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Guarantors disappointed over lack of political will

By Charles K. Mark and Gladys Fred Kole

Guarantors of South Sudan’s revitalized peace agreement have expressed concerns over “persistent lack of political will” manifested by principles to the deal.

Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG), Nicolas Haysom, noted delays in setting up the electoral architecture.

He highlighted the need for a demonstrable political will by parties to reach a compromise and resolve outstanding issues.

“With 14 months remaining until elections, establishing and resourcing the elections and constitution-making bodies should be prioritized,” Haysom said at the 32nd R-JMEC monthly plenary.

The UN head observed lack of progress on the constitution-making process, which in the roadmap is envisaged to conclude in July 2024, six months ahead of December 2024 elections.

Mr. Haysom called on the Joint Task Force for the Implementation of the Constitution-Making and Electoral Processes, to resume its monthly meetings and address the pending issues.

“A conducive political and security environment, level playing for all political parties, as well as civic and political space, is critical before, during, and after elections,” he stressed.

UNMISS chief appreciated the ongoing implementation of some action plants but calls for inclusive role play of parties.

“I note the preparation of a national electoral security action plan is ongoing and encourages a multi-partisan approach to build confidence,” he added.

Haysom reiterated that such efforts are inextricably linked to finalizing the transitional security arrangements and addressing general insecurity across the country.

Meanwhile, the Troika countries (the U.S., UK, and Norway) feel it is unfortunate that there has not been sufficient progress made by the principles, especially with the failure to deploy the necessary unified forces.

Norway’s ambassador to South Sudan, Linken Nymann Berryman, on behalf of the Troika, said security sector reform is a prerequisite for free, fair, and credible elections.

“We call on the parties to reach full agreement on the command structure, ensure meaningful deployment of Necessary Unified Forces (NUF), and implement the wider Chapter Two security sector reforms,” she echoed while presenting a Troika statement to the plenary on Thursday.

Meanwhile, acknowledging the enactment of the National Elections Act, which establishes a legal framework for the conduct of elections, Troika underlined that other major, necessary milestones remain unachieved.

“We call on the transitional government to present a comprehensive strategy to ensure free, fair, peaceful, and credible elections,” Berryman said.

“These milestones keep passing, and at each juncture, we reflect an advocate for compromise, increased political will, and sustained action.”

Ambassador Berryman added that a successful ending of the transitional period and establishing genuine, representative democracy in South Sudan, which benefits everyone, will require more work.

“The fact that we are no further towards that goal, five years after signing R-ARCISS and 14 months into the new timeline of the roadmap is deeply disappointing,” the ambassador expressed.

She, however, urged that with less than 15 months left until elections, the parties must demonstrate political will, overcome differences, reach compromises, and accelerate progress throughout the remaining transitional period.

Additionally, the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC) said a lot of work remains undone to complete the critical pending peace tasks necessary to effect the country’s democratic transition.

Interim chairperson Lt. General Charles Tai Gitual said there is a lack of sufficient progress and clarity on election preparedness, constitution-making, and unification of forces, each of which is a critical pre-condition for smooth and successful elections.

He said this creates uncertainty on the conduct of the election.

Gen. Gituai called for expeditious reconstitution of the political parties’ council, the National Elections Commission, and the National Constitutional Review Commission, all key institutions in the holding of free and fair elections.

Mr. Gituai emphasized the need for the completion unification and redeployment of forces, and the provision of adequate resources for security mechanisms.

“As elections approach, conduct civic education, fast-track the permanent constitution-making process, and promote political and civic space to allow citizens to exercise their democratic rights,” he urged the government.

Mr. Gituai suggested that parties to the agreement should dialogue among themselves and agree on the practical steps to fast-track the implementation of the roadmap to ensure the timely conduct of elections.

“Given the achievement of having reached five years of relative peace, it is incumbent on the country’s leadership to consolidate the peace dividends for all its diverse communities through democratic elections,” he lamented.

On August 4, 2022, the parties to the revitalized peace agreement endorsed the roadmap to a peaceful and democratic end of the transitional period of the revitalized peace agreement (R-ARCSS).

The roadmap, which extended the timeline of the transitional period by twenty-four months from February 2023 to February 2025, outlined a number of priority tasks with timelines that parties to the agreement considered critical for completion before the conduct of peaceful and democratic elections in 2024.

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