By: Mabor Maker Dhelbeny, JUBA, MAY/16/2016, SSN;
In the context of the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS) 2015, which provides the life span of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) as thirty (30) months, therefore, the parties to the Agreement must have come up with proper resolution of forces to be cantoned in former Western Equatoria as well as Western Bahr al-Ghazal States before the intervention of AU (African Union) MVM (Monitoring and Verification Mechanism) or CTSAMM (Ceasefire & Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism), the JMCC (Joint Military Ceasefire Commission) and UNMISS (United Nations Mission In South Sudan).
Because these are the bodies tasked to conduct the activities of cantonment sites, monitoring the compliance and implementation of permanent ceasefire. The word “Cantonment” seems to have originated from the French word – ‘canton’ meaning corner or district but it carries the same description of site or area where forces or troops are usually encamped for a certain period of time.
In a meeting conducted by the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) two (2) months ago before the formation of TGONU’s cabinet, the GRSS (Government of the Republic of South Sudan) and the SPLM/A-IO (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army–In Opposition) have disagreed over cantonment sites in Equatoria and Bahr El-Ghazal States.
According to Mr. Taban Deng Gai of the SPLM/A-IO advance team leader, “We have suggested about five (5) places in Equatoria and about four (4) places for cantonment in Greater Bahr El-Ghazal but…we could not resolve this because the government is refusing…”
In my own view, the ARCISS is silent in other areas such as Western Equatoria and Bahr El-Ghazal States about the sites of cantoning forces, although it partly provides that “…any other forces related to conflict in other areas that are declared by the warring parties (i.e. the GRSS & the SPLM/A-IO) during the Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangement (PCTSA) workshop”.
Such ‘other areas’ however, would not be assumed as Western Equatoria and Bahr El-Ghazal States in its interpretation unless declared in September 2015 workshop by the PCTSA. In that workshop held at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, the parties submitted the lists of declared cantonment/assembly sites to the IGAD Mediators which should have been released or published to the public so that those sites of cantonment agreed by the parties are known.
The question which remains to be asked is that: “Whether or not the parties had agreed that there was a conflict in other areas such as Western Equatoria and Bahr El-Ghazal States which they have declared during the PCTA workshop?”
In the PCTSA workshop convened by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Mediators in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the parties agreed on the following:
–(1) Declare the disposition of forces down to the level of battalion;
–(2) Establishment of demilitarized areas;
–(3) Withdrawal of routes and;
–(4) Cantonment sites;
–(5) Determine the size of forces to provide security in Juba, Bor, Malakal, Bentiu and other areas …; and
–(6) Ratify implementation matrix and ceasefire master map (Art. 1.8 of the ARCISS, 2015).
Since the size of forces to provide security in Juba had already been determined as 3,000 Joint Integrated Police and 2910 military from both – i.e. the South Sudan Army in Opposition and the SPLA, therefore the parties are left with Bor, Malakal, Bentiu and other areas.
Of course, Article 2 sub-article 2 of the ARCISS, 2015, stipulates that, “the warring parties agree that the forces that shall be cantoned shall be those forces previously in combat in Juba, Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile States, and any other forces related to the conflict in other areas that are declared by the warring parties during the Permanent Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Workshop”.
The fact that Juba has been mentioned in the Agreement as one of the cantonment sites should not be construed as greater Equatoria but it was the place where the conflict of December 15 2013 broke out.
The GRSS’ insistence on resolving the outstanding issues which includes cantonment sites in the said areas claimed by the SPLM/A-IO will make war particularly in western part of the country to intensify and hence peace will remain a fragile peace.
At this critical moment, AU intervention would be needed in case if the parties fail to agree on the cantonment sites and to determine the dimension of military forces to be cantoned.
Unless the cantonment sites are resolved through consensus by the parties so that the protection and security of former combatants on the sites need to be given to the UNMISS as its primary responsibility, such responsibility must be authorized by the GRSS first after proper mechanisms are put in place because UNMISS forces are no longer being trusted either by the citizens or the government.
For instance, during the implementation of Burundi’s Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, UN was not allowed to have access to the cantonment site in Muyange, until the UN joint field mission was organized with following findings: (a) The South African Force (SAF) under the African Mission In Burundi (AMIB) is responsible for the protection and security of ex-combatants on the cantonment site; and (b) The World Health Organization is tasked with support to health services as provided through the medical team of SAF, because the needs the former combatants expressed were related to the improvement of health services and a permanent medical team on the site and additional food provisions.
The Arusha Accord however establishes the Joint Ceasefire Commission (JCC) as a forum which brings together the Burundi Armed Forces (FAB) and various armed groups to oversee the implementation of ceasefire Agreements of 7 October and 2 December 2002 between the TGOB and CNDD-FDD.
But one of the JCC responsibilities include monitoring the parties and investigating their violations of ceasefire agreements, deciding on cantonment areas and number of armed combatants to be placed in them (Nelson Alusala, January, 2004).
Significantly, the activities of forces that are expected to be assembled or cantoned will be conducted by the MVM, AU, UNMISS and Parties in order to identify and register the personnel, weapons and equipment accountability, registration of weapons and ammunitions; screening of elderly, sick, wounded, disable and underage soldiers; re-organization during disarmament, demobilization and re-integration programmes.
All forces that shall be cantoned shall receive non-military logistical supply such as food, shelter and access to medical care (See Art. 2.1 of the ARCISS, 2015). Therefore, the cantonment of all combatants would help the TGoNU in terms of absorbing them into the national army – SPLA or establishing the Joint Integrated Police (JIP) in order to provide security and protection in Juba City and other major towns in South Sudan.
And those (combatants) who would be remaining in the cantonment sites would be subjected to the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) process. This had happened some years back between the Transitional Government of Burundi (TGOB), led by the former President Domitien Ndayizeye and National Council for the Defence of Democracy / Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CN DD-FDD) of Mr Pierre Nkurunziza, currently the Burundian President under the Arusha Peace & Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi signed on August 28, 2000 and Dar-Es-Salaam Protocol on Power Sharing 2008.
Finally, it seems that the SPLM/A-IO forces have done regroupment in the nine (9) areas mentioned in Equatoria and Bahr el-Ghazal regions before they seek permission from the GRSS to concede cantonment sites.
This demonstrates that the SPLM/A-IO might have contracted an organization or UN agency to resupply all forces with logistics support of non-lethal nature such as food, water, clothing and medical care during the regroupment processes, pending the dispute over cantonment sites to be resolved.
By averting the continuation of hostilities in breach of permanent ceasefire and cessation of hostilities agreements, the TGoNU must resolve the dispute over cantonment sites in greater Equatoria and Bahr el-Ghazal regions as an urgent security challenge.
To paraphrase what I wrote previously in one of my articles (under the title: “CTSAMM to observe security ahead of the formation of TGoNU) that, “the parties therefore need to revisit the Agreement in order to resolve the problem of forces that assembled themselves in the former Western Equatoria and Western Bahr el-Ghazal States as claimed by the SPLM/A-IO Advance Team to be their forces. The interpretation of “all forces that are previously in combat” should not confused the parties with rules of IHL (International Humanitarian Law) and Geneva Conventions in their minds, nor should it be used as a political leverage to derail the implementation.
This brings me to the point that the party who alleged the presence of its forces in the said areas for cantonment, must prove it by giving the date before the signing of the compromise peace agreement on the 17th and 26th August, 2015 respectively.
Therefore the question that begs itself is that: “When did the forces, claimed by the SPLM/A-IO leadership wage their rebellion in both former Western of Equatoria and Bahr el-Ghazal States?” If these forces waged their rebellion after the ARCISS has been signed, subsequently followed by the declaration of PCTSA workshop, then they will not be granted the benefit of cantonment.”
The Writer is a Practising Lawyer and Legal Consultant in Juba and he can be reached for comment(s) via his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org