South Sudanese must assert their right and civic obligation to choose their own fate.
The Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), agreed in 2018, remains the most feasible foundation for peace in the nation and a source of optimism.
It has contributed to the country’s uncomfortable quiet. Unfortunately, the absence of political resolve to properly execute the deal, as well as its unpredictable execution, is dashing the expectations of many South Sudanese who have pinned their hopes on it as the most certain vehicle for restoring peace.
The peace accord’s key clauses involve public engagement in the constitution-making process, the transitional justice process, and the election of leaders after the transitional period.
Constitution-making within the terms of the 2018 peace agreement provides an excellent opportunity to learn from previous mistakes and react to people’s demands while also inclusive and including all stakeholders.
Constitution-making is fundamentally a battle over the allocation, redistribution, and restriction of power, and as such, is critical for peace and nation-building in a profoundly divided South Sudan.
To be sustainable, constitutional results must include and include people who have suffered injustice in developing new remedies. The constitution-making process provides an opportunity to rectify errors that occurred during the creation of the existing constitution.
Thus, increased representation, involvement, and participation of a diverse range of stakeholders, beyond those responsible for the current constitution or subsequent peace agreements, would be critical in capturing the aspirations of the South Sudanese and initiating the process of dismantling the status quo that has benefited only a few political elites.
As stated in Chapter 5 of the peace agreement, transitional justice issues have become even more important for South Sudan’s security and development. Since 2013, the conflict has claimed over 400,000 lives, and thousands have been subjected to severe human rights abuses.
South Sudan’s planned transitional justice procedures and institutions are critical indicators of the political will to seek justice for victims of war and human rights abuses. This implies that if we achieve genuine justice and responsibility for human rights abuses and conflict, the victims must be at the heart of the transitional justice process.
As such, victim involvement enhances their voices to convert them into agents of transitional justice, leaders, and champions. This needs the organization and participation of victims and survivors of human rights abuses in the quest for justice and responsibility.
Finally, election procedures allow people to influence the course of their nation by voting for their leaders. Elections provide an opportunity for political parties and civic organizations to recruit and organize supporters and to communicate alternative platforms with the public.
Elections also act as a catalyst for political discussion and public discourse since they are predicated on voter involvement.
However, given the high stakes of elections in South Sudan and the apparent potential that elections may act as a catalyst for violent conflict, substantial measures to resolve areas of tension will be required throughout this transitional phase. The transitional government’s capacity to extend political and civic space will be critical in deciding the election’s legitimacy.
Among the actions required during this transitional period to prepare for elections that will unite South Sudanese are the following: reforming the National Security Service (NSS) to eliminate repressive elements and practices; amending the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and NSS Acts to create a more enabling environment for civic actors to engage on issues of national importance.
Thus, the involvement of the South Sudanese people is critical to achieving the peace accord’s objectives. South Sudanese should not cede this responsibility to the present political leadership.
They must recognize that they both have a right and a civic obligation to help determine their country’s destiny by contributing to attaining the transitional processes’ objectives. South Sudan’s people must not outsource this vital task of nation-building to the present government.
They must take ownership of the transitional processes by participating in deciding their results for posterity and ensuring that the goals of the South Sudanese people are central to these processes.
South Sudanese citizens must understand that there are no reserved dinner table places. And that they must insist on and grasp the right and chance to choose their future.
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