What do the South Sudanese and world expect from the Revitalization Forum?

By Aldo Ajou Deng Akuey

Yes, it has been a credible effort for the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) to inject a political life into the then near-collapse 17 August 2015 Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS). The ARCSS was reported to have collapsed in July 2016, following the “show-down” Palace fighting between the national army, SPLA, and rebel forces allied to President Salva Kiir Mayardit and First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny respectively. But the ARCSS could not collapse in its totality; because of the SPLM and a parcel of SPLM IO, led by General Taban Deng Gai, who decided to stick to ARCSS. The SPLM and SPLM IO saved the ARCSS but placed it on a political “life-machine.”

It has been on the life-machine from 8 July 2016 until 22 December 2017, a “Friday of good hope” for South Sudan. It was on Friday, 22 December 2017, that all the warring parties, other parties and a number of civil societies  “inked the ceasefire.” The High-Level Revitalisation Forum for ARCSS gave birth to a new child “ceasefire 2017” to update the old “ceasefire 2014.”  The South Sudanese hopes are renewed and further energized. Thus setting the peace agenda towards a fully progressive resolution to end the “senseless war.”

The ceasefire agreement is a very positive opening step towards possible resolution of the conflict. It is promising because the warring parties unanimously attended the conference, signed and committed themselves to remove the most blocking issue, the ceasefire. This agreement exemplifies the fact that the IGAD’s High-Level Revitalisation Forum (HLRF) is well ahead with positive plans and concerted capability to end the war.

Although the signing of this agreement gave a positive signal, yet the majority South Sudanese citizens, internally and externally, are lukewarm, skeptical and pessimistic. They do not trust the politicians to honor and abide by any agreement. Many people think that the ceasefire will not hold. They based such argument on lack of political will and lack national commitment by the politicians. The same feelings and expressions could be traced to the UN and Troika mediators. The mediators doubt political will and national commitment of South Sudanese politicians as well. Nevertheless, others think that the politicians may turn positive in this round of the revitalization of the ARCSS. However, people, overwhelmingly committed to a specific demand, the “peaceful resolution of the conflict.”

For this ceasefire to succeed, the government, political parties, and international community must commit to it and halt the military movements immediately. They should share the responsibility among themselves and with UNMISS. Such a cooperation could regenerate hopes and collective resolve of parties to negotiate the fundamental issues in good faith.

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