South Sudan’s warring parties on Friday sought to enhance their peace talks by reaching a deal on security arrangements that will hopefully stop the violence.
This agreement reached in Khartoum seeks to buttress the declaration reached in the same city on June 27 where President Salva Kiir, his nemesis Riek Machar and other parties signed on a plan for a permanent peace deal.
Here is what you need to know.
Who are the signatories to this Security Arrangement?
These are virtually the same parties that had signed on the Khartoum Declaration on June 27. They are the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) under Salva Kiir, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition under Riek Machar and a collection of opposition rebel groups known as the South Sudan Opposition Alliance.
In the Khartoum Declaration, former detainees and other opposition groups appended separate signatures from the SSOA. Most of these groups splintered from either TGoNU or SPLM-IO as a series of peace talks failed since 2013.
The Security Arrangement signed on Friday lists the actual members of the SSOA as the Federal Democratic Party (FDP), National Salvation Front (NAS), National Democratic Movement (NDM), South Sudan Patriotic Movement (SSPM), South Sudan United Movement (SSUM) and the South Sudan National Movement for Change (SSNMC).
Who is not included in the Arrangement?
The South Sudan United Front, the rebel group formed by former military Chief Paul Malong has not appended signatures to any of the documents. It is unclear whether his group will choose trenches, although the group had initially applied to join in the SSOA.
Malong, sanctioned by the United States for propagating violence in South Sudan was fired as military chief in May 2017. Then, in April, he created SSUF.
It is also not clear whether the other SSOA groups like the United Democratic Front, South Sudan Liberation Movement, and the People’s Democratic Movement, disagree with the provisions of the Arrangement.
What is clear though is that South Sudan movements for women, religious groups and the youth have not been involved in the deals, giving fodder to critics who say the arrangement could fail again.
Why is the Security Arrangement Important?
When Kiir, Machar and others signed the Khartoum Declaration on June 27, they admitted that violence had crippled any service in South Sudan as about three million of the country’s 12 million people have been displaced.
So they agreed to a permanent ceasefire (it was broken on the day it was supposed to start), build a unified and professional army and police, renegotiate an agreement on a transitional government, secure old fields and ensure petroleum operations resume as well as provide basic services to South Sudanese people.
On Friday, the parties agreed that the “ceasefire be observed meticulously in the republic of South Sudan.”
For a country whose war has made it difficult even for aid workers to supply relief food due to security fears, the security arrangement sounds like the backbone of it all.
How will the Arrangement Work?
Apart from the ceasefire, parties also agreed to release any prisoners of war or those detained based on belonging to rival rebel groups. The International Committee of the Red Cross has been tasked with supervising this.
Once implemented, it is supposed to ensure that free movement of people and goods is guaranteed. That means humanitarian aid could be guaranteed.
How long will this arrangement last?
NO DEFINITE DATES
There are no definite dates. But it says this works as long as unified national security agencies are under creation.
“The pre-transitional period shall start on the D-Day and continue up to the completion of training and redeployment of the necessary unified forces,” it says.
However, training and redeployment of the necessary unified forces “shall be completed within a period that shall not exceed eight months. This provision prevails on any other contrary text.”
The arrangement says the transitional period should last 36 months and will include a government of shared positions from TGoNU, SPLM-IO and other splinter groups based on the suggested percentages to be finalised in the agreement.
The pre-transitional period should start on completion of the redeployment of the necessary unified forces, or on the expiry of eight months, whichever is earlier, since the arrangement is signed.
During this time, all collected weaponry from rebels will be disposed off as agreed by a joint board of the security agencies. A selected personnel of police and military will continue to be trained.
In those 36 months, whenever they begin, South Sudan hopes to have completed unifying the army and police after which they will be deployed across the country, according to the Strategic Defence and Security Review Board (SDSRB).
So what happens before the transitional government is in place?
The arrangement says civilian areas shall be immediately demilitarised. These include schools, service centres, occupied houses, IDP camps, villages, worship centres and shopping centres, work places and farms
The forces which have been at war will also be separated from confrontation areas and their weapons collected. They will then be cantoned (placed in permanent camps) in a process to be supervised by an authorised commission.
In addition, both sides will have to list, map and declare their force numbers and present these details to the Joint Military Ceasefire Commission (JMCC).
These details will also include size of forces, weaponry, ammunition and other related equipment.
Previously, this had been a point of conflict as each side covered up its strength to give it an advantage.
Yet it says all forces shall be screened and classified into military criteria.
However, during this time, training of security agencies including the police and military will start in pre-transitional period. They will be trained together to ensure cohesion.
What are the challenges to its implementation?
The challenges are many.
First, the signatories do not necessarily control the rebel groups and it certainly doesn’t prevent future splintering.
Previously, parties distrusted one another and the idea of mopping up arms in a country where nearly a quarter of households reportedly hold a firearm could be an expensive venture.
But the bigger problem is political.
EXTEND KIIR'S TERM
Last week, President Salva Kiir’s team introduced a bill that seeks to extend his term to 2022.
While Juba argues this is meant to prevent any constitutional crisis should the negotiations for a transitional government take longer, rebel groups see it as an ulterior motive.
“The term extension is meant for continuity during talks with rebels. There will be no vacuum and the Constitution states that a President can only hand over power to another elected president,” said South Sudan Ambassador to the African Union, James P Morgan.
“So, it means they do not need to drag legs in signing because the President will still wield power based on the constitutional provisions,” he said.
Kiir’s term was due to end in August 2018 after it was extended in 2015without elections being held.
“It is in bad faith and it shows that Juba is not interested in bringing peace. When we reach a peace deal, the presidential term would automatically be extended,” Machar’s spokesman in Nairobi James Oryema argued.
The SSOA released a statement too, accusing Kiir of “diversionary moves” instead of focusing on the peace agreement.