PEACE-delays risk push for elections
By Bullen Bala Alexander
The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General to South Sudan David Shearer said the current delays in the peace process in the country had put risk of pushing elections beyond the timeline.
He said there has been slow progress in peace implementation from all the parties to the agreement.
According to the UN Chief, the Transitional National Legislative Assembly is yet to be reconstituted, so necessary new laws are not being passed and progress on the constitution has been delayed.
The UN Chief made the statement during a press conference on his recent briefing to the African Union Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council on the situation in South Sudan.
Shearer said he had been telling both bodies that the crucial issue right now is continuing progress on the peace process.
“My concern about the delay is that it risks pushing elections out well beyond the timeline in the agreement. This will just add to growing disillusionment amongst communities about whether the political will exists to give South Sudanese Citizens the opportunity to choose their leaders,” he stressed.
He said at the moment, the process is stuck. It hasn’t even moved past the first stage where forces are trained and graduated adding that urgent action was needed to move the process forward.
“Critically, there has been almost no movement on the critical area of security sector reform and it is important to bring together soldiers from all sides into an inclusive army force.”
He said on the positive side, the transitional government is functioning with activities well underway within the clusters of ministries.
“State governors have been appointed. But, as you know, there continue to be delays finalizing the number and appointments at the county level. This is being worked on by the parties, but it needs to be resolved and agreed quickly so that the vacuum in power is filled.”
He said that the COVlD-19 has slowed the peace process. But the pandemic is not entirely to blame. The peace agreement is limping along. It needs to move faster.
“So, we really need to urgently breathe new life into the peace. The International Community and regional partners play an important role but the parties themselves must also step up their efforts to regain lost momentum,” Mr. Shearer added.
The UN Chief further said he would be pleased to see the resumption of talks between the Government and holdout groups in Rome next week as part of a process mediated by Sant’ Egidio.
He however, urges all parties to join the meeting with a genuine willingness to secure durable peace.
“We all know that South Sudan is facing huge challenges. We see oil prices falling, revenues dropping and long delays in paying civil servants and security forces.”
He said the street exchange rate has doubled since March. Rising prices put enormous burdens on ordinary families.
The UN Chief further revealed from January to July, UNMlSS documented 575 incidents of subnational violence three times the number compared to last year.
“As a result, we often receive requests for support from affected communities to send peacekeepers to help cool the situation and encourage reconciliation between the groups,” he stated.
He said in the past few weeks, due to a change in approach by the SSPDF, these kinds of operations have not been able to take place.
“For years, we have had an agreement to notify the South Sudan authorities when our peacekeepers move around the country. We do this out of respect for the sovereignty of South Sudan.”
However, there is no sign of similar respect from the SSPDF for our need to have freedom of movement to protect civilians and build peace.
“As a result, we have had to report these persistent obstructions to regional and international Partners, including the Security Council and African Union,” he said.
He said it tarnishes the reputation of the SSPDF and may have knocked on effects into other areas of international cooperation.
“I’m pleased to report that a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the Jonglei Governor which has led to the Bor PoC site being re-designated.”
This means the camp is now under the sovereign control and protection of the Government, as with other IDPs camps around the country.
State authorities have committed to ensuring that no-one is forced to leave and UNMISS police officers are working with their local counterparts to build capacity. Of course, humanitarian assistance will continue.