In just a few days, the warring parties and other South Sudanese stakeholders will meet in Addis Ababa
for the second phase of the IGAD mediated High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF). The fate of the peace process shall be determined by decisions taken by a small group of elites behind closed doors.
Over the course of generations, the people of South Sudan have been subjected to violence. The current senseless conflict is but the latest in a series of senseless wars that have caused untold suffering. This conflict has displaced approximately four million people — one-third of the population — including almost two million internally displaced persons and two million refugees.
Women, youth, elderly and children have borne the brunt of the conflict. In addition to widespread sexual violence and unaverted famine, South Sudan has the one of highest proportion of children out of school, child soldiers and refugees in the world. The economy is at the brink of collapse with sky-rocketing inflation.
We have suffered enough. We cannot endure this suffering any longer. Our people desperately need peace. For too long our voices have been silenced and we have not been included in decision-making processes.
Civil society was invited to participate in the first round of the HLRF held in Addis Ababa in December 2017. Our representatives in the process approached their task with full knowledge of what was at stake, and did their best to represent the interests of the people. Their efforts and those of other genuine actors
were rewarded with the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities (ACOH) on 21st December 2017. Hours after the agreement came into force, it was violated. Regrettably, violations continue to this day. As we enter the second round of HLRF talks in the first week of February, these violations MUST be exposed. The individuals and entities responsible for the violations must be held accountable.
We, the South Sudanese Civil Society Forum (SSCSF), a partnership of more than 40 civil society organisations and coalitions, representing the diversity of South Sudanese in terms of geography, ethnicity, gender, age, special needs and refugee status, having met in Kampala from 21st- 24th January 2018 to discuss the role of civil society in the second round of the HLRF, recommend the following:
1. To our people in South Sudan and all over the world:
We must take ownership of this political process and ensure that all efforts contribute to sustainable peace. No foreign power will deliver peace to the people of South Sudan; it is up to us. We have developed principles to ensure that decisions about governance and security arrangements will serve the interests of the people, and we shall pursue those principles on your behalf:
Principle One: Inclusivity: Decision-making processes and institutions should be representative of South Sudan in all its diversity without prejudice to gender and demography.
Principle Two: Integrity and Good Faith: The warring parties must approach the peace process with a spirit of compromise and determination to abide by their commitments.
Principle Three: Nation-Building and National Identity: Transitional arrangements in South Sudan should reinforce a national identity to ensure that our differences will never again be used to divide us. South Sudan must find strength in its diversity.
Principle Four: Rule of Law and Accountability: Transitional arrangements must foster respect for rule of law and fundamental human rights. Parties who fail to abide by their commitments should be held accountable.
Principle Five: Capacity: Governance and security arrangements should meet minimum standards of efficiency and effectiveness. Decisions about the size and structures of governance and security should take into consideration the economic conditions of the country.
Principle Six: Citizen Participation: The process should provide for meaningful citizen participation in decision-making processes at all levels. Decision-makers should consult with concerned populations before making decisions that will affect them.
2. To the negotiating parties in the HLRF:
We urge you to continue to demonstrate the commitment you showed in signing the CoHA in the last
round of talks. However, peace has never come by signatures alone. We urge you to do more to ensure
that your forces strictly abide by the terms of the ACOH and hold any individual within your forces and affiliates who violate ACOH accountable. In this regard, we call on you to:
Issue clear directives to field commanders to cease all hostilities and refrain from any
unauthorized movement of forces.
Allow CTSAMM to work effectively without interference or restrictions.
Immediately release political prisoners, prisoners of war, activists, child soldiers, abducted
women and children, as per the terms of the agreement.
Withdraw recent statements declaring that NGOs are not mandated to report violations of the
ACOH and publicly reassure civil society organizations that they have the right to monitor the
agreement and submit reports to the appropriate authorities.
Guarantee civil society space to meaningfully engage citizens in initiatives for sustainable peace and to raise awareness on the HLRF process, including suspending the current practice of requiring civil society organizations to obtain approvals from the National Security Service prior to conducting meetings or events.
3. To all participants in the next round of HLRF talks:
As you enter this next phase of talks, keep in the forefront of your minds the dire situation that our citizens face; the mother whose child has been conscripted to fight on the frontlines, the sons and daughters who have watched their mother raped, the soldiers who fought for decades to liberate South Sudan only to die in a senseless war, and the many thousands facing famine with little hope of surviving the next months.
To resolve the crisis, you must open your hearts, seek compromise and prioritize the interests of the people of South Sudan. If we replicate models that have failed in the past, such as the single-minded focus on power sharing, the HLRF will join the long list of failed peace processes in the history of South Sudan.
For more information and media interviews, please contact;
Taban Kiston Santo
Ayak Deng Chol