JMEC Chairperson calls for accountability for violations and an inclusive peace process
Peace, humanitarian relief, political inclusion and accountability for ceasefire and human rights violations were key themes when Festus Mogae, chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) opened the monthly plenary of the body tasked with implementing the South Sudanese peace agreement.
In an attempt to summarize and contextualize the problems facing South Sudan, the former Botswanan president singled out the three key challenges of peace, relief and political inclusion, which in Mr. Mogae’s view are “wholly interconnected”.
Spelling out the causality between these issues, the JMEC chairperson said that “the perception and reality of political exclusion from the peace process” is what leads to “insecurity and armed violence”, which in turn has led to “the humanitarian crisis, now officially a famine”, which Mr. Mogae described as having “nothing to do with failing rains, drought or infertile soil”.
Following this line of reasoning, Festus Mogae stressed the need for “genuine and sincere” political inclusion both in the peace process and in the government-initiated national dialogue as the driver of progress.
“Only when all the people of communities of South Sudan see that their interests and concerns are being represented can peace return to this country, and the people return to normal life”, the chairperson said, and added that the national dialogue must also “hear and address all the communities in South Sudan, not simply those who agree with the government” and be “autonomous and impartially-led for it to be credible”.
There was more to come as the JMEC chairperson painted a bleak picture of the current situation in South Sudan. Citing several examples of members of the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) being denied freedom of movement and access to verify compliance of the agreed ceasefire, Festus Mogae offered a practical suggestion:
“CTSAMM and the JMCC (Joint Military Ceasefire Commission) must work together to report freedom of movement violations complete with the names of the commanders responsible, so that the TGoNU (Transitional Government of National Unity) can take action against the culprits”, he said, adding the importance of also openly addressing ceasefire violations by holding perpetrators accountable.
The need for an end to and accountability for both ceasefire and human rights violations taking place during “new and intense fighting in Fangak State and in the Equatorias” was also mentioned in Mr. Mogae’s opening remarks, which furthermore included a recommendation for JMEC to continue to demand the “immediate deployment of the Regional Protection Force”.
In his dire assessment of what has so far been done to implement the peace agreement signed in August 2015, the JMEC chairperson added a lack of progress when it comes to the establishment of crucial institutions and mechanisms stipulated in the agreement.
“I have heard nothing from the Africa Union Commission on the establishment of the hybrid court for South Sudan”, Festus Mogae said, describing this as a matter of “great concern”.
“Given the escalation of the conflict”, progress towards both a hybrid court and a Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTHR) “is needed now more than ever before”, the JMEC chairperson said. For the same reason, he also urged the Transitional Government of National Unity to ensure that victims of sexual and gender based violence are assured of witness protection to encourage them to participate in the proposed CTHR.
Humanitarian concerns and work permit fees
Mr. Mogae noted the “huge gap” between the humanitarian assistance needed in the country and what has so far been offered by donors.
“On behalf of all those innocent people now suffering, I appeal to the international community to increase their support for humanitarian assistance in South Sudan.”
The JMEC chief also asked the government to review its decision to increase the work permit from 100 USD to between 1,000 and 10,000 USD, a measure which Mr. Mogae feared “will hinder humanitarian relief efforts” and impair “future economic growth and development through a reduction in the transfer of skills and foreign direct investment”.
Listen here for the full statement