Fragile Peace Greets Independent South Sudan

AFRICA, 11 Jul 2011

Jerome Mwanda - InDepth News

South Sudan declaring its independence, forming the world’s newest state, and initiating a new era for North Sudan on July 9, 2011, is a historic moment for Sudan and the surrounding region, and a vital opportunity to promote peace and stability in a volatile territory. But this historic moment looks set to be scarred by violence, a group of civil society organisations has warned.

Officially the Republic of South Sudan, South Sudan populated by some 8 million people, is a landlocked country in East Africa, with Juba as its capital. It is bordered by Ethiopia to the east; Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the south; the Central African Republic to the west; and the Republic of Sudan to the north. South Sudan includes the vast swamp region of the Sudd formed by the White Nile, locally called the Bahr al Jebel.

As Northern and Southern leaders moved to strengthen their positions before Sudan split in two, the cycle of turbulence and violence had escalated alarmingly. “The current violence in the border areas is threatening to spiral out of control, many of Sudan’s humanitarian and political problems remain unresolved, and there are serious threats to civilians in both North and South Sudan in the months ahead,” more than 25 organisations warned in run-up to South Sudan’s independence.

Titled ‘Beyond the pledge: International Engagement After Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement’, the 22-page report warned: “Sudan is now the closest to war that it has been since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between North and South Sudan in January 2005. Without strengthened high-level engagement by the international community, backed by tough measures including increased targeted sanctions, the prospects for stability and security in North and South Sudan look bleak.”

Recent military aggression in Abyei and Southern Kordofan had brought North and South Sudan close to allout war, the report noted. Life for civilians caught in the middle was increasingly untenable. Between January and mid-May 2011, over 117,000 people were displaced and almost 1,400 killed in South Sudan alone, more deaths than in all of 2010.

The report said: “In May and June 2011, a further 113,000 people fled conflict in Abyei, following a military invasion and aerial bombing by Khartoum’s forces. Since the outbreak of fighting in Southern Kordofan in June, 61,000 people have been displaced, and up to 1.4 million others affected.”

The report added: “In Darfur, approximately 70,000 Darfuris were displaced between December 2010 and March 2011, and there were at least 80 Government air strikes against civilian populations from January to April 2011. Across Sudan, 4.27 million people are still internally displaced.”

The civil society organisations urge the international community to address the deteriorating situation by recalibrating its relationships with both North and South Sudan. They add: “In the run-up to the referendum, key international players moved towards greater engagement with the North, with a focus on highlighting incentives and trust-building.”

However, they point out that the international community has been reluctant to criticise the fledging government in the South for fear of jeopardising its transition to independence. “In the wake of outright violations of the peace agreement by the North, and concerning human rights violations by the South, this must now be reversed,” says the paper.

UN PEACEKEEPING MISSION

The paper suggests that in the face of the increasingly combustible situation across Sudan, a well-resourced United Nations peacekeeping mission with a robust mandate and a strong leadership with the political will to implement it will be a necessity.

The report fears that confronted with opposition from North and, to a lesser extent, South Sudan, there is a risk that the United Nations Security Council will agree to a weaker mandate. “There should be no compromise on this,” it adds.

In particular, as well as a presence in South Sudan, a peacekeeping presence must be retained in the North and in the volatile border areas, particularly Abyei, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan.

Moreover, the new United Nations mission must take a more assertive approach to implementing its mandate so that it has unimpeded access to sensitive areas and can provide protection to civilians who are threatened by violence. “Such an approach will also be critical to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian and development actors.”

The report urges the international community to sustain their engagement beyond July 9, including by actively supporting the retention and strengthening of the following mechanisms for international engagement with North and South Sudan:

– The Troika comprising the United States, United Kingdom and Norway.

– The African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) beyond the expiry of its mandate in October 2011, with support from the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC).

– The joint United Nations – African Union mediation team in Doha including support for a new empowered mediator.

– The Offices of Special Envoys to Sudan, particularly those of the United States and European Union.

The report also pleads for establishing and supporting a post-referendum mechanism to monitor and support adherence by North and South Sudan to post-referendum arrangements such as increasing pressure on North Sudan, including by insisting on:

– An end to human rights violations perpetrated against human rights defenders and journalists, and protection of the right to freedom of expression.

– Genuine consultative dialogue with opposition groups and civil society, including an inclusive constitutional review process that protects pluralism and diversity.

– Reform of the national security services, including oversight mechanisms to facilitate greater independence of the judiciary and protect against violations of due process.

– Legislative reform to ensure the North honours its regional and international legal obligations, such as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The international community is asked to further to support efforts for a comprehensive peace in Darfur, including:

– Demanding an end to aerial bombardment, attacks against civilians, and the state of emergency in Darfur.

– Requiring the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) to demand access to all areas in which civilians are in need of protection, and for United Nations agencies and UNAMID to regularly publish comprehensive data on the human rights and humanitarian situation

– Insisting on unfettered humanitarian access throughout Darfur, and for there to be no shift to returns and recovery until the conditions on the ground are suitable and root causes of the conflict are addressed.

– Ensuring a genuinely inclusive peace deal is agreed, without pressuring any stakeholders through a premature return to negotiations inside Sudan.

The civil society organisations also call upon the international community to develop a forthright partnership with South Sudan that includes:

– Holding the Government of South Sudan to its obligations to uphold the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its people, including through honouring existing commitments to political consultation and pluralism, and entrenching strong protections for the media and the right to freedom of expression.

– Assisting the Government of South Sudan to develop a new strategy to deal with disaffected political and armed rebel groups, based on reconciliation and mediation, rather than military approaches.

– Supporting robust efforts to tackle corruption in government institutions, and promoting good governance and transparency in the extractive industries, including oil production.

– Renewing efforts to support Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) reform, and sustainable demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration (DD R) programs.

– Supporting and coordinating efforts at protecting civilians from the threat of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

– Reforming donor mechanisms to ensure that aid assistance is delivered on time, on target, and where genuinely needed.

“The presence of the United Nations peacekeeping operations remains an important contribution by the international community to peace and security in both Sudan and South Sudan,” maintains the report.

On the eve of South Sudan’s independence, the Security Council on July 8 voted unanimously to set up a new United Nations mission to help Africa’s newest nation consolidate peace and lay the foundation for longer-term state-building, conflict prevention and economic development.

Resolution 1996 establishes the UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) for an initial period of one year. Headed by the newly-appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Hilde Johnson of Norway, the peacekeeping mission will consist of up to 7,000 military personnel and up to 900 civilian police personnel as well as a civilian component.

UNMISS will take over from the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), which was created following the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the north-south civil war and that paved the way for the independence of South Sudan.

The 15-member Council requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to transfer the appropriate functions performed by UNMIS to the new mission, including the appropriate staff and logistics necessary for achieving the new scope of functions and to begin the orderly liquidation of UNMIS.

“The mandate of UNMISS shall be to consolidate peace and security, and to help establish the conditions for development in the Republic of South Sudan, with a view to strengthening the capacity of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan to govern effectively and democratically and establish good relations with its neighbours,” the Council stated in the resolution. (IDN-InDepthNews/09.07.2011)

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