UNSC delivers stern verdict on defection, says it strangles peace process

UNSC delivers stern verdict on defection, says it strangles peace process
A UN Security Council in session. [Photo: courtesy]

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has warned parties to the peace agreement against condoning defections and continuous armed mobilizations, arguing they contravene the dictates of the deal and threaten to roil the process.

The Security Council made the observation during its 9281 meeting on Wednesday.

Since the signing of the peace agreement in 2018, several defections have taken place with military personnel changing allegiance, especially from the opposition to the government.

But during the extension of UNMISS’s mandate on Wednesday, the UNSC told the parties to shun defections and armed mobilizations as part of a demonstration of their fidelity to the peace process.

“(UNSC) condemns the mobilisation of armed groups by parties to the conflict and the encouragement of defections,” the statement read in part.

The council also stressed that the inter-communal violence in South Sudan is politically and “economically linked to the national-level violence and corruption undertaken by South Sudan’s previous civil war actors in the capital (Juba).”

The council encouraged UNMISS to continue with their support to ensure that peace and reconciliation prevail in South Sudan.

“[UNSC] is encouraging UNMISS to continue to support and protect community-led peace dialogue, and processes, in coordination with South Sudanese authorities, in order to strengthen local community engagement, empowerment, and national reconciliation,” the statement is partially ready.

The council expressed deep concerns over the “continued intensification of all forms of violence, which is prolonging the political, security, economic, and humanitarian crises in most parts of the country.”

Last year, the Chairperson of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, Maj Gen. (rtd) Charles Tai Gituai, also cautioned leaders against defections and accepting defectors.

He said this could dampen the spirit of the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement.

 “Whether it is referred to as defection or a change of allegiance, the important point is that the revitalized peace agreement in South Sudan has made commendable progress in the past two years since its signing,” Gituai said.

“This must not be allowed to weaken because of instability caused by defections or accepting defections that are contrary to the letter and spirit of the agreement,” he added.

Also in 2020, South Sudan’s ceasefire monitoring body, the Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM), condemned the idea of defections and reception defectors among peace parties.

“Such changes of allegiance are damaging the peace process.” “Therefore, we are seriously monitoring it in order to get any timely updates,” the head told journalists during a press briefing.

This came after Machar’s former chief of staff, Simon Gatwech Dual, defected with a huge number of soldiers.

 Several senior militaries once allied to Machar have since defected to join Dual’s group and the South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF), violating the 2018 revitalised Peace Deal, which abhors defections and splits.

The two SPLM/A-IO factions have clashed twice since August in Upper Nile, leaving more than 60 soldiers dead.

“CTSAMVM has been made aware of several changes of allegiance from the SPLM/A-IO to the SSPDF in Upper Nile state, which has reportedly resulted in skirmishes in the Mathiang area,” the statement expressed.

Also in 2020, the SPLM-IO confirmed the defection of several senior generals to the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF), pointing out that they should ignore the reason for the departure.

“The SPLA (IO), the Deputy Chief of Staff for Administration, Lt. General James Koang Chuol Ranley, and the Deputy Director of National Security Services (NSS), Maj. Gen. James Wang Chany, with their negotiating team, has left and deserted the movement and officially joined the government (…),” said the SPLA-IO military spokesman in a statement released on Tuesday evening.

The three senior military commanders had been part of the group’s negotiating team.

The military spokesman said that the SPLA (IO) Military High Command Leadership immediately instructed all its supporters in the movement, inside and outside, to cease communication with the defectors.

In September 2019, SPLA-IO Maj Gen James Ochan Puot, who had been in charge of its 5th division in Maiwut, broke ranks with SPLA-IO and joined the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF).

In a report in January 2020, the ceasefire monitoring body blamed the government army for welcoming the splinter group General Puot, saying the move was against the spirit of peace. The UNMISSS was mandated to track the implementation of peace agreements and document instances of violations.