South Sudan’s Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission chairman visits Addis Ababa

South Sudan’s Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission chairman visits Addis Ababa

The Chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JEMC) for South Sudan, Festus Mogae visited Addis Ababa on Monday (October 24) for talks with Ethiopia’s Foreign Minster Dr Tedros Adhanom. The JMEC is responsible for monitoring and overseeing the implementation of the Peace Agreement mediated by IGAD, and the mandate and tasks of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU), including the adherence of the Parties to the agreed timelines and implementation schedule. In case of non-implementation of the mandate and tasks of the TGoNU, or other serious deficiencies, the JMEC recommends appropriate corrective action to the TGoNU. The JMEC also oversees the work of the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, and its successor mechanism, the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism, the Economic and Financial Management Authority, the Strategic Defense and Security Review Board, the National Elections Commission, and all other transitional institutions and mechanisms created by the Agreement and established as part of the TGoNU.

Mr. Mogae and Dr. Tedros reviewed the implementation of the August 2015 peace deal intended to bring peace and stability to South Sudan and discussed current political developments. Mr. Mogae said that although the international community might have failed to broker a lasting peace in South Sudan it was not prepared to give up. He stressed that the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan was “still alive”. It must, he said, be implemented. What makes the agreement alive, he added, was that “there are representatives of the opposition involved and there are others who are currently not taking part, but they have not said they would not take part.” Mr. Mogae said, “we have said the agreement is alive for the reason that we are not giving up on the peace because there are no alternatives anyway.” Regardless of the challenges, South Sudan and its international partners must implement the peace accord ratified by President Salva Kiir and Dr Rick Machar. The Chairperson of the JEMC commended the efforts of the Ethiopian government in encouraging the necessary efforts to ensure peace and stability in South Sudan.

Foreign Minster Dr. Tedros underlined Ethiopia’s commitment to ensure peace and stability in South Sudan. He said: “I would like to reaffirm my government’s continued engagement to realize  peace to our neighbor South Sudan in general and  the full operationalization and implementation of the August 2015 Agreement, in letter and in spirit in particular.”

On Wednesday last week (October 19), the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission held its first plenary since June. In his opening remarks, Chairman Mogae said from the beginning of July there had been escalating hostility leading to near daily violations of the ceasefire and a developing conflict between the parties drawing in other armed groups. He spoke of the “egregious violations of human rights, including rape, gang rape, looting, intimidation and harassment of civil society and the media, and the killing of civilians,” and noted that the fighting had “disintegrated all the Transitional Security Arrangement Mechanisms”.  He emphasized, however, that “there cannot be and will never be a military solution to the conflict in South Sudan. The only path to sustainable peace is dialogue and the relentless pursuit of reconciliation and an inclusive political process.” Mr. Mogae underlined that “the 2015 Peace Agreement…is still alive. No one Party can unilaterally dissolve or renegotiate this Agreement.”

He admitted that the implementation of the Peace Agreement was compromised and partially derailed but stressed that the immediate cessation of hostilities and the restoration of the ceasefire was the important priority. He said there were “almost daily violations of the ceasefire, perpetrated by uniformed armed forces of SPLA and SPLA-IO and other armed groups. This hostility has the potential to trigger an uncontrolled escalation of violence motivated by retribution.” There were reports of an increase in offensive operations by both Government Forces and Opposition Forces, specifically in and around Yei, Leer, Jezeera and Nassir. The situation in Equatoria states was of particular concern. Increasing numbers of civilians were fleeing their villages.

Mr. Mogae said political inclusivity must also be addressed. The Peace Agreement must be inclusive and representative. He was concerned that not all Parties were currently included or fully represented. He urged the TGoNU to re-establish an environment within which all people of South Sudan, irrespective of their ethnicity or background, could safely return and engage in constructive and peaceful dialogue.

He welcomed UN Security Council Resolution 2304, providing for the deployment of a Regional Protection Force to secure Juba as a neutral environment. He said this was a pre-requisite for a secure, peaceful and stable environment within which political inclusion can be pursued. Its deployment was of paramount importance in order to build trust and confidence and establish the necessary security arrangements to facilitate the resumption of inclusive implementation of the Agreement.

At the end of the JMEC meeting, Mr. Mogae thanked Martin Elia Lumoro, the Minister of Cabinet Affairs for his briefing on the progress and the assurances of the TGoNU’s commitment to implement all pending tasks. The Minister also agreed to provide JMEC members with the revised timeline and implementation schedule. Mr. Mogae also welcomed the willingness and readiness of the international community, partners and friends of South Sudan to support the TGoNU, “if further progress is made in adherence to the Agreement”. He said it was clear the current peace process was essentially functional but that it should be made more inclusive in accordance with the Agreement. The TGoNU should also reach out with greater effort and maintain an open door to all parties who renounce violence, and are willing to re-join the peace process. The meeting also called for the “expeditious deployment of the Regional Protection Force to guarantee a neutral, secure and stable environment”.

The danger that South Sudan’s conflict has entered a new and a more challenging phase has been underlined by the significant tension that has been spreading across the country. In its wake, there has been an upsurge of refugees fleeing into neighboring Uganda and Ethiopia, apparently fearing there is more fighting to come. The UNHCR said at the end of last week that there were increasing numbers of South Sudanese refugees arriving in Gambella Regional State, in Ethiopia. There had been 42,684 since the beginning of September, and, according to UNHCR officials, an average of at least 900 South Sudanese asylum-seekers arrive at Pagak Transit Centre in Ethiopia on a daily basis.

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