Civil Society Seeks Citizens’ Representation In Peace Talks

This article was last updated on May 26, 2022

This was mentioned in Nairobi, Kenya, On Friday where leading South Sudanese civil society institutions came together to discuss the current situation, its historical origins and the prospects for a peaceful resolution.

According to David Deng, Director of Research at the South Sudan Law Society, the fundamental issue now is to understand what is wrong and be able to handle impunity which has manifest over the years since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) nine years ago.

Deng said that there have been a lot of human rights violations in the past including ethnic cleansing and the lack of accountability creates room for further violations if the perpetrators are not punished as the government tries to transform the justice system.

He said that sidelining justice in peace negotiations may help to expedite political settlements in the short-term, but fails to address the question of impunity that lies at the heart of internal conflicts in South Sudan.

Abuk Ayuel supported the move adding that South Sudan had failed to transform into a national society after the CPA and what is needed now is to create social cohesion and resituate justice.

Don Bosco Malish, Program Officer Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa during the discussion said that the South Sudan civil society needs to examine its relevance, competence and credibility to be able to represent the citizens in the Addis Ababa talks and have an impact on society.

He said most of the current generation of civil society emerged from the humanitarian crisis during the civil war and never participated in governance during the last eight years.

“Because of our background in service delivery, we have cushioned the government from interacting with people.,” he said adding that most of the services like health and education are done by organizations and the government has little to know about the issues being faced by ordinary citizens.

According to Jok Madut Jok, Co-founder of Sudd Institute, the recent fighting which started in Juba mid-December and spread to other states was not shocking because of the history of how South Sudan gained independence through civil wars.

Jok said that the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) was build “haphazardly” as militia groups were absorbed into the system and this was bound to create division in the nation once some group feels they are not part of the system.

Because women and children have suffered during the fighting in parts of South Sudan, Priscilla Nyagoah, the Advocacy Officer at the South Sudan Law Society said that there is need to develop laws on gender-based crimes to help protect women during conflict.

She said that the current peace talks in Ethiopia need a holistic approach especially on representation to have the required affirmative action on the representatives in creating reconciliation among the leaders.

The three weeks of fighting between government forces and rebels loyal to former vice president Riek Machar have killed more than 1,000 people and driven 200,000 from their homes creating a devastating humanitarian crisis.

According to Leben Moro, Director of External Relations at the University of Juba, the focus now should be on supporting the affected and putting more pressure on the political process to end the violence.

He said that the worst affected are areas with Nuer and Dinka communities as predominant and the international community need to step up support to access the areas.

During the discussion, Rev. James Ninrew of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan revealed that five pastors have so far been killed in the conflict including two from the Presbyterian Church.

He said that the problem is no longer between two tribes, Nuer and Dinka, or a political wrangle in the ruling SPLM or SPLA, but it is a South Sudanese problem which needs all citizens to be involved in finding an inclusive solution.

“The problem is no longer a defined as a [Salva] Kiir- Riek Machar problem or SPLM problem or Nuer-Dinka problem. It is a South Sudan problem,” he said adding that the conflict needs a South Sudanese solution and the ongoing talks should be all inclusive.

The meeting was organised by the Rift Valley Institute’s Nairobi Forum and supported by the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa.

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