<a href=South Sudanese people, who were internally relocated because of the civil war and violent attacks. The country is planning to have elections next year ( PHOTO | AFP)
 
By DAVID MAYEN

South Sudan’s peace is facing a new challenge as an agreement on the electoral programme to end the current Unity government and usher in a democratically elected administration is delayed.

This week, officials from the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC), the regional organ that monitors the peace deal implementation, said delays in fulfilling some of the pledges in the 2018 agreement could see the country overshoot its transition timelines.

The delay could cause renewed conflict, said Maj-Gen (Rtd) Charles Tai Gituai, the interim chairman of the R-JMEC, a body created by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad).

Maj-Gen (Rtd) Gituai was speaking in Juba at the Fifth Governor’s Forum, a conference of key regional administration chiefs working under the government of national unity, on Monday.

The forum was created after the 2018 peace agreement between President Salva Kiir, his former deputy Riek Machar and other armed groups.

“Despite progress in some thematic areas, challenges persist. Too much time has been lost,” he said. “We have barely 15 months until the end of the Transitional Period and yet some critical tasks remain outstanding.”

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The most crucial stage is planning for an election that will see the public participate. Other issues include writing a new Constitution, merging security forces, and reforms in the Judiciary.

In an address to the UN Security Council this week, President Salva Kiir said he is ready for the 2023 elections as stipulated in the 2018 IGAD-mediated peace deal.

“The Revitalised Peace Agreement is being implemented, although slowly. We are determined to implement it through,” said President Kiir.

However, first vice president Mr Machar said without the implementation of security arrangements the credibility of the elections will be jeopardised.

“For South Sudan to have fair, free, transparent elections, we must have security forces who will protect the state, its people, and that will not interfere with the electoral process. If we are going to elections, we must complete in the shortest possible time the security arrangement,” Mr Machar said.

Fifth vice president Rebecca Nyandeng, however, said the priority for the country should be humanitarian responses, and not elections.

“People talk about elections; you cannot prepare for elections before we bring our people from the refugee camps and our people in the displaced camps to be settled,” she said.

Already, there have been two extensions of the Pre-Transitional Period before the extension of the election deadline to 2023.

“I strongly encourage you to see the Constitution-making and upcoming electoral processes as important benchmarks in the march towards peace and stability,” said Nicholas Haysom, the UN secretary-general’s special representative to South Sudan.

“While the parties have coalesced around political power-sharing benchmarks, it is equally important that they strive to make progress on the transitional security arrangements. There is now a collective duty to finalise a coherent command and control structure for the graduation and deployment of the necessary unified forces,” Mr Haysom said at the forum.

This week, officials from the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC), the regional organ that monitors the peace deal implementation said delays in fulfilling some of the pledges in the 2018 agreement could see the country overshoot its transition timelines.

And that could easily usher in a new term for conflict, warned Maj-Gen (Rtd) Charles Tai Gituai, the interim chairman of the R-JMEC, a body created by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

Maj-Gen (Rtd) Gituai spoke in Juba during the Fifth Governor’s Forum, a conference of key regional administration chiefs working under the government of national unity, created after the 2018 peace agreement between President Salva Kiir, his former nemesis Riek Machar and other armed groups.

“The pace of implementation of the revitalised agreement is slow and time is running out with critical tasks lagging behind the agreed timelines. Despite progress in some thematic areas, challenges persist. Too much time has been lost. The pace of implementation is slow, and time is running out,” he said.

“Within the current timelines of the agreement, we have barely 15 months until the end of the Transitional Period and yet some very critical tasks remain outstanding” he added.

Currently, there are several pending stages of implementing the peace deal, but the most crucial remains planning for an election that will see the public participate. Other issues including writing a new constitution, merging security forces, and starting reforms in the judiciary.

In an address to the UN Security Council, President Salva Kiir said this week that he is ready for the proposed 2023 elections as stipulated in the 2018 IGAD-mediated peace deal.

“The Revitalised Peace Agreement is being implemented although slowly. We are determined to implement it through,” said President Kiir.

But First Vice President Dr Riek Machar says without the implementation of security arrangements, the credibility of the elections will be jeopardised.

“For South Sudan to have fair, free, transparent elections, we must have security forces who will protect the state, its people and that will not interfere with the electoral process. If we are going to elections, we must complete in the shortest possible time the security arrangement,” Mr Machar said.

Fifth Vice President Rebecca Nyandeng, however, said the priority for the country should be on security and humanitarian responses, and not elections.

“People talk about elections; you cannot prepare for election before we bring our people from the refugee camps and our people in the displaced camps to be settled, Ms. Nyandeng said.

At the end of the transitional period, as provided by the September 2018 revitalised peace agreement, South Sudan will be expected to conduct the first democratic general election as a sovereign state. According to the implementation matrix of the 2018 peace deal, many provisions should have been implemented by now. However, most of the ambitious reforms have not been initiated or completed.

Already, there have been two extensions of the Pre-Transitional Period before the extension of the election deadline to 2023.

“I strongly encourage you to see the constitution-making and upcoming electoral processes as important benchmarks in the march towards peace and stability. A sense of urgency is required, not a “business-as-usual approach,” said Nicholas Haysom, the UN Secretary-General’ Special Representative to South Sudan.

“While the Parties have coalesced around political power-sharing benchmarks, it is equally important that they strive to make progress on the Transitional Security Arrangements. There is now a collective duty to finalize a coherent command and control structure for the graduation and deployment of the Necessary Unified Forces.,” Mr Haysom told the Governor’s forum last week.

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