Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
South Sudan’s government and opposition parties have agreed to extend, by six more months, the formation of a Unity Government in South Sudan.
Pope Francis reiterates his closeness to South Sudan
Pope Francis, one of the leading proponents for peace in South Sudan and for the formation of the Government of National Unity, on Friday, told an international meeting of religious nuns, in the Vatican, of his closeness and appreciation for women missionaries who serve the people in countries of great need like the Central African Republic and South Sudan. The Pope said he earnestly desires to visit the youngest nation in the world (South Sudan) as soon as it was possible.
IGAD helping South Sudan stay with the peace agreement
The regional group, IGAD, which has been helping to mediate between South Sudan’s warring parties has since endorsed the request by South Sudanese leaders to extend, by six months, the formation of the Government of National Unity.
A Communique of the Extraordinary Session of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers with focus on South Sudan endorsed the request by the South Sudanese parties for a six months’ extension effective 12 May 2019.
The extension is supposed to give time for the Opposition leaders and South Sudan President, Salva Kiir, to expedite work on disarmament of various armed groups and the integration of the rebel armies into a regular army.
Nevertheless, there is still some mistrust among the various factions, and IGAD is suggesting regular face-to-face meetings of South Sudan’s top leadership in order to keep alive the peace agreement and build some level of working trust among them.
IGAD is also reaching out to other rebel groups who are not signatories to the September peace agreement to join the peace. In particular, IGAD is concerned with rebel groups led by General Thomas Cirillo Swaka and General Paul Malong Awan. Non-signatory rebel groups could potentially derail peace efforts with their activities.
Peace agreement largely holding
Notwithstanding challenges noted by the United Nations, the September peace agreement, in South Sudan, is mostly holding.
President Salva Kiir recently lifted a state of emergency in the northern parts of South Sudan. The state of emergency was imposed in 2017 on the states of Tonj, Wau, Aweil East, Gogrial and Western Lakes.
The continued flouting of a UN arms embargo
In the meantime, Human Rights Watch has reported that a United Nations Panel of Experts on South Sudan has found that South Sudan and other nations are fueling the civil war by flouting a UN arms embargo imposed on South Sudan last year.
According to Human Rights Watch, the UN arms embargo, if adhered to, could help protect civilians from violence. The lack of effective implementation, especially from neighbouring states, was not helping matters. Human Rights Watch now wants the UN to act to renew both the sanctions and the arms embargo, and insist that neighbouring states cooperate and not flout the arms embargo.