22 February 2018

South Sudan: Activists Urge IGAD, AU to Pressure Warring Parties

A coalition of more than 200 civil society groups in South Sudan is urging the regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the African Union and the international community to put more pressure on South Sudan's warring parties to end the conflict ahead of the next phase of peace talks scheduled for March.

Round two of the talks ended February 17 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, without an agreement.

The activists issued a statement Tuesday urging the IGAD mediators and the international community to slap sanctions on parties who violate the Cessation of Hostilities agreement signed in December.

Geoffrey Lou Duke, spokesman for the South Sudan Civil Society Forum, said the stakeholders at the talks were bogged down in pursuing individual interests.

"Significant time was wasted both in walkouts and relegating contentious issues to the last minute. We hope the next phase will be the final phase," Duke told South Sudan in Focus.

The South Sudan government and opposition delegates spent nearly two weeks in Addis Ababa talking about how to fix pending issues in the August 2015 peace deal that collapsed in July 2016.

Under the timetable released by IGAD mediators this month, the parties were supposed to have struck a deal by February 17, but the talks broke down late last week with government and opposition delegations blaming each other.

Duke said that while some progress was made on security arrangements during the transition period, no agreement was reached on governance. He said the warring parties spent too much time on power sharing.

Koiti Emily, who represented youth in Addis Ababa at the High-Level Revitalization Forum, as the talks are known, said the IGAD mediators should have done a better job.

Fix the problem

"All of them have contributed either directly or indirectly to the situation we have. And they have to be constantly reminded that it is from that angle that they should be approaching the negotiations — from remorsefulness that indeed they owe [need] to fix the situation and clean the mess that they created for us in this country," Emily told South Sudan in Focus.

Duke said he and other activists expected the next phase of talks to end in a final peace deal.

"Bodies like IGAD and the African Union gave strong statements urging the parties to respect the cease-fire agreement or face punitive measures, and we urge these bodies and the broader international community to not only keep their word but move beyond words to action if the parties violate the Cessation of Hostilities agreement again," Duke told VOA.

The activists are calling on the Cease-fire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM), the body tasked with investigating cease-fire violations, to take punitive measures against those who block peace efforts.

"We urge our citizens the world over to join us in identifying the spoilers of peace. We will categorically designate any party that violates the Cessation of Hostilities as an enemy of peace," said Duke.

Emily said the parties were far from making compromises on tough issues.

"Besides the external pressure, it is important as citizens [that] we generate the equal internal pressure that will let our leaders know that it cannot be business as usual," Emily said.

The civil society activist said South Sudan's leaders had tainted the country's image for too long. She and other activists called on all South Sudanese to work together to end the violence in their country.

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