Fresh civil war erupted in Juba on 15 December 2013, causing heavy civilian casualties. The war spread to other parts of the country as the power struggle within the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and took a nose dive into the military and the general public. As the war progressed, it took ethnic dimensions pitting the Dinka and Nuer residing largely in Juba. The war was predictable but the magnitude of the violence was unforeseen as it quickly spread from Juba, Bor, Malakal, Akobo, and Bentiu. There were revenge and counter-revenge from both sides of the conflict. Immediately, in January 2014, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) intervened to stop the violence and broker a negotiated peaceful settlement within the context of the conflict. Eventually, and on 12 September 2018, the South Sudanese political parties: the SPLM, SPLM IO and South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), signed the Revitalized Agreement on Resolutions of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS). These parties to the R-ARCSS have so far shown their commitment to it as compared to the previous peace agreements (ARCSS 2015 in point) which ended up in a brutal violence and total failure.
The focus has now shifted to the implementation of the R-ARCSS. The R-ARCSS has provisions for eight months pre-transition leading to the formation of Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU). The TGoNU shall run for a period of three years under which a new constitution will be made and government structures put in place. There shall be institutional and security sector reforms that will make government small, effective and efficient. Reforms will be directed at the public sector but most importantly putting governance institutions in place. The implementation phase requires all parties to collectively pull in the same direction and ensure the process is carried out to a successful conclusion.
The immediate challenge is hence security. The security challenge is complex to deal with in a period of three years given the history of the liberation struggle within SPLM/A and lack of documentation on liberation cadres within the formal and informal military ranks. The process of creating a new South Sudan Defense Forces and the criteria of inclusion and exclusion is a negotiated agenda. It also carries with it political risks of more violence from those who might not be accommodated within the new People’s Defense Forces (PDF). Thus, security sector reforms must encompass vocational training and recruitment of cadres in other security agencies such as police, wildlife, prisons, and national security among others. Security sectors reforms also have both lateral and horizontal implications since the number of generals shall be drastically reduced and redeployment and training of others in military academies to take new roles within the restructured South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF). The success of security sector reforms shall equally guarantee success in other sectors and state institutions.
Security sector reforms remain the most controversial and basic source of ensuring peace in South Sudan. The six national security services (SPLA, South Sudan National Police, National security intelligence, South Sudan National Prison, National Wildlife, and Fire Brigade) have to be restructured, reformed and professionalized. Above all, they have to be put under government administration for accountability and strict monitoring and supervision. In the past, the central focus has been the reconstruction and undertaking of security reforms solely focusing on SPLA instead of whole security sector reforms. Whereas there have been policy documents of security sector reforms such as the transformation program (2012-2017), very little has been achieved. Security agencies are largely a reflection and damping ground of SPLA and its affiliated militias. The starting point would be a comprehensive undertaking or review of the security sector to determine force strength, capacity, skills and competencies and then right size through alignment with resources and in a manner that takes into consideration emerging security threats in South Sudan and globally. The specific objective of undertaking sector reforms is to professionalize the six security agencies while making them independent of the executive and SPLA. Most importantly is to place them under civilian control. Finally, the general objective would be to strengthen civilian oversight role internally and externally. The security sector should be undertaken also as part of greater institutional reforms.
South Sudan faces serious humanitarian crises in diverse forms- Internally displaced persons, refugees, and over seven million facing starvation across the country. There are those physically challenged, injured, traumatized, and civilian deaths with attendants effects socially manifested in IDP camps where direct and indirect effects of the war are widespread and notable. The humanitarian tasks involve high social movement and mass resettlement of people. More often than not, diseases such as measles, cholera, and meningitis take the heavy toll on women and children in a distressful environment and conditions. What is more, it requires huge international support from humanitarian agencies to resettle refugees and internally displaced persons even as the state seeks a lasting solution to the problem largely associated with war and legacy of war.
The revamping of the economy is equally important if not the most important variable in realizing and implementing the peace process. Besides the oil economy that contributes to 98% of national revenue, other sectors of the economy have been neglected. Agriculture, animal husbandry, minerals, and tourism have the potential to transform the economy and create jobs for the youth. It is worth noting high youth unemployment and security implications, especially when coupled with high inflation and low productivity. Indeed, the revitalized peace agreement placed more emphasis on sharing oil resources and revamping the oil infrastructure at the expense of diversification of the economy and food security. Prudent management of oil resources and diversification of the economy would generate revenue that might transform sectors such as health, education, delivery of social services and infrastructure to link the country both horizontally and vertically.
The success of the peace agreement would depend also on the caliber of the constitution negotiated within the transitional period of three years. The constitution requires taking into consideration a federal system of government and control of resources by devolved units to allow the central government to concentrate on foreign policy, defense national security. The aim would be to introduce many centers of power and control of resources placed at the hands of the local populace. What is important however is not to weaken the state but allow the state to play its traditional role.
Finally, peace is expensive and require support beyond national borders. The peace agreement would need the support of the whole world and especially countries with significant investments and other interests in South Sudan. The primary focus should remain the interests of South Sudanese to realize and reap peace dividends.
By Aldo Ajou Deng Akuey