 28 states; the SPLM/A (IO) refuses a text that states anything other than 10 states, and has so far ruled out formation of the TGoNU on the basis of the Agreement, which is based on 10 states. What is clearly unacceptable is the rhetoric of some of those in favour of one configuration of states over the other, who have threatened war if there is any reversal in policy, and vice versa.
The implications of the failure to form the TGoNU are apparent: there is limited consolidation of peace across the country, a worrying economic decline and worsening humanitarian indicators, and, as I observed earlier, violence ongoing in parts of the country. The August 2015 Agreement can still be transformative. But delays in implementation and divergence from the Agreement’s terms undermines confidence in the peace process amongst both ordinary citizens and the wider international community, and jeopardises sorely needed international economic support to the country.
In order to enable implementation of the Agreement to move forward, decisive action, both by the Parties and by the international guarantors and friends of South Sudan is required, if the people of South Sudan are to see an end to the apparently unrelenting crisis they have faced for the last two years. Specific actions are detailed in my written report, but allow me to highlight some of the most essential:
The African Union, and indeed the wider international community, should demonstrate to the South Sudanese that while the Agreement does not offer solutions to all problems, nor fulfill all of the objectives each Party pursued militarily, its genuine provisions of compromise are worth implementing in the interests of peace and reform, and that continued re-negotiation of the terms of the Agreement is not an option that will be entertained.
We must also demonstrate to the Parties the absolute urgency in concluding the practical and security arrangements necessary to establish the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU), and that, as important an issue it may be, the question of the number of states can be addressed through dialogue and a formal process of boundary review, but that this violation of the Agreement by the present Government should not be allowed to demolish the entire structure of the peace process. And it should also be clear to the parties that any further compromise here should not be understood as a precedent to discard other provisions of the Agreement.
Vital economic, humanitarian and transitional justice processes are contingent on the formation of the new government. But irrespective of the timetable for formation of the government, the African Union should move ahead with the obligations the Agreement assigns: principally, the obligation on the African Union Commission to establish the independent hybrid judicial body, the Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS), with the responsibility for investigating and prosecuting the gravest crimes committed over the course of this conflict. Of course, criminal accountability cannot be pursued in isolation of other processes of restorative and remedial transitional justice. But as Africa has the lead responsibility to ensure that this effort becomes a reality, if the legacy of conflict and impunity is to be finally broken in our continent’s newest state, we must also act and not disappoint a new generation of South Sudanese.
Finally, given the fragility of the security situation in South Sudan, the renewed risk of conflict, and continued insecurity affecting the humanitarian relief effort, emphatic, stern measures should be taken by the African Union. To do so is only prudent and necessary, and underscores the seriousness with which the current situation should be treated. Rhetoric alone can only do so much.
These requests might seem far-reaching, considering that an Agreement is in place. But I cannot emphasize enough the risks the Agreement faces, as time slips away. The only solution is to focus the attention of the Parties on implementation, and show that the consequences of failure go far beyond the shoulders of the individuals concerned. Stating with certainty that the Agreement must be implemented in letter and in spirit is important, but in itself it is not sufficient to compel the requisite action.
The people of South Sudan are eager for peace, and are desperate that a new war is avoided. While the primary responsibility for keeping the peace will always be on South Sudanese shoulders, the African Union can exemplify African solidarity and stand with the ordinary people, and not with those who show wanton disregard for the wellbeing of their compatriots. I thank you for your attention.