Twenty problems with the December 2017 cessation of hostilities agreement
Later this evening, a cessation of hostilities agreement (CoHA) between the government of South Sudan and eight South Sudanese armed groups comes into effect. The agreement, signed in Addis Ababa and mediated by IGAD, was welcomed by many South Sudanese and the international community (see statements from the AU, Troika, and EU).
The African Union Chairperson called the CoHA a ‘critical first step in the efforts to end the senseless conflict and carnage that has been unfolding in South Sudan since December 2013.’ This CoHA, is, however, the eighth agreement since January 2014 to speak of ending hostilities.
While I’d like to be hopeful about this agreement and join in the optimism of these statements, this CoHA is entirely conventional. It is thus likely to be dogged by the same problems that have seen past agreements fail.
All cessation of hostilities and ceasefire agreements depend on three factors to succeed:
- the will to implement;
- the ability to investigate, verify and deter violations;
- and, the means to avoid escalating minor breaches of the ceasefire, so that, for example, one undisciplined soldier firing a rifle doesn’t cause a full scale battle.
This CoHA falls short on all three counts.
The journal e-International Relations published my article, ‘Ethiopia and the South Sudanese Civil War,’ which identifies and discusses Ethiopia’s strategic interests in South Sudan. Read more here.
Without setting clear expectations for the upcoming peace forum, the international community risks allowing the regional mediation to fail, exacerbating the conflict in South Sudan.
South Sudan faces an existential crisis. More than four million people – between a third and half of the population – are displaced from their homes. Nearly eight million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The economy is in tatters. After almost four years of civil war, conflict has devolved into fighting across multiple fronts.
In an attempt to address the ongoing crisis, the Horn of Africa’s regional organisation, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), initiated the High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) in June. The forum is intended to revive an effectively defunct 2015 peace accord, the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), which collapsed following fighting in Juba in July 2016 between government forces and the armed opposition loyal to former First Vice President Riek Machar.
Read more at: https://www.chathamhouse.org/expert/comment/how-support-south-sudan-s-high-level-revitalization-forum
Migration crises in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa reconfigured global politics. So why – as the millionth South Sudanese took refuge in Uganda earlier this year, and with the total number of South Sudanese refugee and asylum seekers now more than two million – is there no comparable shift in the political posture of East African states?
Read more here.
The United States Institute of Peace published my briefing on the High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF), intended to revive the stalled 2015 peace agreement in South Sudan. I offer recommendations for the international community in anticipation of the launch of the HLRF, suggesting its success hinges on clarifying serious ambiguities that exist in its design, including the questions of who will participate and the extent of the agenda. Read more here.
The Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee invited me to testify on the crisis in South Sudan on July 26, 2017. Video of the hearing and copies of the written testimony are available here.
The premise of Joshua Meservey’s recent Heritage Foundation report is sound. It is high time for the United States to hold accountable those responsible for the conflict in South Sudan. In Washington and around the world, there is and should be immense frustration with South Sudanese elites presiding over the collapse of their country. In response, that collapse demands practical, urgent realism, if the priorities of saving lives, reducing suffering, and ensuring regional and international security interests, including those of the United States, are to be advanced.
Meservey makes 19 recommendations. While his analysis is generally accurate, many of the recommendations that follow are problematic. The most radical proposals are: Continue reading