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South Sudan urged to take decisive action

Peter Lokale
Frosty relations between South Sudan and the international community warmed slightly following the creation of the transitional government, but international players stressed that more must be done.
5.05.2016  |  Torit, South Sudan
Deserted homesteads in Malakal, one of the towns hit worst by the over two-year civil war, June 9, 2014. (photo: The Niles | Davis Mugume)
Deserted homesteads in Malakal, one of the towns hit worst by the over two-year civil war, June 9, 2014. (photo: The Niles | Davis Mugume)

The Transition Government of National Unity (TGoNU), part of a peace agreement signed in August 2015, aims to end more than two years of bitter conflict. But key international players, including the United States, The United Kingdom and Norway, stressed that more must be done to end the protracted suffering of the people.

Under the terms of the peace deal, President Salva Kiir Mayardit will work with former rebel leader Riek Machar Teny, who returned to his post of Vice President in April.

The so-called ‘Troika’, which comprises the United States, United Kingdom and Norway – key players in South Sudan and guarantors of the peace agreement - came together to laud the South Sudanese leaders for establishing the unity government.

Countless statements praised South Sudan’s TGoNU, hailing from different nations, unions, groups and the United Nations.

We expect the transitional government to honour its commitments.

The Troika’s joint statement describes the “long-awaited formation of South Sudan’s TGoNU” but it cautioned: “We expect the transitional government to honour its commitments. The people of South Sudan deserve nothing less.”

It urged the transitional government to step in to end fighting which has killed tens of thousands of citizens in just over two years. “The fighting must stop, decisive action must be taken to tackle the economic crisis, and there must be full cooperation with the United Nations and humanitarian agencies to ensure aid reaches those in need – formal and informal impediments must be removed,” reads the statement.

It added that it welcomed the April 26 statements by President Salva Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar which backed cooperation, reconciliation, and peaceful coexistence. “We call on South Sudan’s leaders to continue this spirit of cooperation and to start the difficult task of rebuilding their country,” it says.

The Troika’s statement continued that while the formation of the transitional government is a step forward, the high death toll, the widespread atrocities committed and the millions who were forced to flee their homes, mean that this is no time for celebration: “Today the international community stands united in urging the transitional government to start to work for the people of South Sudan.”

It added that the Troika countries will remain long-term partners and friends of South Sudan’s people.

Meanwhile, the United Nation Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon also welcomed the formation of the new government, describing it as an important milestone in the peace process as he urged the country’s leaders to establish all institutions of transition. He called on the country’s warring parties to immediately cease all hostilities.

Seeing the Juba leaders moving forward in favour of the country’s peace implementation, Moon reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to support all South Sudanese in restoring peace, stability and prosperity in the country.

He said the moves were in keeping with the peace agreement signed in August 2015. However, he said they should move fast to continue the transition progress.

The Secretary-General commended the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) chair, President Festus Mogae, and the African Union High Representative, President Alpha Omar Konare, for steering the peace process forward and called on the larger international community to remain actively engaged.

Moon in February this year briefly visited South Sudan to urge the country’s leaders to speed up the formation of the TGoNU.

Among the global reactions, Canada’s government welcomed the news from Juba. The Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion described it as an important step but said it was crucial that the government move quickly to establish accountability and to end South Sudan’s cycle of violence and impunity.

Meanwhile, the European Union joined the chorus, saying the unity government is a welcome development, which has been long awaited.

The EU, through its commissioner for humanitarian affairs, commented that the leadership in Juba should now work to deliver peace and security, as well as humanitarian access for the people of South Sudan.

Like several of South Sudan’s friends around the globe, the EU pledged it would support the new government if it works to end persistent conflict, abuse of civilians, violations of international humanitarian law, and corruption.

Restrictions on access continue to impede humanitarian operations. Time to end such practice is now, no delay.

It underscored that the suffering of the people of South Sudan has reached extreme proportions, and that it is time to now immediately cease violence and facilitate the organisations trying to help citizens on the verge of starvation. Millions of South Sudanese lacking food and basics such as health services and education. “Restrictions on access continue to impede humanitarian operations. Time to end such practice is now, no delay.”

The Country Director for Save the Children, Pete Walsh said the new government has a “golden opportunity” to devote itself to children’s education for boys and girls.

He noted that completing the formation of the unity government was not an end in itself, but rather the beginning of hard work to reverse the physical and psychological injuries inflicted on millions of children.

He urged the new government to honour provisions of Chapter III of the peace deal, which says the parties must allow delivery of humanitarian aid and focus on victims of the conflict such as women, children and orphans. It should also release all child soldiers, he said.

Meanwhile, South Sudanese citizens also praised the developments and hoped that politicians would work to usher in peace.

Joseph Lolemi from Torit in Eastern Equatoria State thanked the government in Juba “for critically making such decision” and added that now was time for “the implementation process of the peace deal in letter and spirit”.

South Sudan’s latest civil war followed in the footsteps of five decades of intermittent fighting in the then Sudan, which ended with a peace deal in 2005. Many citizens expressed their fatigue with living amid conflict and hoped the transitional government was an opportunity for change.

The African Center for Transitional Justice (ACTJ) also welcomed the formation of government but ACTJ’s Executive Director, Peter Gai Manyuon, stressed the need for justice and accountability in the young nation.

“The culprits who have killed innocent civilians should be brought to book and answer what lead to massacre, cannibalism, torture, rape, killing of the civil population in the country,” he added.

The warring party leaders must strive to identify the culprits who were responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and cases related to genocide, in order to achieve reconciliation, truth seeking, tranquility, reforms and democratisation processes in South Sudan.

The peace implementation without proper accountability and national reconciliation is meaningless, the entity said.

As the government, we want to say ‘thank you all’ for your moral support. We assure you, we will make further progress.

For its part, the government in Juba welcomed the reactions from across the globe. “We are so encouraged and of course, with pride, as the government, we want to say ‘thank you all’ for your moral support,” said a top official in the transitional government, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t officially permitted to speak to the media by the Juba authority. “We assure you, we will make further progress.”

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