CHALLENGES OF IMPLEMENTING SOUTH SUDAN’S PEACE DEAL
By Paul Ndiho
Time is running out for South Sudan’s principle signatories to the peace agreement signed in September 2018 to form a unified national army and perhaps form a government of national unity.
It all seemed possible when a new peace deal was signed between South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar last September, but time is quickly ticking away to meet the deadline set for May 12th, 2019.
In two months, an eight-month “pre-transitional” period ends. Under the terms of the peace deal, the government and opposition are supposed to implement the agreement and form a transitional government or risk yet another unraveling.
Continuing violence and human rights violations, including rape and sexual violence, in South Sudan may amount to war crimes, according to the UN body that is reporting to the Human Rights Council on alleged gross violations and abuses of human rights in the country.
“The Commission is alarmed at the number of executions that have taken place in South Sudan. In the last two weeks alone there have been seven executions. There are currently 185 people on death row in Juba alone, of which two are juveniles.”
Armed forces are being challenged to end violations against children and take concrete action to protect the country’s youth by ensuring their recruitment and abuse is halted.
“The children of South Sudan need peace, and they need freedom, they need to be secure, like all the children in the whole world. They need to be doing things that children do, they need to go back to school, they need to be productive members of their community in the future, and that cannot be done within the conflict, and that cannot be done if they are part of the armed forces.”
The South Sudanese government denies these allegations and is pledging its full support to ensure that children are protected.
“There is a standing command order to all the field commanders to report any illegal recruitment of children in the army. The Department of Child Protection and the Assistant Chief of Defense Forces of Moral Orientation has conducted numerous workshops in the divisions and units on how to discourage children joining the army and how to identify children and report them to the nearest civil authority.”
Rape and sexual violence against women and girls as young as eight is unfortunately still widespread in the country according to a U.N. investigation published in February by the U.N mission in South Sudan. It recorded 175 cases of mainly rapes that lasted hours, by multiple uniformed and armed men, between September and December of 2018.
“There has been no accountability inside (South) Sudan for what is a chronic, endemic problem of sexual violence against women and girls. Virtually complete impunity over the years.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki met with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir earlier this month in South Sudan, in an effort to breathe new life into the stagnant peace agreement. Among their ideas discussed, were bringing aboard groups who rejected last September’s deal.