The Consortium of External Civil Society Organizations of South Sudan (CECSOSS) CPJ, and others Civil Societies Contribution in South Sudan, Peace Talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is very crucial and effective.

By Stephen Tut Puol,

Opinion.

Leader of South Sudan Civil Society Alliance, Deng Athuai Mawiir, leading a protest against the release of former political detainees in January in Juba. Deng later survived second assassination attempt within Juba(Photo: file)

Leader of South Sudan Civil Society Alliance, Deng Athuai Mawiir, leading a protest against the release of former political detainees in January in Juba. Deng later survived second assassination attempt within Juba(Photo: file)

Sept 30, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — The Consortium, CPJ and others Civil Societies, Contributions in Addis Ababa, Peace Process, is to stop and prevent the outbreak of violent conflicts in the first place and to enable sustainable conflict transformation in the Country and it will continued to work toward the attainment of peace and development for the people of South Sudan, successfully creating spaces for constructive dialogue between the government and the (SPLM/SPLA – IO) and other political parties groups, with a vision of a peaceful and just society for all the people of South Sudan, a society that practices good governance; and a culture that rejects violence as a method for dealing with differences. The goal of the Consortium, CPJ and others is to build sustainable peace with justice and a state that protects diversity by supporting an inclusive peace process.

The Consortium and CPJ, contributions to South Sudan’s Peace Processes in Addis Ababa’s, for six-times, round would have an additional role in which it will be involves in disseminating a series of information relating to the ongoing peace processes in Addis Ababa, in order to keep the public informed. Ones the warring parties signed the final Peace Agreement, the Consortium and the rest of Civil societies, will then step back and reflect on different dimensions of the ongoing implementation of agreed peace process. Each of the materials the consortium will be distributing in this upcoming series will provides a deep analysis of different dimensions of the peace process: the importance of a gender analysis, the complexity of the ceasefire process, and the necessity of civil society involvement in current peace process efforts.

With the government of South Sudan, SPLM/SPLA – IO), political parties, the former political detainees, civil society, faith base and other groups who are engaged in peace talks after 9 months of the current conflict, this series will also be reflecting on Dialogue Processes among the Government and SPLM/SPLA – IO, including difference Parties in Addis Ababa, addresses the urgent need to document these dimensions in order to better understand the country’s complex and rapidly shifting peace process. The Consortium expertise is hoping that this series catalyzes more discussions and reflection to support current peace efforts.

The current peace process in Addis Ababa, will not be complete without some reflection on the role of the country’s civil society organizations (CSOs). The call for civil society to contribute to the peace negotiations between the government of South Sudan and the SPLM/SPLA in –IO, has widened considerably since the second round of this peace talks. The ongoing peace negotiations are no longer the exclusive, closed-door enterprises concerning only top-level decision makers that have characterized past attempts to solve the 9 months conflict. However, due to the fast pace and complexity of the peace process, many questions remain answered about the nature of IGAD approach to Peace Process. However, the civil society involvement in Addis Ababa peace talks and its impact on current peace efforts has help in neutralizing some elements whose intention was not to bring peace. The inclusion of civil society in the peace process and the contribution they made has very much enriches the peace talks. Their present in the peace talks has produced meaningful participation and the future hope for successful outcome of the next peace process. “Charles Taylor was right when he defined civil society as, “A web of autonomous associations independent of the state, which bind citizens together in matters of common concern, and by their existence or actions, could have an effect on public policy”. Also, civil society is viewed as a community closely knitted by common interests and shared activities separate from the state, while public denotes ‘ordinary people in general.’

Many South Sudanese community-based organizations are also working in different states for peace in their own way also interact regularly and, in many instances, work together towards contributing to a peaceful end to the 9 months armed conflict. Some activities of these community-based civil societies organizations includes: the monitoring of human rights violations; the implementation of secession cease-fire hostilities, peace agreements; advocacy for peace and human rights; the socialization towards values of peace and democracy as well as developing the in-group identity of marginalized groups; facilitation of dialogue on the local and national level between a variety of actors; and service delivery to create entry points for peace-building and resolved the ethnic violence which erupted on December 15, 2013 a national priority. Since 2011, various ethnic nationalities sequentially took up arms to fight against the government. The main reasons for the violence in most cases are due to lack of ethnic equality. Nevertheless, the civil society contributions were minimal because IGAD has limited civil society space in the peace process.

The success of the ongoing peace process in Addis Ababa, will involves political democratization, economic, security, law enforcement, constitution and media reforms, all these difference kinds of reforms will play a crucial role in the political will behind the peace talks. This is also creating the space for strong voices from civil society groups, and the development of civil society mechanisms in the future South Sudan. Furthermore, the tremendous speed of reform if it happens would means that parallel processes Civil Society Contributions to South Sudan’s Peace Process, including the future dialogue, national healing and reconciliation.

Civil Society Contributions to South Sudan’s Peace Process in Addis Ababa are also occurring within the peace process itself. This also opens up a new role for civil society actors, as cease-fire agreements require monitoring and the prospect of a nationwide cease-fire occurring in the near future would means those preparations for a national dialogue must be undertaken in which the Civil Societies organizations will be very much involves to bring together the divided communities of South Sudan.

The third factor is the nature of the players involved. South Sudan’s peace processes were originally initiated by IGAD community representatives, but failed to include neutral mediators or third party facilitators, thus adding an additional layer of complexity. Again, the IGAD as a mediation body has itself has taken side instead of playing a role of the mediation, some of its members are fighting alongside the South Sudan’s government forces, and this has damaged the credibility of IGAD. The current peace process is showing a greater demonstration of political will from both the opposition and the government towards embracing civil society contributions. However, the strength and sincerity of this political will has yet to be verified through concrete action.

This willingness from the warring parties to accept the participation of civil society in peace negotiation process creates more room for civil society and the public at large to directly participate in the peace process and to have a trust to any of the Peace agreement which will be signed sooner or later. A few civil society leaders from local CSOs have become part of the technical team to support the process and contributing to technical matters. This inclusion may add a degree of balance to the negotiations. Again, this has raise hopes of initiating wider public awareness of the current peace process. The role of civil society in South Sudan’s transition towards democracy will been well acknowledged by the future government in power. The governments in place will recognize civil society as a key player, inviting participation of CSOs in both peace building and state building processes. Certain CSOs are focusing on providing livelihood, education and health services, while others are increasing their emphasis on human rights, democracy and governance. Some youth-focused CSOs have even conducted various kinds of capacity building programs.

To gain momentum in early 2012, many CSOs started inserting peace-building components in their existing activities or initiated new peace building activities in the communities they are assisting. The social organization of South Sudan is complex and diverse, impacted by many years of severe repression by the SPLM/SPLA led government under the dictatorial leadership of the SPLM/SPLA. Broadly speaking, these historical and political factors of the SPLM government have created several obstacles for greater civil society involvement in the National dialogue and in peace-building process in the Country; it is one of the reason why we find ourselves and the country where we are today, it was because everything’s was being done or conducted using military main in all aspects, so the civil didn’t have any role to plays in public affairs.

Due to such situation some of the CSO’s feels unwillingness to engage in direct political action for the fear of security arrestment. Some CBOs and CSOs keep a low profile and focus on providing services, such as integrating education and other needs into communities. These types of CSOs still experience pervasive security control over their activities and do not take an active role in engaging the government politically. The other type of CSOs in South Sudan usually ‘asks for permission ‘from the government to play a greater role in decision-making and policy shaping. For these CSOs, even ‘getting a permission’ constitutes a problematic the government must investigate whole understanding of what participation they are obtaining the permission for to operate and nothing more.

The Civil Society institutions have seen CSOs discovering their potential beyond simply permission-seeking, but as organizations whose roles stretch beyond community service providers. The new political landscape will created space for greater and more meaningful participation that they are now working to claim. The lack of robust collaboration and communication between the Civil Society and their respective constituencies can also be considered an obstacle to greater civil society involvement.

If there were to be a comprehensive cease-fires across the country it will create a greater opportunities for CSOs to engage in activities such as public consultations with ethnic communities. This is bolstered by the future creation of the CSO National Co-ordination Council, an institution-aliped body that will work towards a Nation-wide dialogue, reconciliation, national healing, including motoring of cease-fire agreement. This breaks tradition with past cease-fires that were agreed upon verbally behind closed doors which didn’t works at the end. While this arrangement signifies greater communication and collaboration between the civil societies themselves, it can compromise civil society efforts to liaise with their respective public constituencies due to the nature of the cease-fire negotiations as technical and discreet talks between the two parties.

Thus, even though trust may be increasing between the civil society and the warring parties who are negotiation in Addis Ababa, more is needed to underpin negotiations. According to an IGAD staff member, trust needs to be built in a six-fold manner: the government towards civil society, the civil society towards the government, and the local communities towards the civil society and the civil society toward the SPLM – IO, and the rebels toward civil society. (As the government has no current mechanism for formal public participation in the peace process). Even if cease-fire agreements and other documents are signed and celebrated in public, this achievement without the involvement of Civil Society Contributions to South Sudan’s Peace Process, that peace will be difficult to be implemented; if there is no six-fold trust, especially because local communities have experienced these public signings before, in the time of CPA with little concrete results to show for it. Local peoples’ mistrust of the government and Opposition can risk the implementation of any cease-fire agreement and in turn, the chances for a meaningful national dialogue in the future, is not going to be easy because people are still lacking trust of each other.

”This ‘six-fold trust’ can be built by greater security for local communities and space for participation. For example, at present, local communities have expressed their unwillingness to participate in the peace process or taking part in national dialogue as long as they do not have a secure environment. Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) many individuals in South Sudanese who have spoken out against the authority in Juba, were arrested as political prisoners. Some were forced to exile or in harsh prison conditions, even killed like the famous case of Isaiah Abraham, who was killed for expressing his personal opinion as an opinion writer. “The people are afraid of the gun and arrestment, “until individuals and local communities feel more secure, they will not be willing to be engaged in national dialogue.

The third obstacle is the lack of local community direct links to the peace talks, IGAD prepared only to take 11 members as delegate of different Civil Society Organizations and CBOs, to participate in the peace process, even they were as to be there as observers instead of being directly involved in the talks. The role of civil society should involved sending opinion letters to negotiating parties, giving informal suggestions at community level projects, of participating in more formal meetings, or participating in public consultations with all the parties concern in the peace process. The increased activity of international organizations working in South Sudan has also created this space for participation of CSOs and CBOs should be more exposed and directly involves in the peace talks rather than being asked to be there as an observers; instead of being directly participated as the real stakeholders to South Sudan Peace process.

The author can be reached at stephentut@swissmail.org

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