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.