Top US Diplomat Takes ‘Wait and See’ Approach to South Sudan Peace Deal

The U.S. ambassador to South Sudan says Washington will not continue to fund peace agreements that are violated over and over by the parties in the South Sudanese civil war.

Thomas Hushek told VOA that the government and rebels, who signed the revitalized peace deal on Wednesday, must show a real commitment to ending violence, allowing unfettered access to humanitarian workers and releasing all political prisoners.

The United States, United Kingdom and Norway, known as "the Troika," released a joint statement this week expressing concerns about the latest South Sudan peace deal.

In an exclusive interview with South Sudan in Focus, Hushek said the Troika expects to see a significant change from the past when peace deals were signed and violated within hours.

"It is time to start the work of building peace, but when we see a few things like a little bit of fighting going on; in Wau there was some hostilities after the signing of the recommitment to the cease-fire, there are still places where humanitarian access gets blocked by both parties by the way, those are the things that concern us," Hushek said.

The ambassador said the administration of South Sudan President Salva Kiir should immediately release all political prisoners and allow freedom of speech. As it now stands he said, South Sudanese civil society leaders operate in a repressed environment.

"We are concerned that when there are arrests of civil society activists because of their political opinions or pressure put on them or other repressive means used against them. This actually leads to unhealthy civil society, a civil society that is too afraid to speak their mind and to participate in the process. If that happens then people will not have confidence in their government's commitment to the peace process," said Hushek.

Government says funding is key

South Sudan Minister of Information Michael Makuei said the government is committed to implementing the revitalized peace deal but is skeptical about the international community's efforts to monitor the actions of all parties who signed the deal.

"There is no mechanism whereby you can measure commitment of any person. But you only see it through deeds and actions. So for Troika to say we will not believe it until we see it, let them wait and they will see. Whatever we say for them, they will not believe us," Makuei told VOA.

Makuei also argued the international community should provide financial support to implement the peace agreement.

"If they want the agreement implemented, they are supposed to join us in the implementation so that we all work together, they back up the agreement because implementation means money, it means funding," Makuei said.

The U.S. government provided funds to support the work of the Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangement and Monitoring Mechanism, or CTSAMM, and the work of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, or JMEC.

But Hushek said this time around his country will be more careful about doling out financial assistance to South Sudan.

"Those mechanisms didn't work so well. It wasn't a great investment by our taxpayers. And the reason it didn't work well is because the parties to the agreement broke the agreement almost at the beginning," Hushek said. "We can't just keep investing in broken agreements. If this agreement proves to be workable and everything, I think you will be able to see the world stepping up but first and foremost, the parties to the conflict have to make the commitment and the investment."

The parties to the conflict in South Sudan signed the final peace deal in Addis Ababa this week after lengthy negotiations in Addis Ababa and Khartoum.

Under the deal, the pre-transitional period of eight months started immediately after its signing. The parties are supposed to form a revitalized, transitional government of national unity which includes rebel leader Riek Machar, who is to be reinstated as First Vice President for the duration of the transitional period.

Source: Voice of America