REMARKS from the opening speech by H.E. Festus Mogae, Chairman of JMEC, given at the JMEC Plenary Meeting of the Joint Monitoring & Evaluation Commission held on Wednesday in Juba.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

JMEC Chairman, Festus Mogae, who leads international body tasked to implement the peace agreement in South Sudan(Photo: file)

JMEC Chairman, Festus Mogae, who leads international body tasked to implement the peace agreement in South Sudan(Photo: file)

Oct 23, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —— I welcome you all to this JMEC Plenary here in Juba this morning. Our meeting today is both timely and critical.

Since we last met,an unfortunate sequence of events has unfolded and a fragile peace has deteriorated into open hostilities. As we watch much of our hard work unravel, our resolve to implement this Agreement is being severely tested and we now face our most challenging period since we began our work.

What has happened since July may have come as a surprise to many people outside this country, and perhaps even to many innocent South Sudanese within it, but it certainly was not a surprise to us here in this room, certainly not to me.

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Our discussions in the June Plenary made very clear the need for compromise and a conciliatory progress. We expressed concern over the delayed establishment and disfunctionality of critical Transitional Security Arrangement mechanisms, the growing incidence of ceasefire violations, and the restrictions preventing CTSAMM from executing their mandate.

Constant engagement with the Government, our South Sudanese stakeholders, and IGAD and AU leadership has been followed by the UN General Assembly and bilateral engagements in New York, where I had the honour to witness the commitment and determination of the international community to assist the people of South Sudan in their pursuit of a sustainable peace.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

From the beginning of July we have witnessed escalating hostility that has led to near daily violations of the ceasefire and a developing conflict between SPLA-IG and SPLA-IO and which has slowly drawn in other armed groups.

Egregious violations of human rights, including rape, gang rape, looting, intimidation and harrasment of civil society and the media, and the killing of civilians, have occurred in recent months perpetrated by individuals on both sides of the conflict. I utterly condemn such acts and these incidents must be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.

The fighting has disintegrated all the Transitional Security Arrangement Mechanisms, such as the JMCC, the JOC and the SDSRB and what little that had been accomplished has been lost.

I join IGAD, the Troika and the EU partners in their strong condemnation of both the recent escalation of hostilities and most particularly of the growing call for the renewal of armed resistance.

The threat of any further violence on such a fragile nation is a failure of leadership and a betrayal of people who deserve better.

I say again as I have said before that there cannot be and will never be a military solution to the conflict in South Sudan. The only path to sustainable peace is dialogue and the relentless pursuit of reconciliation and an inclusive political process.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 2015 Peace Agreement, which I hold here in my hand, is still alive. No one Party can unilaterally dissolve or renegotiate this Agreement.

Today the implementation of this Agreement is undoubtedly compromised and partially derailed. But despite the challenges we face, tomorrow and in the future, we remain hopeful that conditions will improve and the full capacity for implementation will be restored once again.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The immediate cessation of hostilities and the restoration of the ceasefire is our single most important priority.

There are almost daily violations of the ceasefire, perpetrated by uniformed armed forces of SPLA-IG and SPLA-IO and other armed groups. This hostility has the potential to trigger an uncontrolled escalation of violence motivated by retribution.

CTSAMM will give a more detailed brief later, but we are reporting an increase in offensive operations by both Government Forces and Opposition Forces, specifically in and around Yei, Leer, Jezeera and Nassir. The situation in Equatoria states is of particular concern, where we are deeply concerned about the unacceptable targetting of civilians.

Increasing numbers of civilians are fleeing their villages due to this growing insecurity and over one million South Sudanese are now living as refugees in neighbouring countries. The majority are women and children, who are most severely and adversely affected by violent conflict.

I call upon both sides to regain full control of their forces and observe the ceasefire with immediate effect.There can be no compromise on this issue. Leadership must be demonstrated and restraint must be shown.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In parallel with efforts to restore and observe the ceasefire, we must also address the issue of political inclusivity.

For the Peace Agreement to have legitimacy, it must be inclusive and representative and I am concerned that, whereas we welcome the commitment demonstrated by the TGoNU, regional guarantors and the international community to the continued implementation of the ARCSS, it is clear that not all Parties are currently included or fully represented.

We do not make peace with our friends; we reconcile with those with whom we disagree. Thus we urge the TGoNU to re-establish an environment within which all people of South Sudan, irrespective of their ethnicity or background, can safely return and engage in constructive and peaceful dialogue. And in this regard, I would like to commend H.E. President Salva Kiir Maryadit for his strong and resonant public call for forgiveness and restraint and the avoidance of revenge.

In this country inclusivity should also entail reconstitution of many state apparatus, boards and commissions, as provided for in the Agreement, so that every South Sudanese feels part of the national effort.

We commend those who continue to bring a spirit of engagement and cooperation but a lasting peace requires the presence of all Parties, most particularly those who signed the Agreement in 2015. Everyone is needed in South Sudan and we urge all Parties to return but only in a spirit of peace and reconciliation.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

An inclusive political process can only be sustained within a secure environment. In this regard JMEC welcomes UN Security Council Resolution 2304, which provides for, among other things, the deployment of a Regional Protection Force to secure Juba as a neutral environment.

There is no doubt that Juba is relatively calm at present but this calmness can be deceptive and the situation volatile, as we saw last week following the irresponsible rumours concerning the President’s health. The RPF therefore remains a pre-requisite for a secure, peaceful and stable environment within which political inclusion can be pursued.

I welcome the commitments made by the TGoNU during our recent Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangement Workshop, to review the transitional security arrangements for Juba and their realignment in light of the RPF deployment.

The deployment of the Regional Protection Force is now of paramount importance in order to build trust and confidence and establish the necessary security arrangements that will facilitate the resumption of inclusiveimplementation of the Agreement. We must all continue to work with UNMISS and TGoNU to expedite this matter to a swift conclusion.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As always it is the innocent, and most particularly the women and children, who suffer the most when conflict occurs and once again the people of South Sudan are bearing the brunt.

Almost five million people are estimated to have insufficient food and over one million are living outside the country as refugees. Over two million people are internally displaced and living in squalor.

Compounding this, the efforts of humanitarian agencies are routinely interrupted and frustrated, making it near impossible to deliver critical assistance to those who need it most. Freedom of movement and safe passage for humanitarian work is imperative.

I welcome and commend news of the President’s appointment of a Humanitarian Oversight Committee and and I hope this Committee will have sufficient mandate and authority to ensure the safety of aid workers and unhindered access for humanitarian convoys. I call on the International Community to provide the necessary logistic and financial support to address the dire humanitarian situation.

Sexual violence against women and girls and the conscription of child soldiers by armed groups continues unabated. The lack of accountability for these crimes has contributed to an absence of respect for the rule of law and a culture of impunity.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Achieving a stable economy is a prerequisite for peace and prosperity. The outbreak of violence has compounded economic instability and the challenges facing economic policy. Agricultural production is affected by the abandonment of rural areas, and violence is disrupting transportation of goods to market, all of which increases food insecurity and creates inflationary pressures. International aid is increasingly diverted from development projects to humanitarian relief, further weakening prospects for growth.

The impacts are reflected in the economic data. There was a slide in the international valuation of the South Sudanese Pound from May to August at an average of 20% per month and monthly inflation averaged 40% over the same period. The good news is that the exchange rate strengthened after the middle of the September and inflation is now falling, creating a somewhat more favourable economic policy environment.

We commend the TGoNU for the work that has gone into creating an ambitious budget, which has been commended by many analysts. Strong constraints on expenditure are central to the budget and a condition for stabilization. We appreciate the huge effort that will be required to implement it.

Since July we have also seen some progress including the establishment of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly, and approval of cantonment sites in the greater Equatoria and greater Bahr el Ghazal. I appeal to all Parties to do more.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In summary,

a. Hostilities must end and the ceasefire must be observed by all Parties with immediate effect.

b. Inclusivity and representation within the political process and representation of all Parties within essential Institutions and Mechanismsof the Agreement must be re-established as quickly as possible; and all Parties urged to return to the table and re-engage in peaceful dialogue. The current fragmentation within the Opposition parties is regretable and needs to be resolved.

c. The Regional Protection Force should be deployed as quickly as possible to establish a neutral and secure environment within which implementation of the Peace Agreement can resume.

d. We must establish revised Transitional Security Arrangements and implement mechanisms acceptable to all sides.

e. TGoNU should develop a revised and realistictimeline and implementation schedule that is consistent with the Agreement.

Excellencies, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In conclusion, my expectations of this Plenary meeting are that:

a. We pronounce our commitment to this peace agreement and call upon all Parties to resume its full implementation;

b. We receive a detailed briefing from the TGoNU on progress made, or lack thereof, in implementing the Agreement to date, and in particular how they intend to make the process more inclusive;

c. We receive an update on the current humanitarian situation and clear commitments to address it;

d. We receive reports on the status of the various boards and commissions (JMCC, SDSRB, CTSAMM, JIP-MT) and how they can be fully reconstituted and operationalised.

I must take this opportunity to thank all our partners in TGoNU, the other South Sudanese stakeholders, IGAD, AU, Troika, EU, China, UNMISS,the International partners and friends of South Sudan for their commitment and continued support.

Our work continues. Not for our own sake, but for the future of the long-suffering people of South Sudan.

May God bless us all and guide us in the relentless pursuit of peace.

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