13 Dec 2018

 

SSCSF Report On Citizen Perceptions Of The Peace Process In South Sudan

From October to November 2018, the South Sudan Civil Society Forum (SSCSF), a coalition of more than two hundred South Sudanese civic organizations, surveyed 1,147 people in five locations in South Sudan and a refugee camp in Uganda.

JUBA, 28 November 2018 [Gurtong]-The survey was to better understand their views on the peace process and the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan.

The report summarizes the main findings and recommendations.

Among the report's recommendations is that the signatories, guarantors and supporters of the R-ARCSS should urgently invest in civic engagement efforts in order to raise awareness and generate a sense of ownership over the agreement among citizens. Other findings include the following:

•    Overall, respondents expressed relatively high levels of awareness about the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF), but less than half (43%) thought the R-ARCSS would bring lasting peace.

•    Respondents who felt well informed about the peace process were twice as likely to think that the R-ARCSS would bring lasting peace than those that felt uniformed.

•    Respondents in general, and women and refugees in particular, were mostly uninformed about the governance arrangements provided for in the R-ARCSS. When told that the R-ARCSS increased the number of vice-presidents from two to five and the number of parliamentarians from 440 to 550, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they opposed the decisions.

•    Three-quarters (75%) of respondents said they did not support the decision to create 32 states. Most respondents (57%) said there should be 10 states in South Sudan.

•    Forty percent of respondents said that they or someone in their household knew women and children that had been abducted by armed groups since the conflict began in December 2013.

•    A sizeable majority of respondents (70%) said the decision to impose an arms embargo was the right decision.

•    Respondents across survey locations were sharply divided on whether neighboring countries should deploy troops to provide security in South Sudan. For example, 54 percent of respondents in Bentiu town supported the deployment of Sudanese troops while not a single respondent in Bor supported their deployment. Conversely, 77 percent of respondents in Bor supported the deployment of Ugandan troops while just six percent of respondents in Bentiu supported their deployment.

The period leading up to the establishment of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGONU) will be a test of the parties’ commitment to peace and their ability to make decisions in a deliberate and collective manner.

By demonstrating leadership, a spirit of compromise, and a willingness to engage in open dialogue, the parties can demonstrate to their people and the broader international community that they are committed to opening a new page for South Sudan. We hope that the findings in this report can contribute to these efforts.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Background

On 12 September 2018, the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGONU), an array of armed and political opposition groups, and other stakeholders signed the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS).

From October to November 2018, the South Sudan Civil Society Forum (SSCSF), a coalition of more than 200 South Sudanese civic groups, surveyed 1,147 people in five locations in South Sudan and in a refugee camp in Uganda. The purpose of the survey was to assess citizen perspectives on the peace process and its outcome. This report presents the main findings and recommendations.

Awareness and Confidence in the Peace Process


Overall, respondents expressed relatively high levels of awareness of the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF). Eighty-three percent of respondents said that they were aware of the HLRF and 91 percent said that they were aware of the signing of R-ARCSS.
 

When asked how well informed they were about the process, respondents were somewhat more equivocal. Fifty-eight percent said they felt well informed and 41 percent said they felt uninformed.

Respondents appeared uncertain about the prospects for peace through the R-ARCSS. Less than half (43%) of respondents thought the R-ARCSS would bring lasting peace, 37 percent thought it might bring lasting peace and 17 percent did not think it would not bring lasting peace.

A lack of information was strongly correlated with more pessimistic views on prospects for peace. People who felt informed about the peace process were almost twice as likely (54%) to think that the R-ARCSS would bring lasting peace than those that felt uniformed (28%).

Major information gaps and more pessimistic attitudes about prospects for peace were apparent among refugees and women. These findings are particularly concerning given the importance of these stakeholder groups to the real and perceived success of the R-ARCSS.

Perspectives on Governance Arrangements

Respondents overall expressed support for the R-ARCSS approach to power sharing. Sixty-one percent of respondents thought that a transitional government in which power was shared among the various armed groups would help to resolve the conflict. Just 15 percent of refugees, however, thought power sharing would help to resolve the conflict.

While a majority of respondents supported power sharing, 59 percent were opposed to the idea of expanding the size of government to accommodate a power sharing arrangement.
  

Overall, a slight majority of respondents (55%) thought that government and opposition leaders would be able to work together in a unity government. Respondents in Torit, Kiryandongo and Wau were considerably less optimistic about the leaders’ ability to work together.

Respondents in general, and women and refugees in particular, were uninformed about the governance arrangements provided for in the R-ARCSS. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they did not know the number of vice-presidents provided for in the R-ARCSS and 81 percent said they did not know the number of parliamentarians.

When informed that the R-ARCSS increased the number of vice-presidents from two to five and the number of parliamentarians from 440 to 550, 65 percent of respondents said they opposed the decision to increase the number of vice-presidents and 62 percent said they opposed the decision to increase the number of parliamentarians.

Respondents had a favorable view of the R-ARCSS provisions for increased women’s participation in public office. Seventy-nine percent of respondents supported the R-ARCSS requirement to appoint one female vice-president.

Three-quarters (75%) of respondents said they did not support the decision to create 32 states. Respondents were more equivocal about the decision to create their home state, though 49 percent of respondents were even opposed to the creation of their home state. Most respondents (57%) said there should be 10 states in South Sudan.

More than a third of respondents (35%) admitted that they did not know how the R-ARCSS addresses the issue of the number of states. Another third (34%) thought that the agreement reverted to 10 states. Just 13 percent of respondents mentioned the creation of the Independent Boundaries Commission (IBC).

Perspectives on Security Arrangements

Ninety percent of respondents said that people who violate the cessation of hostilities agreement should be subject to punitive measures. However, more than a third of respondents (37%) thought the parties had not violated the agreements to cease hostilities since September 2018, despite credible reports of violations from the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) and other independent organizations.

A sizeable majority of respondents (77%) said that the parties should release political detainees and prisoners of war (POWs) as required by the R-ARCSS. However, almost a third of respondents (30%) said they did not know whether the parties had released political detainees or POWs or not.

A staggering 40 percent of respondents said that they or someone in their household knew women and children that had been abducted by armed groups since the conflict began in December 2013. An overwhelming majority (80%) of those who said they knew someone who had been abducted said that as far as they knew, the abducted person was still in captivity.
 

Eighty-five percent of respondents said they support the demilitarization of civilian areas and 60 percent said they support the deployment of foreign troops to provide security during the transitional period. When asked which countries should provide troops, respondents emphasized the United States (62%), United Kingdom (41%) and Sudan (39%).

However, respondents in different survey locations were sharply divided on whether neighboring countries should deploy troops. For example, 54 percent of respondents in Bentiu supported the deployment of Sudanese troops while not a single respondent in Bor supported their deployment. Conversely, 77 percent of respondents in Bor supported the deployment of Ugandan troops while just six percent of respondents in Bentiu supported their deployment.
   

A considerable number of respondents expressed misunderstandings about the arms embargo that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) placed on South Sudan in July 2018. Thirty-six percent of respondents thought that no arms embargo had been put in place and 17 percent did not know one way or the other. When informed about the arms embargo, a sizeable majority of respondents (70%) said the decision to impose an arms embargo was the right decision.

Perspectives on Longer-term Issues


Most respondents (69%), including 81 percent of female respondents, said they did not know the length of the transitional period as stipulated in the R-ARCSS. When asked how long they think the transitional period should be, respondents emphasized shorter time periods with 23 percent saying less than a year and just three percent saying five to six years.

Forty-nine percent of respondents said that it was likely that there would be large-scale violence during elections and 45 percent said that it was unlikely. Responses varied widely across survey locations with Torit, Wau, Juba and Kiryandongo refugee settlement significantly more likely to think that there would be violence.

Less than half (48%) of internally displaced and refugee respondents thought the R-ARCSS would create conditions conducive to their returning home, 11 percent said they did not think it would create conditions conducive to their returning home, and 41 percent said they did not know whether it would or not. When asked when they might return, almost one-third of respondents (32%) answered ‘don’t know’, 23 percent said ‘within the next year’ and 22 percent said ‘one to two years’.

Seventy-six percent of respondents said that South Sudan needs a grassroots healing and dialogue process to bring lasting peace. However, there were considerable information gaps with respect to the National Dialogue, with 45 percent of respondents saying that they had not heard of the initiative.

Respondent awareness of the transitional justice mechanisms described in Chapter V of the R-ARCSS reflect a similar knowledge gap. Just 34 percent of respondents said that they had heard of the Hybrid Court for South Sudan (HCSS) and 33 percent of respondents said that they had heard of the Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH). However, two-thirds (66%) of respondents who had heard of the proposed institutions said that the government should move more quickly to establish them.

Respondents were dissatisfied with how the government has been managing oil revenue. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said the government was managing oil revenue ‘poorly’ (28%) or ‘very poorly’ (49%). When asked what should be done with oil revenue, respondents emphasized infrastructure (82%), education (80%) and health (78%). Just 20 percent of respondents said that it should be spent on the military.

When asked to list key challenges for the transitional government moving forward, respondents emphasized inter-communal violence (42%), corruption (35%), return and resettlement of displaced populations (30%) and constitutional reform (30%).

Conclusion and Recommendations

The crisis in South Sudan has reached a potential turning point. While the prospects for sustainable peace through the R-ARCSS remain uncertain, the agreement has offered a glimmer of hope for the first time since the intensification of the conflict in 2016.

The period leading to the establishment of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGONU) in mid-2019 will be critical in determining whether the country can set itself back on the path to sustainable peace or whether it will experience a relapse into conflict.

Survey findings suggest a number of ways in which the signatories, guarantors and supporters of the R-ARCSS can capitalize on the opportunities that the agreement has presented and overcome the challenges, including the following:

Invest in robust civic engagement efforts to raise awareness and foster a sense of ownership over the R-ARCSS among citizens.

Better publicize violations of the R-ARCSS and subject those responsible to punitive measures.
 Immediately release POWs, political detainees and abducted women and children, and provide information on the whereabouts of missing persons.

Maintain open channels of communication with individuals and groups who have not signed on to the R-ARCSS.

Ensure that the decision from the IBC on the number of states in South Sudan is responsive to citizen views on the issue.

Embrace the arms embargo as a tool to facilitate the progressive demilitarization of society in South Sudan.

Re-envision the National Dialogue to make it more inclusive and independent.

Expedite the establishment of the transitional justice institutions provided for in Chapter V of the R-ARCSS.

Subject decisions to deploy troops from neighboring countries in South Sudan to the highest levels of scrutiny.

Posted in: Peace Documents
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