Since the formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity in February 2020, the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, signed in September 2018, has mostly stalled, as the signatories have failed to adhere to the deadlines set in the peace agreement and have backtracked on aspects of its political, security and economic provisions. Accountability measures, including the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, have not been implemented, while the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) and Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) have continued to commit serious human rights violations against civilians.
The political momentum, supported by regional mediation, that facilitated the return to Juba of the First Vice-President, Riek Machar Teny, the chair of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-Army in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), has eroded as the President, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has locked the opposition out of the Government’s decision-making process. Within his coalition, the President has turned to the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Nhial Deng Nhial, to counter the security primacy of the Director General of the Internal Security Bureau of the National Security Service,
Lieutenant General Akol Koor Kuc. Consequently, Mr. Nhial has reached out to a sanctioned individual, exiled General Paul Malong Awan Anei, to rejoin the Government.
Political and security disputes within President Kiir’s coalition have contributed to conflicts that have killed and displaced civilians in Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area. Rival factions within the Government supplied weapons to various ethnic militias from the Government’s stockpile. Between May and August, eight humanitarian staff were killed, humanitarian facilities were looted and destroyed, and thousands of civilians were displaced at a time of widespread flooding in Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area.
In Warrap, during the politically motivated disarmament campaign conducted by SSPDF, Lieutenant General Rin Tueny Mabor Deng commanded forces that killed 85 civilians and displaced thousands. The commanders temporarily blocked humanitarian access aimed at bringing aid to wounded civilians. Throughout 2020, the Panel has found that SSPDF and National Security Service have routinely blocked the United Nations Mission in South Sudan and peace monitors from accessing conflict areas.
Both SSPDF and SPLA-IO have violated the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, Protection of Civilians and Humanitarian Access. A joint SSPDF and SPLA-IO offensive in Central Equatoria against the National Salvation Front (NAS), a non-signatory group, has spurred NAS to disperse its forces and increase its guerrillastyle attacks against government forces. The ongoing conflict has diminished the prospects for a long-term agreement between the government and non-signatory parties, who met in Rome in October 2020 under the mediation of the Community of Sant’Egidio.
The revenue available to the Government for implementing the peace agreement has decreased. While South Sudan has produced about 165,000 barrels per day of oil, the Government can sell less than 15 per cent of its produced oil, South Sudan’s primary source of revenue. As a result, the Government, which has predicted a budget deficit of over $700 million, has increasingly turned to resource-backed loans and contracts. For instance, the Government started a road construction project based on an uncompetitive tender and oil-backed contract with ARC Resources Corporation Ltd.
South Sudan has lacked transparency and oversight as to how it collects and spends oil and non-oil revenue. Improvements in the collection of non-oil revenue in 2019 were stymied under the then interim leadership of Erjok Bullen, a National Security Service officer, who stopped publishing a monthly report on tax collection and violated Government protocols on the transfer of collected revenues.
Amid the inaction in the implementation of the peace agreement, the chains of command of armed groups have fragmented, and some units have prepared to return to conflict. Since February, some SPLA-IO commanders have defected with their soldiers to SSPDF, which has sparked conflict in Central Equatoria and Upper Nile.
Some SPLA-IO commanders, including sanctioned individual First Lieutenant General Simon Gatwech Dual (SSi.002), dissatisfied with the progress in the peace process, have threatened to break with SPLM/A-IO leadership. SSPDF has increased the deployment of troops to Central and Western Equatoria to renew its offensive against NAS and to uproot forces loyal to Mr. Machar, as SPLA-IO defector Brigadier General Moses Lokujo Gabriel has led a campaign against his former units. Lieutenant General Kuc has also prepared to acquire new weapons and training for forces under his control.