UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Wednesday for implementation of the 2018 peace agreement in South Sudan, disarmament of former combatants and establishment of a truth and reconciliation commission as key targets in proposed benchmarks for the world’s newest nation to get rid of a U.N. arms embargo.
The U.N. chief made the proposals in an eight-page report to the U.N. Security Council in response to its request in December for recommendations to assess the arms embargo on South Sudan, which was adopted in 2018.
The benchmarks call for progress in three broad areas – political and governance issues; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former fighters and security sector reform; and the humanitarian and human rights situation.
Guterres said progress in implementing the peace agreement has been slow and the proposed benchmarks “could play an important role” in its implementation.
There were high hopes that South Sudan would have peace and stability after gaining its long-fought independence from Sudan in 2011. But the country slid into ethnic violence in December 2013 when forces loyal to President Salva Kiir, a Dinka, started battling those loyal to Riek Machar, his former vice president who belongs to the Nuer people.
Numerous attempts at peace failed, including a deal that saw Machar return as vice president in 2016 only to flee months later amid fresh fighting. The civil war has killed nearly 400,000 people and displaced millions.
Intense international pressure followed the most recent peace deal in September 2018, and in February 2020 a coalition government led by Kiir, with Machar as his deputy, was formed.
On political issues, Guterres said that benchmark would require the government to make progress on forming the transitional government, completing reforms and ensuring broad participation of women as called for in the peace deal.
Its first proposed target includes establishing the Transitional National Legislature comprising the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and the Council of State, Guterres said.
The second target should include incorporating the 2018 peace agreement into the transitional constitution and completing the permanent constitution-making process, and making progress in reforming the judiciary and key financial institutions, he said.
Guterres said the third target should be achieving the commitments in the peace deal to ensure the quota of 35% women’s representation in national, state and local government. He also called for a women to be appointed as a deputy speaker in the Legislative Assembly and Council of State.
As for security issues, the secretary-general said the first target should be completion of South Sudan’s strategic defense and security review.
The second target on transitional security arrangements should include an immediate end to recruiting security forces and to recruiting and using children, he said. Guterres said it should also include starting to unify the command of the country’s various forces and training and redeploying those unified troops.
On human rights and humanitarian issues, he said the benchmark should focus on improving humanitarian access, achieving a long-term solution for refugees and people displaced within the country, and addressing human rights violations.
Guterres said targets should include reducing the levels of sexual and gender-based violence, especially during conflicts, and concluding a memorandum with the African Union to establish the Hybrid Court of South Sudan to investigate and prosecute individuals responsible for violating international law.
The targets should also include establishing a functioning Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing and a Compensation to look into human rights violations and a Compensation and Reparation Authority to support citizens whose property was destroyed during the conflict, he said. Both bodies are called for in the 2018 peace agreement.
Guterres told the Security Council that “once the benchmarks have been established, progress on their implementation should be regularly reviewed, with a view to adjusting or lifting the arms embargo once the stated objectives for this sanctions measure are fully met.”
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