South Sudan’s Fragile Peace at Risk as political rows escalate and Security Sector Reforms Lag
Recent events in South Sudan have raised concerns about the country’s ability to maintain peace and achieve genuine reconciliation. President Salva Kiir’s decision to dismiss the country’s defence minister, Angelina Teny, has been seen by some as a threat to the fragile peace process. While others believe that Kiir had consulted with former vice president Riek Machar before making the decision.
Critics have argued that Teny’s dismissal was long overdue, citing her lack of progress in implementing security sector reforms during her three years in office. Meanwhile, Kiir’s camp has accused Teny of under-performing.
One of the biggest challenges facing South Sudan is the need to complete security sector reforms, which were supposed to have been implemented during the transition period. While progress has been made in uniting 53,000 soldiers out of a total of 83,000, there is still much work to be done.
During his recent three-day visit to South Sudan, Pope Francis urged the authorities not to turn the country into a “graveyard,” warning that history would judge them for their actions. The Pope stressed the need for a fresh beginning in the process of peace and reconciliation, reminding the leaders of the impact of their decisions on future generations.
However, Machar is reportedly facing pressure from his followers to withdraw from the peace pact if Kiir continues to make unilateral choices. But political experts believe that Machar cannot afford to withdraw at this time due to the potential political ramifications.
The head of the holdout group, Gen Thomas Cirillo of the National Salvation Front, has accused the signatories of the peace agreement of illegally extending their rule for another two years without consulting the people of South Sudan. The parties agreed in August to prolong the government’s term to February 2025. According to Cirillo, the 2018 peace accord is defective and would not result in long-term peace.
Observers are concerned about the country’s ability to hold free and legitimate elections to consolidate peace. Prerequisites for holding peaceful and credible elections include security sector reforms, IDP resettlement, refugee repatriation, a population census, constituency delimitation, and the implementation of transitional justice to hold those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity accountable.
Impunity is a fundamental driver of the country’s human rights and humanitarian problems, according to the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan. The Commission’s report highlights widespread attacks against civilians, systematic sexual violence against women and girls, the continued presence of children in fighting forces, and state-sponsored extrajudicial killings.
The Commission has called for the dismissal of relevant officials and the commencement of charges as a real show of the government’s professed commitment to peace and human rights. The 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement, which ended a devastating civil war, remains the basis for dealing with conflict, repression, and corruption, and lays the groundwork for South Sudanese to draft a permanent constitution that would improve the rule of law and respect for human rights, creating the groundwork for national stability.
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