More than five years after South Sudan’s first ceasefire agreement, ceasefire monitors are still on the ground. The hope was that their work would help overcome the mistrust between rival factions, halt ongoing violence, and deter further violations. Drawing on interviews with monitors, combatants, politicians, civil society representatives, diplomats, peacekeepers, and others, this report examines the history of ceasefire monitoring in South Sudan and offers recommendations for donors supporting future monitoring processes in South Sudan and elsewhere.

Rebel fighters hold their weapons in Upper Nile State in February 2014. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)
Rebel fighters hold their weapons in Upper Nile State in February 2014. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

Summary

South Sudan’s Monitoring and Verification Mechanism was created in early 2014 to monitor combatants’ compliance with a truce. Following the 2015 peace treaty, it became the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism, which in turn became the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism after a 2018 accord superseded the earlier agreement. Although ceasefire monitoring is but one dimension of the response to the conflict in South Sudan, it has been resource intensive. International donors have provided more than $130 million in cash and in-kind assistance to the process since 2014.

The monitoring presumes that accurate reporting of truce violations will deter future violations. The evidence for the validity of this logic in South Sudan is uncertain, however. Undermining the utility of monitoring are a general lack of commitment of the parties to their obligations and to an independent monitoring process, the limited acceptance of the parties of the monitoring outcomes, and—most critical—a lack of meaningful consequences for serious violations. Monitoring efforts in the country have also been beset by operational, organizational, and technical deficits that include poor leadership, inexperienced and unqualified monitors, and a lack of force protection. Cooperation with the United Nations and the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission has often been inadequate. Further, efforts to publicly disseminate monitors’ findings and communicate with South Sudanese citizens have been limited and inconsistent. A sustained public information campaign across the country, including greater efforts to solicit information from the public, would improve the quality of the monitoring process.

Supporters of ceasefire monitoring, including the United States, should reinforce monitors’ findings by demonstrating that noncompliance has consequences. Direct action needs to be taken against those with both operational and command responsibility for flagrant violations.

About the Report

Drawing on more than ninety interviews and written responses from ceasefire monitors, combatants, politicians, civil society representatives, international diplomats, peacekeepers, and analysts, this report reviews internationally led ceasefire monitoring in South Sudan from January 2014 to January 2019. Supported by the Middle East and Africa Center at the United States Institute of Peace, it identifies the challenges and offers recommendations for donors supporting future monitoring processes in South Sudan and elsewhere.

About the Author

Aly Verjee is a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace. He served as a senior adviser to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development mediation for South Sudan from 2014 to 2015 and was deputy and then acting chief of staff of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission from 2015 to 2016, overseeing the implementation of South Sudan’s 2015 peace agreement.

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