CEPO First Report: Cessation of Hostilities Agreement Oversight Observation

Posted: January 7, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in CEPO, Junub Sudan

Cessation Of Hostilities Agreement Oversight Observation: CEPO 1st Report on the Implementation of CoH, Dec. 2017

Yakani of CEPO

January 7, 2018 (SSB) — ABSTRACT: The Cessation of Hostilities is a pre-condition for the success of a permanent ceasefire and transition to peace and stability. It is a critical tool that requires technical and financial support to succeed in meeting the expectations it creates. The Cessation of Hostilities in a highly militarized, politically violent conflict is a key stage that creates a brief moment for trust and confidence-building for genuine engagement on peace negotiations and mediation. With the signing of a temporary ceasefire in December 2017, hope has surfaced that finally, Peace is possible. This paper outlines strategies that could ensure the success of Cessation of Hostilities, which could lead to a permanent ceasefire and restoration of stability, and safety instead of continued national crisis and instability.

Executive Summary

The recently signed Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) between the government of South Sudan and the rebel groups has witnessed serious violations at its onset, with continued clashes occurring between the Parties, thereby violating the newly signed CoH agreement. For the agreement to be effective, all parties and signatories to the CoHA should demonstrate the will to implement it and be held fully accountable for any violations.

Positive and reaffirming messages were delivered, at the signing of the CoHA during the High Level Revitalisation Forum (HLRF), by three of the signatories to the COHA representing the leadership of:  a) the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces on behalf of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU); b) SPLM/A-IO under Dr. Riek Machar; and c) the National Salvation Front (NAS). However, issues of trust and political will continue to jeopardize progress while a change of attitude by the warring Parties is urgently needed in favour of a non-violent political approach that can result in the long overdue peace and stability in the country.

The recently observed violations require urgent verification and investigation by IGAD through its designed mechanism of CTSAMM, and should be followed by immediate penalties for identified violators.[1] The role of the international community and UNMISS is critical in facilitating CTSAMM at this point, for a swift identification and rebuff of the violators. If lessons were learnt from the failures of the previous CoH agreement signed at the onset of the conflict in 2013, this CoHA should have been immediately followed by incentives for trust and confidence building among the Parties as well as the implementation of monitoring parameters, and penalties for violations of the CoH agreement.

The fact that this CoHA has been violated immediately after it came into effect, places a great risk to the follow-up phase of the HLRF scheduled for February 2018. It is, therefore, our sincere view that the IGAD Heads of State and Government together with the AU Chairperson, should act quickly to remedy these initial violations through identifying violators and providing appropriate consequences, strengthening the peacekeeping and monitoring mechanisms, and involving area religious leaders in educating communities. As well, the region can provide support to the commanders on the ground, including those who were not necessarily represented at the HLRF, and holding the signatories to the CoHA accountable by providing access verification of their presence on the ground and implementing trust-building measures between the Parties to the HLRF, as well as penalties for violations of the CoH agreement.

Our main recommendation is that the violations documented in this report should be independently verified and documented by CTSAMM in time to inform the upcoming AU Summit, which is due to take place this January 2018, to enhance their possible solutions.

Finally, CEPO encourages the civil society and media houses in the country, especially the former who were stakeholders to the HLRF CoH agreement, to be proactive in disseminating the Cessation of Hostilities agreement to their respective communities, sensitising and supporting them on their role and responsibilities, and keeping their populations informed of any progress. Civil Society and media play significant roles in sustaining public trust and confidence in regards to the cessation of hostilities.[2] Any identified individuals who are effectively engaged in propaganda and hate speech on the social media platforms should be called out and reported through an IGAD-instituted complaints procedure in the interest of peace since hate speech is one of the prohibited acts by the CoH agreement.

  1. The Context

Since the signing of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) in August 2015, South Sudan has witnessed both a split within the warring Parties and a rampant emergence of various warring groups fighting both the government and each other for territorial control.  The breakout of numerous armed groups are a result of the breakdown of the implementation of the ARCSS Agreement. According to the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) latest implementation Status report of September 2017 that covers the period from the beginning of the ARCSS implementation (April 2016), the implementation of the ARCSS, was not progressing as planned.  JMEC strongly recommended that the ARCSS should be revitalized before the situation worsens, given the increasing rebellions emerging against the government.

The IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government convened on 12 June 2017 in Addis Ababa decided, inter alia, to revitalize the ARCSS, so as to discuss concrete measures to restore a permanent ceasefire and get the Parties back to its full implementation. An IGAD Special Envoy to South Sudan was immediately appointed and assigned to lead the task, and the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) was established. Pre-revitalization stakeholders’ consultations followed in November 2017, involving the initial signatories to the ARCSS and new rebel groups.  The first sitting of the HLRF commenced from the 18th to 22nd December 2017 in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, and a CoHA was reached, signed by all fourteen (14) parties to the HLRF, stakeholders (mainly faith-based leaders and Civil Society Organizations), and guarantors – namely the IGAD mediators, international partners (China, Norway, United Kingdom, United Nations, the European Union) and the IGAD Partners Forum (IPF).

This report is an oversight observation of the parties to the Cessation of Hostilities agreement’s compliance. It is, compiled by the Community Empowerment for Progress Organisation (CEPO), a non-profit, South Sudanese civil society organisation registered in South Sudan. CEPO is engaged in the areas of Peace and conflict mitigation, human rights, Rule of Law, livelihood governance and democratic transformation.

The overall objective of the Report is to enhance the role of citizens in the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the cessation of hostilities by all the Parties to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. In this regard, the preliminary findings will ensure that the Parties to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement are bound with the required compliance as per the provisions of the agreement. This is because the success of the HLRF depends on the successful implementation of the CoHA.

The rest of the Report is divided into three parts. Methodology for obtaining data and information is given in Part II. Part III deals with the preliminary findings. And Part IV is the final section of the Report and it provides recommendations and the way forward with respect to the CoHA and subsequent steps in the HLRF process.

2. Methodology

The data collected for this report were directly generated from the incidences on the ground. CEPO tasked a team of its staff to use interviews, secondary reports and observations on the ground in the preparation of this Report. Civil Society Organizations at the locations where the violations occurred, were reached for verification and key informant interviews (KII) technique used to collect information within the communities where the violations occurred. Verification was cross-checked with some government civil authority officials and rebel groups on the ground, including community, religious and women’s leaders and traders. Some citizens who learned about the verification exercise volunteered to be interviewed. The reliable sources for generating and verifying this report’s data, are composed of the following categories of individuals within the areas of violations:

a) Civil Society

b) Religious Leaders

c) Women’s Leaders

d) Youth Leaders

e) Traditional Authorities

f) Traders

g) Media articles published

h) Local Journalists

i) Press Conferences made by any of the warring Parties’ Spokespersons

j) State Authorities.

3. Preliminary Findings

This part of the Report is divided into: a) initial reactions; b) challenges facing the implementation of the CoHA; c) absence of a verification mechanism; and d) factors influencing violations of CoHA.

3.1 Initial Reactions

There were positive actions observed from some of the signatories to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. These positive actions demonstrate good gestures from the Parties to the public.  The positive actions were the following:

a) On 23rd December 2017: The forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army – In Opposition (SPLA-IO) led by the First Vice President Taban Deng Gai ordered his troops to observe the South Sudan humanitarian truce. [3]

b) On 23rd December 2017: South Sudan president Salva Kiir directed the chief of defense staff to instruct all the heads of the nation’s army divisions and units across the country to comply with ceasefire agreement.[4]

c) On 23rd December 2017: The leader of the SPLM/A-IO, Dr. Riek Machar, ordered his forces to cease any form of aggression and observe the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in Addis Ababa. In a letter addressed to all units, Dr. Machar stated they should remain in their bases in accordance with the agreement.[5]

d) On 23rd December 2017: The leader of the National Salvation Front, General Thomas Cirillo, issued similar orders to his forces. General Cirillo said NAS forces should cease all hostile military actions and operations, and to remain in their locations.[6]

e) On 25th December 2017: Speaking at All Saint’s Cathedral in Juba on Christmas day, President Salva Kiir said he was committed to the agreement on CoH. He added the army would not retaliate in the face of any provocation that seeks to dishonour the Cessation of Hostilities agreement signed in Addis Ababa.[7]

f) On 27th December 2017: Peter Gatdet Yak who leads a group calling its self “South Sudan United Movement” as its rebel leader, also confirmed that he had ordered his troops in Western Nuer areas to cease hostilities.[8]

g) On 27th December 2017: The Chief of Defense of the SPLA/SSPDF on Wednesday 27th December, pledged to implement the CoHA, urging the international community to restrain rebel forces. General James Ajonga Mawut, when in Aweil for Christmas break, told officers and soldiers that President Kiir had given orders for the CoHA to be implemented immediately.[9]

h) On 29th December 2017: the TGoNU “approved” the COHA.[10]

i) On January 1st, 2018: Senior opposition officials allied to South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar in Phow State said they had “approved” the cessation of hostilities, protection of civilians, and humanitarian access deal brokered by the IGAD – the East African Regional bloc.[11]

The above reported statements from the leadership of some of the warring parties are positive steps towards ensuring compliance of their ground forces to the provisions of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement. CEPO hopes that the order to all armed groups under their respective signatories to the CoHA, are also confirmed by the brokering body, the IGAD, and the responsible monitoring and verification team. Such public statements from the leaders have to be regular and consistent for keeping their ground forces aware that cessation of hostilities compliance is a must at all times, and the commanders on the ground have a responsibility to respect and observe the CoHA on the ground.

3.2 Challenges Facing Parties in Implementing the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement

There are several challenges that are likely to face the parties to the CoHA in its implementation. CEPO has, however, observed the following:

3.2.1. Weak/Absence of Central Command

The military commanders of the warring parties do not have a full and reliably functioning chain of command through which to effectively and timely communicate with their troops on the ground. The chances of ground forces or individual soldiers causing provocation of opponents are high. Hunger is the most pervasive factor that could make violations of the CoH unavoidable, especially during this Dry Season period.

3.2.2 The Will to Implement the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement

There is a generalized lack of unconditional political will to the CoH by the signatories by their commanders on the ground. This is demonstrated by the following:

a) Inability to facilitate verification and monitoring of the CoH violations to run smoothly without obstructions; and

b) Non adherence to CoH recommendations on issues that may ease the implementation of cessation of hostilities arrangements from reliable sources that have responsibility to facilitate implementation of the Ceasefire.

3.3 Absence of Rapid Verification Mechanism for Alleged Violations of the CoHA

CEPO has found that there is currently no mechanism in place for rapid verification of alleged violations of the CoHA.

Exchanges of allegations between the TGoNU and SPLM/A-IO, are shown in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Alleged Violations of the CoHA by the Principal Two Warring Parties

Government Allegations Against Rebels (SPLM/A-IO) Rebels (SPLM/A-IO) Allegations Against  Government
On 24th-25th December 2017: Logobero and Lujulo: SPLA-IO allegedly attacked the Government positions as a strategy of gaining these locations before the ceasefire matured or took serious implementation. A number of civilians were displaced. On 25th Dec. 2017: Kajo-keji: SPLM/A-IO rebel deputy spokesman Paul Lam Gabriel, accused the government forces of violating the Cessation of Hostilities agreement.He mentioned attacks in Ngepo County, Gaderu, Kansuk in Kajo-keji. Lam said fighting started on the 24th December evening till 26th December 2017. He blamed the government forces for attacking the bases of the opposition to try to gain control over territory.
On 25th December 2017: Kansuk, Lokbere, Koch, Amadi, Awiel East, Fashoda: Government army SPLA/SSPDF spokesperson Brig Gen Lulu Ruai Koang issued a statement accusing the rebels of carrying out attacks on the government forces in five states: Yei River, Northern Liech, Amadi, Awiel East and Fashoda, in the last 24 to 72 hours (24th -25th December 2017). “The rebels have stepped up offensive operations against SPLA’s positions in futile attempts to capture new strategic areas before IGAD peace monitors could embark on field visits,” said Koang. On 26th Dec. 2017: Koch: SPLM/A-IO rebel deputy spokesman Paul Lam Gabriel said in a statement that “at about 13:00hrs, the Juba regime forces launched another attack on SPLA-IO positions in Bieh Payam in Koch County. They burnt down the base and its surrounding villages including food stores of both local producers and the WFP provided donations to the suffering civilians of Koch county”.
On 25th December 2017 early morning: Raja: Government Army spokesman Lul Ruai Koang said four aid workers from the French organization “Solidarities International” had been kidnapped a day earlier by rebels near the western city of Raja. The organization said on Monday it had lost contact with three members of its team on Saturday. According to the SPLA/SSPDF spokesman, they recorded eight violations of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement from different parts of the country since it was signed in Addis Ababa.

On 4th January 2018: Kapur Military Outpost: SPLA/SSPDF spokesperson Brig Gen Lulu Ruai Koang, issued a statement accusing the rebels of the SPLA-IO under Dr. Riek Machar of attacking at 10.30pm under command of Lt. Col. Chan Garang, the army’s position at Kanpur. Koang stated that the attackers were repulsed and that the army was in hot pursuit. The rebels were reported as fleeing westwards towards Wunduruba about 80 miles west of Juba.

On 27thDecember 2017: Guol, Koatpadaang, Kuleer: SPLM/A-IO rebel deputy spokesman Paul Lam Gabriel said in a statement that on 27/12/2017, government forces also burnt Guol, Koatpadaang and Kuleer Villages in addition to the above-mentioned areas”.
On 28th Dec. 2017: Mundri: SPLM/A-IO rebel deputy spokesman Paul Lam Gabriel said “the morning of 28/12/2017, government forces dispatched more than 300 soldiers from Mundri to go to attack our bases in Bari, Madewu, Ladingwa and Bangalo again. A part of the team went to Gori Balawu in Mundri West county, an area controlled by the SPLA/M- IO. They are now looting food items and burning houses after civilians have escaped into the bushes”.
On 29th Dec. 2017: Yuai and Payai:  SPLM/A-IO rebel deputy spokesman Paul Lam Gabriel said in a statement that “The government forces left their position in Yuai and attacked our base in Payai but they were repulsed yesterday dated 29th Dec 2017. This aggression continued this morning at around 7:00 am as they launched another attack on our position in Padiet Payam,”

From Table 1 above, CEPO has identified that violations of CoHA are alleged to have occurred in the following 10 locations:

Greater Upper Nile: 1) Fashoda; 2) Guil; 3) Kosch

Greater Equatoria: 1) Yei; 2) Morobo; 3) Kajo Keji; 4) Amadi; 5) Kapur Outpost/Kubri Haboba/Lemon Ghaba; 6)Wunduruba

Greater Bahr el-Ghazal: Raja

3.4 Possible Factors Influencing the Registered &AllegedCoH Violations

The likelihood that the registered violations of the CoH were due to a lack of knowledge on the Cessation of Hostilities agreement is high, although the principle of military thinking that more power on the ground wields a greater chance of political influence in the political process, may also hold sway.  Another possible factor may be that the weak chain-of-command within the respective armed groups, where an individual group or groups may decide not to adhere to directives from their political leaders or high-level commanders, especially given most of the ground troops are voluntary or have not been paid a salary for long periods.

Increasing knowledge of the CoH process among the ground forces of all military opponents on obligation and respect of Cessation of Hostilities should be maintained as a priority for the CoH to hold. This should be an absolute responsibility of CTSAMM in partnership with the CSOs. The advantage of the CoH agreement signed on 21st December 2017 is that it acknowledges the important role of civil society and media in information sharing and awareness-raising amongst the population so that they, in turn, can proactively engage in making the Cessation of Hostilities agreement prevail. However, as some CSOs and the media may be opposed to concessions made in the agreement in sympathy towards one or other party to the agreement, they may mobilise against the agreement. Hence CSOs and the media should also be monitored and held responsible for providing correct information and avoiding heated rhetoric and misleading statements that heighten mistrust or negatively affect public opinion. The isolation of civil society and media prevents them from fostering public knowledge about the ARCSS/CoH signatories’ public duties and responsibilities in promoting Cessation of Hostilities and may act as a debilitating factor that contributes to sustaining public ignorance about the peace process. This isolation of the military means they could wage war against each other at any time without warning or deterrent. Other central factors that may have contributed to the CoH violations are centered on the following:

  1. Absence of early communication or mis-communication to ground forces by the military leadership, including structures of public governance for instance for the national government or state government; while for the rebels, this applies to their informal public governance structures.
  2. Lack of capacity among the ground troop commanders to adhere to the CoH compliance modalities could also be a real problem and therefore must be assessed and support provided as necessary.
  3. Provocation by opponents and the lack of, or delayed implementation of, monitoring and verification mechanisms on the ground, leads the parties to think that they can get away with violations without accountability and consequences.
  4. Absence of an immediate deterrent strategy, and the lack of capacity to implement the deterrent strategy upon signing of the CoH from day one, is a factor that requires immediate attention.
  5. Relative political weakness of one of the parties to the agreement is a critical factor as it tends to diminish the incentives for both the weak, and even the stronger party, to continue with the peace process. The stronger party may be inclined to think it could have it all rather than share power; whilst the weaker party might be discouraged in the belief that it will not have sufficient leverage at the negotiating table given its weaker position in regards to the CoH agreement.

3.5 Weak Regional and International Resolve to Enforce CoH

External actors are obligated under the global principle of “responsibility to protect and promote global family peace”, as well as to be proactive in the process of making the Cessation of Hostilities agreement materialize for the benefit of South Sudan’s society. This means being proactive is the underlining principle of engagement for delivering responsibility for making global actions that attribute to individual and community safety and security. The external actors referred to here, are the brokers and the guarantors of the CoH agreement. This includes the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union, the Troika, and the IGAD Partners Forum (IPF). These governmental and multilateral organizations have an important role in providing the necessary capacity and resources, including funding, to enable the implementation of the CoH agreement from day one. Early and adequate planning and clear division of responsibilities, is necessary to make this work.  Unfortunately, a trend witnessed in the recent past has involved:

  1. Heavy reliance on toothless sanctions and un-enforced threats.
  2. Reduced pressure on the parties to comply, and turning a blind eye to violations once an agreement has been signed.
  3. Double standards and conflicts of interest which in its self often triggers violations and lack of accountability.
  4. An inability to correctly assess its capacity to enforce agreements on the ground, and poor planning leading to delays of activities that should start immediately after the signing of the CoH agreement.

Therefore, the failure of the CoH agreement signals a high chance for failure of any further attempts for peace negotiations and mediation. Successful cessation of hostilities means a good chance of success in peace negotiations and mediation – the parties will have also gained some trust and confidence during the observation of a cessation of hostilities agreement. In this regard, external actors that are interested in the promotion of global principles such as individual safety and security, should understand that they have to make a contribution to allow a cessation of hostilities agreement to hold. So it is their choice to participate but the best is for them to opt in and be proactive in making the cessation of hostilities a reality.

Their proactive measures range from keeping pressure on the Parties for timely implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement; contributing resources for facilitation of the cessation of hostilities since the parties in the past spent most of their resources on military procurements rather than allocating resources for individual and community safety, security and other factors including the strengthening of an increasingly weakening National economy. Hence, the IGAD, the AU, the EU and the Troika constituted some of the external actors whose initial silence on emerging allegations of violations of the cessation of hostilities agreement by the warring parties, fostered further violations. Why? Because it then came across as if the external actors’ only interests was to see the Parties to the conflict sign a Cessation of Hostilities document without any genuine backstopping means for its enforcement. The IGAD, AU, EU and Troika have to be proactive in all aspects, and with an application of pressure for the sustainability of the CoH.

4. Recommendations and The Way Forward

Based on the preliminary findings, this Report makes the following recommendations:

4.1 The Warring Parties

The political leadership of the warring Parties should regularly keep sending positive sentiments that reinforce the compliance of their forces to the CoH, while refraining from hate speech and negative propaganda. They should ensure access to their ground forces is given to the identified Monitoring and Verification Team, who should immediately start the post-verification exercise and identify locations, movement limitations, and buffer zones for monitoring access. They should also be tasked with assessing the capacity of the ground commanders to comply with the CoH; as well as find means of providing support on identified capacity issues. Therefore, understanding and responding to the needs and challenges faced by the ground soldiers in a timely manner, should be taken urgently as a means of deterrent and compliance. The brokers of the HLRF and the CoH, should consider this as an avenue of leverage, if further violations are to be avoided. The warring parties’ military leadership must take full responsibility for communicating to their ground forces the unequivocal need to respect and implement the cessation of hostilities without any excuses. The use of the language such as “Self-Defense” by the leadership of the warring parties, should be judiciously applied because it lends to mis-interpretation. For instance, ground forces may use it for responding to mere provocation by a military opponent. The military and political leadership of the warring parties have to physically show or demonstrate the following:

  1. The political will to implement the Cessation of Hostilities agreement through adhering to responsibilities and timelines, plus requesting support where necessary and refraining from provocative and intentional rhetoric.
  2. Maintain effective communication for compliance of their ground forces through precise and accurate communication, sensitisation and awareness, as well as identifying capacity issues that may require external support.
  3. Ensure unrestricted access for the facilitation and promotion of the CoH agreement by partners, including humanitarian actors, civil society and the media.
  4. Take the responsibility to ensure grey areas in the agreement are not misinterpreted and become a threat to the Peace process. Identify and sufficiently clarify any grey areas to avoid violations. The phrase “Self-Defense” in the document is one such example that should be appropriately defined and if need be, removed or replaced completely.
  5. Efforts should be made to ensure that armed groups not represented at the HLRF negotiations, are identified, briefed and informed of the CoH modalities, and their responsibilities and consequences for their non-compliance.

4.2 CTSAMM and UNMISS

By way of ensuring public opinion remains trustful of the HLRF process, it is important that violations of the CoH are quickly identified, all reports disseminated publicly and any necessary actions taken against the violators. Previous failures have dampened confidence in the process, and both the political leaders and the HLRF’s brokering bodies need to invest in significant trust and confidence-building measures. For this to happen, the monitoring and verification modalities should be well planned, well-funded and robustly implemented. Key lessons should be learnt from the process of the initial CoH and the ARCSS agreements that were both violated almost immediately after signature, and the loss of trust in the political process resulted in increased armed groups resulting in a more complex and widespread violent conflict. The leadership of CTSAMM and the UNMISS should commit to the following:

  1. Provide early and quickly verified information on the occurrence of ceasefire violations.
  2. Get the Regional Protection Force (RPF) on the ground now, and as quickly as possible.
  3. Foster a reliable culture of verification and monitoring of incidences throughout the country.
  4. Refrain from shying away from clearly identifying CoH violators immediately after the violations have occurred, name the violators publicly, and recommend a course of action that is the most effective in deterring further violations.

4.3 Civil Society and Media

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), including Church leaders and the media, are well placed to take the lead in disseminating the CoH agreement by creating awareness and encouraging positive public opinion in support of the agreement among the population – in both civilian and military populations. Waiting for donor funding in order to move forward with their work, can be the significant obstacle to the now critical work of the CSOs in South Sudan. So it is recommended that donors immediately establish a Civil Society Basket Fund that is specifically to support their activities aimed at ensuring the success of the CoH and the Permanent Ceasefire Arrangements. The funding should be easily accessible and should include a component of quick impact projects as an incentive for peace with the warring parties. In the immediate, the available resources (material and human) that the CSOs possess, can be employed for the dissemination of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement’s details.  The civil society and media should be proactive on the following:

a) Disseminating the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement’s details.

b) Provide timely oversight observation on the ground for the implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement by the warring Parties.

c) Engage community entities in offering alternative traditional deterrence tools to avoid violation of the CoH agreement.

4.4 External Actors (IGAD, AU, EU, UN and Troika)

In addition to providing resources, it is vital that the external actors, namely the IGAD governments, the African Union, the European Union, the Troika and the United Nations, remain proactive and fully engaged practically in the implementation of the various signed agreements. They must maintain genuine pressure upon the warring Parties to commit fully to the implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement. One approach could be to request and respond to weekly oversight reports on the compliance and conduct of the Parties to the conflict, with tangibly impacting consequences for any non-compliance.

Not taking long but immediately responding to reports of violations is important in maintaining trust. Unfortunately, any long silence for the public may be interpreted as a lack of commitment or “giving up” on the process. Most importantly, it will be understood as “giving up on the ordinary and innocent people of South Sudan”. The AU Head of States and Government summit of January 2018, must reinforce the respect and the commitment of the signatories to the implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement.[12]

The AU summit should speak out on genuine punitive measures in a practical manner, so that it is not seen as the usual negotiated pressures that have been side-stepped by the warring parties. As mentioned, all the signatories to the CoH agreement clearly stated that they are committed to the agreement signed on 21 December 2017.However, such rhetoric has to be clearly followed up now with sustained actions and demonstrations of intent.[13] It is incumbent on the coming AU Summit to reinforce respect and commitment of the signatories to the CoH agreement through the following:

  1. Request an urgent meeting to be attended by all the signatories and their High-level commanders on the ground in order to discuss the recent violations and forge a way forward. This meeting could also be a chance for soliciting the commitment of the high-level commanders, discussing access to present sites and locations of their respective troops on the ground, and ensuring that the message on CoH’s compliance and subsequent consequences for violations is clearly understood.
  2. Provide incentives for adherence to the CoH and for some platform/consultations for ground troops so as to feed into the next phase of negotiations. An opportunity to introduce trust and confidence-building measures for the political leaders and the public. Although this requires technical and financial assistance, it also indicates the commitment of the larger international community to the success of the political process; something which the South Sudanese public is relying on, and beginning to doubt and lose faith in from the various stakeholders.
  3. Ensure the Monitoring and Verification Teams are well-equipped and funded for timely implementation of their important roles. The timely reporting of, and response to, verified violations, is equally important in trust and confidence-building. It is critical for the success of the HLRF’s peace efforts.
  4. Continuously engaging the warring Parties to commit themselves effectively to their obligations under the agreement, ensuring adherence to all of the provisions of the CoH agreement. This cannot be overstated and is integral to the success of the CoH.[14]
  5. Offer timely support for facilitation of the cessation of hostilities implementation matrices.

4.5 Actions To Be Undertaken Immediately From Early January 2018

These are to be undertaken by the following key stakeholders/players:

4.5.1 Parties to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement:

a) Dissemination of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement to all ground forces.

b) Strengthen command and follow-up of the cessation of hostilities compliance parameters.

c) Develop a structure of buffer zones and humanitarian corridors

d) Monitoring of buffer zones and humanitarian corridors.

e) Facilitating the full implementation of the CoH in partnership with the warring Parties.

f) Verify, monitor and report violations beyond traditional military acts, such as other prohibited acts by the Cessation of Hostilities agreement, including sexual violence and hate speech.

4.5.2 Civil Society, Faith Based Leaders and the Media:

 

 

 

 

 

a) Increase outreach programs for the dissemination of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement to all.

b) Offer oversight observation reports for all monitoring mechanisms.

4.5.3 Regional and International Community:

  1. Accelerate funding and other critical resources, especially deployment of the RPF, for effective implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement’s provisions. One possible way of immediately pressuring the political leaders to show evidence of political will towards compliance with the CoH agreement, is to have the warring parties immediately release of all their Prisoners of War (POWs) and political opponents to the International Committee of the Red Cross as per the conditions of the CoH agreement. A delay in this gesture of goodwill by the signatories to the CoH, doesn’t have any justification, and it is already overdue. This act would also assist in curtailing the alleged abductions of political opponents in neighboring countries, which in its self is a serious threat to the successful implementation of the CoH agreement. It would also give a positive indication as to the seriousness of the HLRF’s stakeholders in honouring their signed CoH’s agreement before the next sitting of the HLRF in February 2018, and this act does not need the CTSAMM nor any extra resources which are not already available on the ground. All the POWs may also be handed over to international humanitarian organizations or to foreign diplomatic missions’ representatives. All of this will empower the Civil Society via community and Religious Leaders, to further hold the signatories’ practically accountable right from now, and will allow them to immediately voice their concerns publicly. An effective complaints’ mechanism that leads directly to the IPF, AU, EU, and Troika bodies, may need to be established for the Civil Society.
  2. In the situation of South Sudan, the Regional Protection Force (RPF) should be utilized strategically, maximizing all preventive pathways so that military opponents do not come in contact with each other. This means that the RPF should offer a central role in providing protection to civilians at the borders of military opponents’ territories. Maintain the RPF as a force capable of separating military opponents from clashing because providing civilian protection is essential. Having the RPF in South Sudan is a great chance to direct national efforts towards reforming and rebuilding the security sector of the country, because entrusting the RPF with the responsibility of providing civilian protection, will also create an economic benefit for the government, allowing it to re-direct its resources towards strengthening capacity and capability of professional security institutions for the delivery of civilian protection services after the mandate of the RPF comes to an end. Therefore, the use of the RPF should be maximized for the gain of the whole country moving forward, since its purpose is to allow the nation to better utilize its available resources for its future development plans.
  3. CTSAMM is another mechanism that needs to be made functional and should be utilized to the maximum in deterring violations of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement. It does not make sense for CTSAMM to limit its scope to verification and monitoring only, without contributing to the deterrence of violations. The use of surveillance technology could also help determine which side has violated the CoH, and should be explored. Deterrence could involve awareness and sensitisation of the armed groups and civilians on the duties and responsibilities of safeguarding respect and observation of the cessation of hostilities. CTSAMM have a partner in local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and should maximise their presence and role through partnering with the CSOs. The CTSAMM should design a joint strategy of work with the civil society, because deterring violations of the Cessation of Hostilities is paramount. The warring parties’ leadership should also insist on this element because it is also for their benefit in terms of being a mechanism for passing their leadership compliance calls in the form of statements that are also made jointly for public consumption.

4.6 The Way Forward

The observed positive messages from some of the warring parties to the Cessation of Hostilities agreement’s signing, are appreciated and should be maintained because they play a big role in winning public trust and confidence. These messages keep the public hopeful of the belief that things may work out in the near future for their benefit; especially in February 2018 at the next round of the Revitalization Forum’s sitting in Addis Ababa. Each actor being a Party or Signatory to the Cessation of Hostilities agreement has to start contributing in making the cessation of hostilities a practical reality on the ground. The forthcoming AU Head of States and Government Summit in late January 2018, should invoke strong and practical resolutions on the following demands to ensure the success of the IGAD-led Revitalization Forum for the ARCSS’ Implementation:

  1. Ensure that the signed CoH agreement of December 2017 is fully respected and implemented;
  2. Ensure that punitive measures are taken against any Party that violates the CoH agreement;
  3. Ensure unrestricted movement for unarmed civilians, and for humanitarian access;[15]

The AU Commission chairperson should remain vocal and push the IGAD/CTSAMM and UNMISS to avoid silence on the peace issues, while increasing timely information delivery on matters of Cessation of Hostilities violations.[16]

South Sudan leaders in their various capacities should regularly send out positive messages to the citizens and the armed combatants.[17]The voice of key leaders still has influence, as well as implications for peace. Civil society and media should be allowed to play their pivotal role in communicating positive messages to the unarmed citizens and the warring parties, without restrictions. All public governance structures, including local ones of the Parties to the Cessation of Hostilities, are required to play a role in raising awareness in respect of the full implementation of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement. It was encouraging to see the State Minister of Health and Environment in Yei River State, calling publicly upon the warring Parties to permit unhindered humanitarian access into the State. These are the kinds of messages we need to hear with practicalities visible on the ground.[18]

Finally, the link between the cessation of hostilities and the next stage of the revitalization process is critical. Since the cessation of hostilities is a step of building trust and confidence for the February 2018 peace revitalization process, it is essential that all parties and signatories to the Cessation of Hostilities agreement dedicate sincere political will, time and resources for implementing the cessation of hostilities agreement expeditiously and smoothly. The statement issued by the Chairperson of the IGAD Council of Ministers was commendable. However, it should now go beyond just words, and especially in relation to holding any violators of the CoH agreement accountable. Realizing the deployment of the RPF, and making the CTSAMM and the UNMISS peacekeepers fully effective in monitoring the CoH on the ground, will deliver a potent message of “we now want peace” to not just the leadership of the various warring Parties, but also a potent and encouraging message to all of the innocent and peace-loving South Sudanese everywhere.

The Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) is a non-profit, civil society, South Sudanese organization, registered by the Ministry of Justice on 17th November 2010. The organization was initially formed in Khartoum in 1999 and consisted of mostly University students, but its scope broadened after it was established in Juba, Southern Sudan as a separate entity. Presently, CEPO is engaged in the areas of Peace and conflict mitigation, human rights, rule of law, livelihood, governance and democratic transformation. For Further information contact Mr. Edmund Yakani – the Executive Director of CEPO – via phone number +211955214513 and email: ceposouthsudan@gmail.com 

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. PaanLuel Wël website (SSB) do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

Annexes

  1. Good Agreement? Bad Agreement? An Implementation Perspective. By Jean Arnault. 2006. http://www.gsdrc.org/document-library/good-agreement-bad-agreement-an-implementation-perspective/

B.     TEXT: South Sudan Final Cessation of Hostilities Agreement. 21.12.2017 http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article64322

C.     The Troika Welcomes the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, Protection of Civilians, and Humanitarian Access Concerning the Conflict in South Sudan. December 21, 2017 https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2017/12/276737.htm

D.    Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities in South Sudan  (Statement by Press Secretary Norio Maruyama). December 22, 2017 http://www.mofa.go.jp/press/release/press4e_001855.html

E.     UNMISS welcomes signing of cessation of hostilities agreement in South Sudan. 22 Dec 2017. https://reliefweb.int/report/south-sudan/unmiss-welcomes-signing-cessation-hostilities-agreement-south-sudan

  1. Statement by the Spokesperson on the signature of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement for South Sudan. 22/12/2017. https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/37871/statement-spokesperson-signature-cessation-hostilities-agreement-south-sudan_fi

G.    Statement by the Spokesperson on the situation in South Sudan. 02/01/2018   https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-Homepage/37957/statement-spokesperson-situation-south-sudan_en

H.    South Sudan government ‘approves’ ceasefire deal. JUBA – 29 Dec 2017. https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/south-sudan-government-approves-ceasefire-deal

I.        Machar’s group in Phow state approves ceasefire deal. AYOD – 1 Jan 2018. https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/machar-s-group-in-phow-state-approves-ceasefire-deal

J.        Opposition says govt has over 500 war prisoners, political detainees. 4 Jan 2018. https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/opposition-says-govt-has-over-500-war-prisoners-political-detainees

  1. Statement by the Chairperson of IGAD Council of Ministers Addis Ababa, December 29th 2017. http://www.ena.gov.et/en/index.php/politics/item/4105-igad-council-of-ministers-expresses-concern-on-violation-of-south-sudan-cease-fire-agreement
  2. Troika condemns violations of South Sudan cessation of hostilities. 2 Jan 2018. https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/troika-condemns-violations-of-south-sudan-cessation-of-hostilities

[1] http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article64338-25-12-2017; http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article64344-26-12-2017; https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/rebels-accuse-army-of-violating-ceasefire-in-bieh-state-29-12-2017; http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article64354-27-12-2017; http://www.eyeradio.org/spla-records-8-violations-signing-coh/

[2] http://www.eyeradio.org/citizens-respond-positively-signing-coh-22-12 -2017,  http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article64341-25-12-2017, https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/demonstration-in-bentiu-poc-to-support-peace-25-12-2017

[3] http://www.eyeradio.org/taban-deng-orders-forces-ceasefire-18-12-2017

[4] http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article64330-24-12-2017

[5] http://www.eyeradio.org/riek-machar-order-forces-cease-hostilities/-23-12-2017

[6] http://www.eyeradio.org/taban-cirilo-dr-machar-issue-orders-cease-hostilities/-24-12-2017

[7] http://www.eyeradio.org/riek-machar-order-forces-cease-hostilities/-23-12-2017

[8] https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/give-peace-a-chance-peter-gatdet-urges-south-sudanese/-27-12-2017

[9] http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article64359-28-12-2017

[10] https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/south-sudan-government-approves-ceasefire-deal-26-12-2017

[11] https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/machar-s-group-in-phow-state-approves-ceasefire-deal-1-1-2018

[12] https://au.int/en/announcements/2017-12-21/media-announcement-30th-au-summit-22nd-29th-january-2018-addis-ababa-ethiopia

[13] http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article64382-31-12-2017

[14] https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/we-are-observing-ceasefire-says-kiir-26-12-2017

[15] https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/srs5.pdf

[16] http://www.eyeradio.org/parties-urged-implement-coh-agreement/-22-12-2017

[17] https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/kiir-hopes-for-peace-in-christmas-message; https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/bishop-s-christmas-message-south-sudan-leaders-must-accept-peace-24-12-2017; https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/machar-hopes-tranquility-in-christmas-message; https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/give-peace-a-chance-peter-gatdet-urges-south-sudanese

[18] https://radiotamazuj.org/en/news/article/health-minister-in-yei-urges-free-humanitarian-access-1-1-2018

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