South Sudan Civil Society calls on warring parties to seek compromise

February 5, 2018 Africa , News , OPINION/NEWS

Steve Evans photo

 

By

Gift Friday

 

 

As South Sudan’s warring parties prepare for the second round of talks in the IGAD-mediated High Level Revitalization Forum scheduled to start this week, civil society activists are calling on the warring parties to ensure their forces adhere to the Cessation of Hostilities agreement.

 

The South Sudan Civil Society Forum, an umbrella organization of more than 20 civil society groups, issued a statement earlier.

 

The statement calls on the warring parties to immediately release political prisoners, prisoners of war, activists, child soldiers, abducted women and children as required by the CoH agreement signed in December last year.

 

The civil society activists are calling on the warring parties to issue directives to field commanders to “cease all hostilities and refrain from any unauthorized movement of forces.”

 

Rajab Mohandis, Executive Director of the South Sudan Network for Democracy and Elections, SSUNDE, said that South Sudanese citizens were disappointed to see the Cessation of Hostilities agreement being violated by the warring parties just days after it was signed. But Mohandis said there has been change in the last week.

 

“We have been monitoring the implementation of the cessation of hostilities very closer, in the past week the country has been largely silent and that is positive and citizens should remain hopeful and they should remain engaged in the peace process and should be following the process closely,” he said.

 

Mohandis said the South Sudan civil society is urging the parties to do more to ensure that their forces strictly abide by the terms of the agreement and hold any individual within their forces and affiliates who violate ceasefire accountable.

 

The statement by the South Sudan Civil Society Forum also calls on the government to withdraw recent statements declaring that NGOs are not mandated to report violations of the CoH agreement.

 

“When there is fighting in any part of this country we don’t take permission from them to run away from the violence, we also do not need permission to speak on this issue; as long as we have credible information we have all the right information (to) share this information,” Mohandis said.

 

The statement follows recent remarks by South Sudan’s Cabinet Affairs Minister, Martin Elia Lomuro, warning NGOs against reporting ceasefire violations.

 

He said NGOs should not be restricted because they are contributing to efforts to restore peace. He also said that civil society activists are helping the voices of those who are not able to reach the negotiation table in Addis Ababa.

 

In the statement the civil society forum calls on the negotiating parties to open their hearts, seek compromise and prioritize the interests of the South Sudanese people.

 

They say the High Level Revitalization Forum risks joining the long list of failed peace processes in the history of South Sudan, if the negotiating parties replicate models that have failed in the past, such as what they describe as the single-minded focus on power sharing.

 

Mohandis explained that the South Sudan Civil Society Forum have developed principles to ensure that decisions about governance and security arrangements will serve the interests of the South Sudanese people.

 

“The first one is inclusively; that decision making processes and institutions should be representative of the South Sudanese public; there should be integrity  and good faith by the parties; this process should be geared towards national building and national identity that will unify the people of South Sudan. We also said this process should be governed in the principle of rule of law and accountability [meaning the] people who will lead the next transitional government should be competent enough to deliver to the commitment of the agreement.”

 

Mohandis urged South Sudanese to take ownership of this political process and ensure that all efforts contribute to sustainable peace. He called on the mediators of the peace process to remain neutral.

 

“To the mediators we want to remind them that the people of South Sudan do not want to continue in war again, at least the ordinary citizens who are bearing the cost of this violence, so the role of the mediators should be to help the parties to the conflict to reach an agreement. They should work the way they did in December in facilitating the first phase of the forum, working in an impartial manner but also being firm to help the parties reach a deal; this is important to the mediators.”

 

Mohandis noted that the sticking points in the next round of talks will be the restructuring of the governance arrangement, transitional security arrangements and a permanent ceasefire given the many numbers of different parties and forces involved.

 

But he said this will be achieved if the parties negotiate in good faith with an intention to end the suffering of the people.

 

 

 

 

Gift Friday

Freelance Journalist from South Sudan, based in Kampala.

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