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US: South Sudan Leaders Must Implement Peace Deal by Deadline

U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth says South Sudan's leaders owe it to the war-torn nation's people to implement the peace deal they signed last month.
U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth says South Sudan's leaders owe it to the war-torn nation's people to implement the peace deal they signed last month.

The U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth, said Friday that South Sudan's leaders have a duty to the people of the young nation to ensure that the peace agreement signed last month is put into action.

Booth said if South Sudan's leaders "show the world that they are committed to peace, committed to a better future for the people of South Sudan... they will find there is still a reservoir of goodwill toward South Sudan and they will find support for their efforts to implement this agreement."

A "necessary first step" toward putting the words in the peace deal into action is to agree to security arrangements for South Sudan during a transitional period, Booth said.

Military leaders from the government and from the main rebel movement led by former vice president Riek Machar held workshops in Addis Ababa last week to discuss security issues.

Booth said that, even though the two sides disagreed on some issues -- such as the number of troops that should be deployed in Juba once the army and Ugandan forces have been withdrawn -- there was agreement on other, equally critical points, including the cantonment of troops, the establishment of a joint operations center to coordinate security issues, and the establishment of a unified command structure.

Now, said Booth, "They need to move forward and implement" the points they agreed to, and do so by the deadlines stipulated in the IGAD-Plus peace deal.

"It will show the South Sudanese people that their leaders are committed to peace. And I think it will create the climate so that those issues that they were unable to agree on... will be easier to compromise on," he said.

Deal Does Not Erode Sovereignty

South Sudanese government officials have said aspects of the deal undermine their nation's sovereignty, but Booth rejected that charge.

The peace agreement calls for foreigners to serve on a truth and reconciliation commission, and on a tribunal that will investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of committing crimes during the conflict.

The agreement also stipulates that a Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) that will monitor progress on implementing the peace deal, will be chaired by a foreigner and will be made up mainly of non-South Sudanese.

Referring specifically to JMEC, Booth called the commission "a critical element of the peace agreement" but noted that it "will not direct South Sudanese in what they do."

"It's the peace agreement that directs what should be done," he said.

"All JMEC will do is report to guarantors -- IGAD countries -- and to other partners who witnessed the agreement, whether, indeed, the South Sudan parties are implementing the agreement and meeting their deadlines, and, if not, what their reasons are and what might be done to help South Sudan to do that," said Booth.

"This is not an infringement of sovereignty. This is fulfilling the responsibility of the guarantors and other partners to help South Sudan succeed in achieving what they signed -- a peace agreement that will bring the country back together, a peace agreement that will lead to reforms of the security sector, a peace agreement that will lead to the drafting of a new constitution by South Sudanese, for South Sudanese," he said.

"It will lead to the holding of an election so that South Sudanese, in a democratic process, can again choose their leaders and how their country is to be governed. It will lead to a South Sudan that will see the government held responsible for the resources of the country and ensure that the resources are used for the benefit of the people," Booth said.

The peace agreement was signed on August 17 by Machar for the main armed opposition party, and by Pagan Amum on behalf of more than a dozen political figures who were detained when the fighting erupted in December 2013.

President Kiir signed the deal nine days later. His spokesman has said he was under intense international pressure to do so.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the South Sudan In Focus radio program.