The South Sudan peace agreement signed in September last year is now midway through of the eight-month pre-transition period with little achieved.
Although 11 of the 12 institutions and mechanisms that are supposed to drive the implementation have been constituted, most of them are not operational as stipulated in the agreement signed in September 2018 in Addis Ababa.
The Independent Boundaries Commission (IBC) — which will decide how many states the country should have — has not been constituted although the nominations had already been made by the respective parties to the agreement.
Dr Lam Akol, the leader of the National Democratic Movement (NDM), warned the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) that the delay in constituting IBC may impact the peace implementation process.
"It is puzzling why Igad has failed to form the IBC up to this time. It was arguably the most contentious issue during the peace talks,” said Dr Akol in a cover letter on the evaluation report produced by the NDM.
President Salva Kiir had unilaterally created 32 states contrary to the collapsed 2015 agreement that was based on the original 10 states.
The South Sudan Opposition Alliance has been demanding a return to 10 states because the new boundaries are promoting inter-ethnic clashes over resources, which could undermine the peace process.
Given the delay in the formation of IBC, it is unlikely that the number and boundaries of the states would have been implemented within the eight-month pre-transition period.
Dr Riek Machar’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO), has also lodged a complaint that the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC) has gone against the provision to devolve powers and resources to the lower levels.
Stephen Par Kuol, SPLM-IO representative to R-JMEC, accused the sub-committee on devolution of powers and resources of making decisions on devolution without consultations.
“Paragraph five of the preamble explicitly states that the system of governance envisaged in the text of the agreement is a devolved system to reflect the popular demand of the people of South Sudan for federalism during the transitional period,” he wrote in a complaint to Gen Augustino Njoroge, the acting chairperson of R-JMEC.
While the ceasefire agreement has reduced all out fighting since September, the US Defence Department's Africa think tank recently warned that prospects for lasting peace in South Sudan are dim.
Klem Ryan, a member of the think tank, warned that there is a likelihood of a government offensive in the coming months if Igad does not impose punitive sanctions on military operations that violate the September agreement.
Despite the Permanent Ceasefire Agreement that called for disengagement and separation of forces in close proximity, there has been some small-scale fighting in Unity and Upper Nile States between the government and SPLM-IO.
Fighting is still going on in some areas but the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMVM) has not verified this because they have been denied access.
Dr Akol said that while all prisoners of war and political detainees were supposed to be released immediately, a number of POWs and political detainees are still in detention. Other challenges to the implementation include the continued presence of non-South Sudanese armed groups.
While the agreement required all non-South Sudanese armed groups to leave the country within 45 days from the day of the signing, this has not happened.
Second, the provision for the unification of the forces and joint training is takin too long to negotiate. The unified forces are supposed be deployed before the end of the pre-transition, so that the opposition including Dr Machar return to Juba.
Gen Njoroge said the peace agreement is approaching a crucial period in 2019 that will mark the end of the pre-transition period and the entry into the three-year transition period. He added out that the disengagement, cantonment and unification of armed forces will be a decisive milestone.
“It is important that all the armed forces of South Sudan are unified. With the rapid approach of the transitional period, their unification will be a decisive milestone for this agreement,” said Gen Njoroge.
However, the biggest challenge is that both parties continue to recruit and train new fighters contrary to Article 2 (1). The government, in particular, has been accused of continued recruitment and training of forces in many areas.
In December, the government forces detained and tortured four CTSAMVM monitors from Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan, when they went to investigate reports of new recruitment at an army base in Luri near Juba..