“When will the Transitional Government of National Unity be formed?” asks Professor Majok Yen, a youth representative, who lives in a UN protection of civilians site in South Sudan’s capital, Juba.
He has been displaced for just over five years now, and he is one of 200 others – women, men and several youth – attending a two-hour session which is part of a dissemination process of a revitalized peace agreement signed in Ethiopia September 2018.
Professor Majok and others are eager to understand why some timelines to the implementation of the peace agreement are lagging behind.
He continues with a barrage of questions: “What are the foreign troops still doing in South Sudan? Why is the cantonment issue not tackled? Why is the hybrid court not yet established? Why are the two brothers, Aggrey and Dong Samuel not released? Where are they?”
These questions and more, constantly plague their minds. On the receiving end are officials from the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM), who have organized the session as part of ensuring that various communities countrywide own and understand the contents of the peace agreement.
The session by (CTSAMVM), shed light on various dark spots, but has been criticized as slow, untimely and the accord labelled incomplete.
Encouraging questions was part of their approach, as this would allow them to go back with an understanding of the fears and misconceptions among the people.
“The Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism needs to speed up responses in the peace process,” says the youth leader. “The visit is late and even the agreement is moving slowly. Some people (Thomas Cirilo’s National Salvation Front – NAS) who are left out of the agreement are still fighting,” he says, a possible indication as to why the displaced feel it is unsafe to leave the UN protection site.
In a discussion that ensued, another displaced person who is concerned about the credibility of the peace agreement and freedom of movement including repatriation of refugees, and the voluntary return of internally displaced people, offered his view on why there is a need for a permanent ceasefire and implementation of the transitional security arrangements as is highlighted in the peace agreement.
“We need to impress the peace and collaborate together and be honest towards implementation,” said James Gat Long Riak, a community leader. “Own [it], be in charge and accept the peace,” he elaborated.
“This will be a privilege to us the internally displaced persons to freely return home to our houses and be free like other people,” said Riak.
For Martha Daniel Lul, the session as an eye opener, and it led her to understand the contents of the peace agreement more, while clearing her mind and fears on the goings-on in the country.
“I am very glad that the peace monitors have enlightened us on the peace process, we want to feel implementation of a genuine peace so we can go back to our homes with our children,” Martha said. “We women of South Sudan are tired of wars,” she said emotionally.
In response to some of the questions asked by the displaced persons, an official from the CTSAMVM at hand highlighted that the body had recorded a decrease in violence, which could help move various areas the peace agreement forward.
“We have received and reported considerable decrease in the levels of the fights compared to the past days, and ninety-three (93) prisoners of war have been liberated so far,” said Sarah Formisano, a CTSAMVM Civil Affairs Advisor.
“We are now monitoring more on the protection of civilians, [we] see that looting and harassment [has] reduced, and [we are] looking into the cantonment issue including its operations, through support from the South Sudan civil society and other international organizations,” she said, noting that issues like the presence of the foreign troops and checkpoints in some parts of the country, have been detected and reported at higher levels for further interventions.
CTSAMVM, who meet parties to the peace agreement on a monthly basis in Juba, report directly to the regional bloc – the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).