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R-ARCISS violations: A fireball for the upcoming elections?

BY.  Mr. Patrick Godi

After the closing of the 27th RJMEC plenary last week, I found myself reflecting on the status of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCISS) and or the 24-month roadmap extension.

The roadmap is not a new agreement but rather an amendment to the R-ARCISS by the signatory parties to extend the lifeline of the current Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) following its failure to implement the accord within the prescribed timeline.

As I was making sense of the current political situation in the country, I thought about the smooth consensus by the parties to agree on the roadmap to a peaceful and democratic end of the transitional period – an act which was hailed by many actors locally, regionally and internationally as a manifestation of political maturity and collegiality in the governance of South Sudan effectively taking the transition period up to 2024. The parties were even showered with praise for their quick unison in averting a constitutional crisis that citizens feared could be for the worse.

Now I question if this gesture – the first amendment of R-ARCISS did mark the beginning of a new spirit of cooperation – one urgently needed as the country moves into a critical phase of the transition or was it a beginning into unchartered waters that might quickly end in an entanglement of the peace accord? To the credit of President Salva Kiir and his First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar, we have seen many positive compromises including recently resolving the contentious issue of the power of arrest and detention by the country’s all powerful National Security Service which had delayed the passage of the National Security bill. All these settlements have accelerated the forward movement of the peace deal.

However, on Friday March 3rd 2023 a surprise decree which was read out on the state-owned broadcaster shocked many citizens and South Sudan observers. The President had relieved Hon. Angelina Teny, the Minister of Defense and Veteran Affairs and wife to Dr. Riek Machar Teny, First Vice President of the Republic and leader of the main opposition group SPLM-IO and switched the position with the Ministry of Interior. The latter portfolio was allocated and held by the ITGoNU until the Presidential edict.

This action has caused a lot of speculation and panic on what it means for the peace and stability of the peace process. The immediate response from the Spokesman of The First Vice President through a brief tweet “The Republican decree issued this evening by President Salva Kiir on the relieve of Hon. Angelina Teny and switch of the ministries of Defense & Veteran Affairs and Interior is unilateral and a new cycle of violating the Revitalized Agreement”.This further caused concern for citizens who remember the events of 2016 which eventually led to the collapse of the 2015 peace agreement. 

This decision will also frustrate those who advocate for gender equality and participation of women in governance through the 35% affirmative action as provided for in article 1.4.4 of the peace agreement, this was a huge loss that risks being violated as no immediate replacement was announced and even the current cabinet fell short of the women’s quota. Unfortunately, many women relieved from cabinet positions have often been replaced by men.

Let me take us back to the High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) which laid foundation for the current peace process. The SPLM IO was wary of the 2016 scenario where Dr. Riek Machar lost his political power and position to his former negotiator Gen. Taban Deng Gai as the latter assumed responsibility of the party and position of First Vice President following his flight to Congo enroute exile. During the new negotiations the party sought a “written on stone” wording in the R-ARCISS drawing many to conclude the 2018 agreement was an agreement between two principals i.e. President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar. Therefore, the framing of the 2018 agreement had sought to assuage Dr. Machar’s fears by explicitly mentioning his name and delineating his powers in the text as seen in article Structure of the Executive of the RTGoNU. 

However the SPLM IG has found new ways of undercutting that hard rock by unilateral actions such as the relieve of Hon. Angelina Teny and a number of other state officials in the recent weeks which is a clear violation of articles 1.12.2, 1.13.1 and 1.13.2 which stipulate that each party reserve the right to nominate members for appointments by the President and equally in the event a ministerial position falls vacant the replacement shall be made by the party that first selected that ministerial portfolio, as at the commencement of the transition.

South Sudan is entering a critical phase of the agreement and transition where we need greater trust and respect among the parties especially on matters concerning their political space and participation which is fundamental in achieving the hallmark of the agreement – a credible, free and fair elections. Several politically contentious issues such as the reconstitution of various commissions, parastatals and authorities, the constitutional making process, the national electoral process remain pending or snail paced in progression and still require compromises and commitment from the parties.

Continuous violations will only build resentment towards the disaffected party and breakdown the relative trust and confidence among the signatories of working together to implement the agreement risking the gains made thus far.

As the country prepares to enter the electoral process, it is all our responsibility to work towards a conducive environment where citizens shall have the opportunity to express their right at the ballot in safety and free from fear of political violence.

Ending with words of my Chairman at RJMEC Amb. Maj Gen. Charles Tai Gituai during the 27th plenary “The spirit of compromise is a valuable example which I hope can help guide the ongoing implementation of the Roadmap”. I urge the parties to the R-ARCISS to respect the accord, avoid any provocative actions and renew their commitment to implement the agreement in letter and spirit.

The writer is the youth representative at RJMEC. He is also a Researcher and a Youth, Peace and Security practitioner with an interest of influencing positive policymaking in South Sudan.


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