There is growing public anxiety and despair in South Sudan ahead of the expiry of the transitional period which ends in February next year, the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission has said.
Of the commission’s concern is delay in completion of critical pending tasks of the revitalized peace agreement.
Speaking during the 22nd RJMEC plenary meeting in Juba on June 2, RJMEC Interim Chairperson, Ambassador Maj Gen Charles Tai Gituai said with about eight months to the end of the transitional period, continuous delays in the implementation of the agreement have led to incidents of military defections and the associated violent confrontations.
In addition, Gituai expressed “serious concerns” regarding continuous occupation of civilian centers by the South Sudan People’s Defence Force and SPLA-IO and attacks by the SSPDF on the SPLA-IO forces in Upper Nile and Unity States.
Most disturbingly, he said, are reports of sexual and gender-based violence in Koch and Leer counties in Unity State, including deaths of unspecified numbers of people, destruction of property and displacement of civilians.
Among the key pending tasks related to the permanent ceasefire and transitional security arrangements include completion of the unification of the command structure of forces, which includes the graduation and redeployment of the Necessary Unified Forces and commencement of cantonment and training.
Also pending is the operationalization and funding of the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes, which are a critical component of unification of forces and long-term security; logistics support for cantonment sites and training centres; and complete demilitarization of all civilian centres.
In his address to the meeting, Gituai highlighted cross-cutting challenges which remain an obstacle to the implementation of the peace agreement.
These include the delayed unification of forces, lack of sufficient funding, military defections, trust deficit among parties, insufficient political will, capacity gaps and the cumulative effects of prolonged subnational conflicts across the country.
He further stressed on the importance of the permanent constitution-making process and the need to carefully incorporate planning for the electoral process.
Gituai, who will soon be leaving the commission to take up the post of Kenya’s Ambassador to IGAD, reiterated the need for South Sudan’s unity government to urgently develop a roadmap in regard to the implementation of the remaining tasks.
This is as the Horn of Africa country races against time before the expiry of the transitional period in February 2023.