The IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government held its 24th Extraordinary Summit to discuss the situation in South Sudan on the sidelines of the AU Assembly on January 31 under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Hailemariam of Ethiopia, current IGAD chair. The meeting was preceded by an IGAD Ministerial Conference the previous day.
The Assembly was attended by President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir of the Sudan, President Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of Somalia, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Vice President James Wani Igga of South Sudan and Sam Kutesa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uganda. Also present were Ambassador Ismail Chergui, Commissioner of Peace and Security of the African Union Commission; Ambassador Mahboub Maalim, Executive Secretary of IGAD; and representatives of the People’s Republic of China, the European Union, of the IGAD Partners Forum (IPF) and the Troika of the Governments of Norway, the UK and the US.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, current rapporteur of IGAD, presented a report on the situation in South Sudan. Congratulating South Sudan on the signing of the Agreements on Cessation of Hostilities and the Question of Detainees, he told the Assembly that seven of the detainees had arrived in Nairobi. He noted that there were accusations by both sides over observance of the ceasefire agreement. Stressing the importance of abiding by the agreements, he appealed to both sides to observe the letter and spirit of the agreement.
Ambassador Donald Booth, US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, spoke on behalf of the US government and the Troika, assuring the Assembly that the US Government and the Troika would support the operationalization of the Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM) both technically and financially. He noted the MVM would report to the Special Envoys on the observance of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and that it would coordinate its activities with the mandate of UNMISS. He welcomed the release of the seven detainees and stressed that IGAD and its partners should work for truly inclusive dialogue, adding that “the rest of the detainees should be released through expedited process.” Ambassador Booth underlined that South Sudan should be encouraged to embark on establishing a framework and workable modalities that would enable it transition to a stable democratic state.
The Ambassador of Italy to Ethiopia, Renzo Rosso, speaking on behalf of the IGAD Partners Forum, said that although there was progress in the negotiations, peace remained fragile. He cautioned that if left unattended prolonged conflict might invite other spoilers at the risk of affecting the neutral mediating role of IGAD. He reaffirmed the IPF’s continued support to IGAD’s mediation efforts..
Speaking on behalf of Ambassador Jan Eliasson, the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, UN Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Haile Menkorios stressed the importance of bringing to justice those who had committed crimes of extrajudicial killing, rape or illegal detention after an enquiry process as recommended by the African Union. He noted that more than 80,000 people had taken refuge in UN premises. He said that it was fitting that IGAD had taken measures to stop the conflict situation given its admirable record in peace and security matters in the sub- region as shown by the successful signing of the CPA. He thanked the relentless efforts of the Special Envoys, Ambassador Seyoum, General Lazaro Sumbeiywo of Kenya and General Mohamed Ahmed Mustefa Eldabi of Sudan.
Smail Chergui, the AU Commissioner of Peace and Security also commended IGAD’s mediation efforts, and said that as a member of the MVM, the AU will do its best to make the truce hold. He said the AU would also stand by IGAD in mobilizing resources from internal and external sources as it did earlier during the negotiations for the CPA. He said the AU would continue to support IGAD.
Ambassador Seyoum, Chairperson of the Special Envoys of IGAD, presented the Special Envoys report: “Ending the Crisis in South Sudan through Mediation as chair of the Special Envoys of IGAD”. He said that through the process of mediation, the negotiating parties and the international community had come to realize that IGAD’S mediation effort was the best opportunity to resolve the crisis. The Parties had committed to cooperate fully with the international community to alleviate the suffering of the people of South Sudan through emergency assistance and the rehabilitation of IDPs. They had come, he said, to the understanding that peace was the only battle worth fighting. Welcoming the release of the seven detainees he said” the issue of the detainees still remained a challenge.” Ambassador Seyoum said there was still danger that cross-purposes among stakeholders might undermine and complicate the crisis.
The Special Envoys made a number of recommendations to the IGAD Summit. They urged both parties to respect and expeditiously implement the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement as well as provide all necessary support to ensure the implementation of the of the MVM as soon as possible. They called on the parties to urgently address the critical humanitarian crisis, provide protection and assistance and explore durable solutions for the predicament of the refugees and internally displaced persons in full collaboration and coordination with local and international humanitarian organizations. They commended the Government of South Sudan for deciding to release seven of the detainees on bail but called on it to expedite the legal process for those remaining in detention. They urged the parties, IGAD and the African Union to work together to ensure that alleged human rights violations, abuses and crimes are investigated and those found culpable are brought to justice.
The Special Envoys also suggested they should be mandated to establish an initial Monitoring and Verification Mechanism presence in South Sudan within 48 hours. They urged Parties to ensure the progressive withdrawal of armed groups and all allied forces invited by either side from the theatre of operations, and to maintain the momentum of the peace process, by launching the Second Phase of the negotiations on February 7 in Addis Ababa as agreed. They suggested the Special Envoys should be instructed to develop a framework for the next phase of negotiations including specific modalities on structure, representation, and a timeframe, so as to ensure dialogue is truly inclusive, and to ensure this is developed to involve a broad range of South Sudanese government, political, and civil society actors in a reinvigorated constitutional process.
The Special Envoys appreciated the 8-point roadmap outlined by President Salva Kiir on January 20 and the commitment of the SPLM in Opposition to wide consultations with all stakeholders and resolve the conflict in South Sudan in an all-inclusive manner. The Special Envoys therefore suggest the Summit might wish to instruct them to organize a series of public consultations to generate input for a framework of political dialogue and national reconciliation. These consultations might include political parties, traditional and religious leaders, and groups representing women, youth, intellectuals, refugees and IDPs, business communities and other stakeholders. They also suggest the IGAD Special Envoys should hold consultations with IGAD Member States and key partners to ensure a common approach to the next phase. The Special Envoys also suggest the Heads of State and Government of IGAD might wish to reaffirm their commitment to resolve the South Sudan crisis.
After deliberating on the report of the Special Envoys, the Summit welcomed the signing of Agreements on the Cessation of Hostilities and The Status of Detainees by the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and SPLM in Opposition on January 23, and noted this marked the first significant step in finding a lasting peaceful political solution to the crisis in South Sudan, and commended their commitment to the pursuit of a peaceful political solution to the crisis. The IGAD leaders also applauded the work of the IGAD Special Envoys for their tireless and sustained efforts to resolve the crisis.
The IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government then adopted the Recommendations of the Special Envoys by consensus.