Why pending R-ARCSS tasks could lead to extension of transitional period

Why pending R-ARCSS tasks could lead to extension of transitional period
President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar (photo credit: DW News)

There are seven months to the end of the transitional period, a time frame that was set following the Revitalised Peace Agreement, which serves as the foundation for the current unity government.

A number of its requirements—including those essential for holding elections to usher in a new government and a permanent constitution that will serve as a guide for its leaders—remain unfulfilled.

Chapter one of the agreement article 1.20 on national elections, Chapter Two’s security arrangements, which emphasise the need for security force training, screening, unification, graduation, and redeployment, and Chapter Three’s article 3.2 on a special reconstruction fund are among the provisions of the agreement that have not yet been implemented.

Additionally, only the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH) was formed and the public consultation was completed in Chapter 5, which deals with transitional justice, accountability, reconciliation, and healing. However, the most important step in the formation of the hybrid court has not yet been completed, and most importantly, Chapter 6 deals with the parameters of the permanent constitution.

It remains uncertain whether the parties to the agreement will be able to catch up with the implementation of the remaining tasks within the final seven months of the transitional period, even though there is still much that needs to be done before the country can hold credible, fair, and transparent elections.

The revitalised agreement calls for provisions like the permanent constitution-making process to be completed in 17 months, but the process is still in its early stages because the bill is still pending at the transitional national legislative assembly. This delays the process’s start. The process entails broader public consultations throughout the nation and the neighbouring nations where South Sudanese have sought asylum, with the aim of gathering opinions from everyone to be included in the country’s future permanent constitution, which has not yet been drafted.

The leaders of the parties to the agreement have been urged by a number of organisations, including the international community, to produce a road map outlining how the remaining obligations of the agreement will be fulfilled as its term draws to a close. As a result, the parties are debating the road map’s draft proposal at the level of political parties; however, the public has not yet been informed of the roadmap’s contents. The roadmap was originally developed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in government (SPLM-IG).

The roadmap is all about evaluating what have been achieved in the course of the last three years of implementing the agreement and those that are still pending in order for parties to the agreement to decide on the way forward of the end of the transitional period, according to Albino Akol, the spokesperson and a member of the African Congress Party who also participated in a meeting of political parties to the agreement to discuss the roadmap on Saturday.

After the parties to the agreement provided their inputs to the proposal for harmonization, Akol, who declined to discuss the specific content of the roadmap, claimed that the document has reached the level of a technical committee. The Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Dr. Martin Elia Lomuro, confirmed to the media on Saturday that the parties share a similar spirit, showing their commitment to pave the way for a smooth transition of the nation to a democratic system.

A committee made up of SPLM members also gave President Salva Kiir a roadmap a week ago that they said would lead the nation towards the end of the transitional period and clear the way for the nation to hold peaceful and democratic elections. The President gave the Committee the task of examining the status of the Revitalised Peace Agreement’s implementation, including its implemented, ongoing, and unfulfilled provisions, and of developing a roadmap that would lead the nation toward the conclusion of the Transitional Period.

A similar draft was presented to the presidency last Thursday during a meeting with participation from all parties, and the proposal has been forwarded for additional review by participants from all political parties that have signed the agreement.

Survey conducted

According to a survey conducted by Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) between June and July 2022, which included a desk review of 20 media articles on opinions and press statements on the next steps and covered the 10 states and three administrative areas, there are conflicting public opinions regarding extending the transitional period and not extending it.

According to CEPO, the purpose of the survey was to gauge public opinion regarding the future of the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan.

In the poll, more than 91.3 per cent of respondents argued against extending the translational period in its entirety and recommended that any extensions be limited to no more than a 12-month window or, in the case of longer extensions, no more than 18 months beginning on February 22, 2023, with an emphasis on the holding of fair elections.

CEPO said it is now up to the political leaders to listen to the public opinion or ignore the public opinion. “The public called upon the political parties to renew pledge for genuine transitioning of the country from the current situation to peace and political stability”, said CEPO in the report.  

The National Elections Commission (NEC) shall organize elections in accordance with the provisions of the Permanent Constitution adopted pursuant to the Agreement sixty (60) days prior to the end of the Transitional Period and shall ensure that the outcome is largely reflective of the will of the electorate. This is stated in Chapter One Sub-Article (1.20.4) of Article 1.20 of the revitalized agreement.

The National Elections Act 2012 must be amended to reflect the provisions of the Permanent Constitution within two (2) months of its adoption.

The building of the national army, police, national security service, and other organized forces must also be completed before the end of the Transitional Period, including their redeployment throughout the nation in accordance with the plan established by the Strategic Defence and Security Review Board, according to Article (2.3.4) of the security Arrangements (SDSRB).

These have not yet been accomplished, and CEPO noted in its survey report that the lack of unified forces, the delay in reconstituting national institutions with direct responsibility for facilitating the electoral process, such as the National Political Parties Council and the National Elections Commission, as well as the absence of a clear legal framework for the electoral process as well as armed inter-communal violence, would prevent elections from taking place before addressing them.