Understanding the Cessation of Hostilities Agreements Violations in South Sudan
December 15, 2017, marked 4 years of a political turmoil in an independent South Sudan. This has culminated in the country’s widespread insecurity, an unmatched humanitarian tragedy, and a heightening economic distress. This misery deepens as a host of efforts to stamp the instability continues to falter, one after another. Since 2014, several political settlements have been reached and nearly all of them have failed wholesale. The latest Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoH), signed on December 21, 2017, as part of another attempt to rescue and put life into a previous agreement, raised hopes for peace in South Sudan once again. The recent agreement, a constituent of the IGAD’s High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF), supposedly allows for the revival of the Agreement for the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan, popularly known as the ARCSS. The ARCSS, signed in 2015, committed to addressing a political grievance mainly among SPLM splintered groups—SPLM-IG, SPLM-IO, and Former Detainees.
IGAD’s High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) came on the heels of the 2016 gun-battle in Juba, after which there was little certainty as to the viability of the ARCSS. The parties to it have since engaged in a debate about whether ARCSS is dead, in a comma, or alive. The Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU), which was tasked with implementing the agreement, has been unable to implement it. And yet, it suggests that the agreement is still alive. But the opposition groups have insisted that ARCSS is dead and must be renegotiated. The recent CoH agreement became HLRF’s first act of the monumental challenge of resuscitating the ARCSS. It restates a range of measures the preceding settlements had invested in. Familiar stipulations include specified time during which all hostilities ought to cease, full compliance by the parties, unfettered humanitarian access, disengagement from hostile propaganda, protection of vulnerable persons, and the roadmap through which the agreement should be promoted by the stakeholders.
The peace revitalization process, now heralded by the CoH—2017, offers some measure of innovation, and this makes it desirable to those concerned, injecting some hope back into the rather hopeless political malaise in the country. As opposed to focusing on the initial 4 parties to the ARCSS, the current model advocates for a participation of 14 politically discontented groups, fulfilling the ever-growing demand for an inclusive process.
The CoH was followed by a slew of press statements by the top leaders of the competing parties and orders to various military units to abide by the letter and spirit of the agreement. Unsurprisingly, and despite the hopes and the fanfare surrounding its signature, the newly inked pact, like the ones before it, is already in tatters. Just days following the signing, a number of violations to this agreement have already been documented, angering the chief guarantor, IGAD. On December 29, IGAD outright condemned these violations, called upon the parties to ‘come to their senses’, and promised accountability measures against the culprits. It also called for an increased monitoring of the situation by UNMISS and JMEC. The Troika also issued a strongly worded condemnation of the violations. But whatever will happen to the violators of the CoH, the undeniable reality is that these violations, occurring within hours of the agreement, only concretize the suspicions among the South Sudanese citizenry, that the agreement had not really amounted to much in the first place, given the well-known belligerent behavior of the competing political and military leaders in South Sudan.
In this review, we highlight potential causes of failure for the South Sudanese cessation of hostilities settlements. We raised some of these points in a recent publication on the revitalization process and the prospects for peace in the country. Lastly, we offer advice on how to make the ongoing peace initiatives, particularly the security aspects of the ARCSS, more effective. In this review, we highlight matters respecting incentives, preparedness for the implementation, military command, trust, and ripeness of the conflict.
Jok Madut Jok is trained in the anthropology of health and holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He is a fellow of Rift Valley Institute and Director of the Sudd Institute. Jok has held fellowship positions at a number of other institutions, including the United States Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. He also served in the Government of South Sudan as undersecretary in the Ministry of Culture and Heritage for three years. He has also worked in aid and development and author of four books and numerous articles covering gender, sexuality and reproductive health, humanitarian aid, ethnography of political violence, gender-based violence, war and slavery, and the politics of identity in South Sudan and Sudan. His book Breaking Sudan: The Search for Peace, was published in 2017 by OneWorld.
Nhial Tiitmamer is the Director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Program at the Sudd Institute and a part-time lecturer at the University of Juba. Before joining The Sudd Institute in 2013, Nhial spent research and consulting stints at Arletta Environmental Consulting in Calgary and at the University of Alberta in Canada. Nhial holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies with a minor in English Literature from the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus and an M.Sc. in Sustainable Energy Development from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Nhial is the co-founder of the NewSudanVision.com and has extensively commented and written on issues about South Sudan and Sudan.
Augustino Ting Mayai is the Director of Research at the Sudd Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology, with concentrations on demography and development from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently studies how state effectiveness affects child health outcomes in South Sudan and Ethiopia. Dr. Mayai has written extensively on South Sudan’s current affairs.