World Bulletin / News Desk
The High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) for the South Sudan Peace Agreement was presided by the current chairman of the 8-nation Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
Speaking at the forum, Desalegn urged the South Sudanese political stakeholders to open up to dialogue, hammer out a negotiated settlement, and set the peace agreement in motion so as to end the suffering of their people.
Festus Mogae, the chairman of the African Union’s Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), which was set up to oversee the implementation of the peace agreement, said earlier that there remained a need for a complete cessation of hostilities between the warring parties if the revitalization of the peace agreement were to bear any fruit.
According to Mogae, former Botswanan president, those he described as the "spoilers" and "violators" of the peace agreement had not been held accountable so far.
Also speaking at the forum, Ambassador Ismail Wais, IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan, said that the humanitarian crisis, compounded by widespread violence, economic deterioration and the slippage in the implementation of the peace agreement, had contributed to the undermining of the state-building process.
"These concerns," he said, "resulted in an urgent call to end violence, restore the permanent cease-fire, return to an inclusive implementation of the 2015 Peace Agreement, and develop revised realistic timeliness towards democratic elections at the end of a Transitional Period".
Representatives of the United Nations, the African Union, the Troika -- a trio composed of the U.S., the U.K. and Norway in the IGAD-led South Sudan peace mediation --, China, EU and other international partners attended the forum on Monday.
The idea to revitalize the South Sudanese Peace Agreement emanated six months ago.
It is not yet clear whether former Vice President, and rebel leader Riek Machar, will be allowed to attend the revitalization process in person, coming from South Africa where he is held under house arrest.
-Call by South Sudanese civil society
On Sunday, a group of South Sudanese civil society organizations launched a joint peace campaign ahead of the talks to push for the peace process.
The organizers have called the campaign "SouthSudanIsWatching", which highlights their perception of the absence of political will on the part of the country’s leaders to end the civil war.
A South Sudanese youth campaign advocacy group, Ana Ta’ban, which means 'I am tired', said on Monday that their campaign sought to mobilize South Sudanese around the world to deliver a strong message to the government as well as its political parties and armed groups that they had to participate in the IGAD peace talks and finally establish peace for the country.
"We have waited long enough and the status quo cannot continue to destroy our nation," read a statement by the group.
"We want the IGAD, the political parties, the armed groups and the government to know that people of South Sudan are watching them closely and expect only peace from these talks," the group said.
Jacob Bul Bior, a youth activist told Anadolu Agency in South Sudan's capital, Juba, that the South Sudanese citizens were tired of what he called a "meaningless war" and were keenly watching whether the stakeholders at HLRF were going to choose their own interests or those of the people of South Sudan.
South Sudan has been mired in conflict between the government of President Salva Kiir and rebels led by Machar since December 2013.
A shaky peace deal signed in August 2015 between the rival leaders under UN threats of sanctions, arms embargoes and asset freezes led to the formation of a coalition government in April 2016, but this was shattered by renewed fighting which erupted in July in 2016.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands, displaced almost 4 million people from their homes, including over a million refugees who have fled to the neighboring countries.
International and regional leaders have called for an end to the conflict in the East African nation but several truces have been broken by both sides.