BEATRICE MATEGWA/FILIP ANDERSSON
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers has endorsed a request to extend the deadline for the establishment of a Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity by six months. The body noted, however, that the new pre-transitional timeline is “non-renewable”.
“South Sudanese citizens have breathed a sigh of relief. Let’s ensure that we use this time productively and take advantage of the opportunities and move smoothly into the transitional period,” said David Shearer, Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.
On his part, Nhial Deng Nhial, South Sudan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, promised the two-day 67th Extra-Ordinary session of the IGAD entity that the new government will be formed by 12 November, without further delays.
“It is critical that no stake-holder uses the extension of the pre-transitional period as a reason for renegotiation of any aspects of the agreement,” he said, describing the latest developments as “solely an extension of the lifespan of the pre-transition and not the re-opening of the agreement”.
While Council members praised the overall reduction of violence observed since the revitalized peace agreement was signed in September last year, they were less impressed by the slow pace of implementing the provisions stipulated in the accord.
A comprehensive review made by the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) shows that only 27 out of 59 scheduled key tasks have been completed, with its Interim Chairperson, Augostino Njoroge, commenting that the most sensitive issues are still pending.
“The critical remaining tasks include the cantonment, training, reunification and deployment of forces, the reconstitution of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission, as well as the determination of the number and boundaries of states,” he summarized the current situation.
Speaking on behalf of the Troika countries (USA, United Kingdom and Norway), Lars Andersen, Norwegian ambassador to South Sudan, suggested, as did Mr. Shearer, regular face-to-face meetings between the top leadership of the parties, president Salva Kiir and opposition leader Riek Machar.
“They need to meet and discuss frequently to build confidence and trust between themselves, and to demonstrate to the South Sudanese and the international community that they are determined to solve all issues peacefully and that returning to war is no option,” the ambassador said.
This recommendation was also taken on board by the IGAD Council of Ministers, which in its communiqué issued after the meeting “commits to recommend” the request to the IGAD Heads of State and Government.
The communiqué uses stronger words when referring to non-signatories of the peace agreement. The IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan, Ismail Wais, has been authorized to “conduct one final round of engagement” with General Thomas Cirillo Swaka and General Paul Malong Awan, leaders of two such non-signing groups. The Special Envoy is requested to persuade them to “join in the implementation” of the peace agreement, “or face consequences”.
To make the provisions of the revitalized peace deal reality, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission urged IGAD, the African Union and the United Nations to maximize efforts to “encourage and support the parties to implement the agreement for the sake of the citizens of South Sudan.”
Mr. Shearer’s plea is echoed in the IGAD Council of Ministers statement, which also recommends “the establishment of an effective and accountable mechanism” for managing the funds the South Sudanese government has committed to the peace process.