10 June 2014
Re: Civil Society Representation in the IGAD-led Peace Talks
June 10, 2014 (SSNA) — I am writing to you on behalf of the secretariat of Citizens for Peace and Justice (CPJ), a coalition of South Sudanese civil society organizations (CSOs) formed to promote a peaceful and just resolution to the crisis in South Sudan, in order to set the record straight about CPJ and to voice our deep concern with the manner in which the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) has gone about selecting representatives of civil society to participate in the peace talks in Addis Ababa.
Origins of CPJ
CPJ was formed in January 2014 at a consultation in Nairobi to explore the causes of the conflict in South Sudan and examine the role that civil society could play in resolving the crisis. CPJ made its first public statement on 15 January (available at http://www.gurtong.net/ECM/Editorial/tabid/124/ctl/ArticleView/mid/519/articleId/14588/categoryId/120/Statement-On-The-Crisis-In-South-Sudan-By-Citizens-For-Peace-And-Justice.aspx). The statement called for the peace process to be expanded to include voices from all sectors of South Sudanese society. It also said that for sustainable peace to be achieved, the peace process had to go beyond the political dispute within the leadership of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) that sparked the violence to address the fundamental governance problems that South Sudan has been grappling with since the end of the last war in 2005.
The 23 signatories to the 15 January statement included many of the most prominent members of South Sudanese civil society, all of whom have a longstanding presence in the country. At that first meeting, a seven-person interim committee was formed, which would later become the CPJ secretariat. The organizations represented in the secretariat include: Assistance Mission for Africa (AMA), Nuer Peace Council (NPC), the ROOTS Project, South Sudan Democracy and Elections Monitoring and Observation Programme (SSuDEMOP), South Sudan Law Society (SSLS), the Sudd Institute and Voice for Change (VFC). All seven organizations are registered as legal entities under South Sudanese law and have a demonstrated track record of working at the national, state and local levels in South Sudan.
From 9-12 February 2014, CPJ held a second civil society conference in Nairobi to expand its membership and to stimulate thought about the substantive issues that we felt needed to be addressed in the peace process, including: transitional governance arrangements; constitutional reforms; truth, justice and reconciliation; security sector reform; economic reform; and humanitarian support. As can be seen from the list of signatories to the 17 February conference statement (available at http://www.southsudannewsagency.com/news/press-releases/direct-participation-of-civil-society), participants were overwhelmingly drawn from organizations that were either operating in South Sudan or had recently fled to neighboring countries to escape the violence.
Initial Selection Process of Civil Society Representatives
In March 2014, IGAD invited CPJ and a number of other civil society networks, including the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance (SSCSA) and the National Non-government Organizations (NNGO) Forum, to help organize a conference to develop a modality for civil society engagement in the peace process. A 13-person secretariat was brought to Addis Ababa to draft the conference agenda, participant list and conference materials. An entire day was spent vetting conference participants according to a strict criteria in order to ensure that the conference included civil society organizations with well-established networks in South Sudan, that the participating organizations were independent and not partial to either the Government or the SPLM-in-Opposition, and that the individual participants reflected the full diversity of South Sudan.
At the conference, 14 individuals, seven men and seven women, representing the full diversity of South Sudan were selected to represent civil society in the IGAD-led peace talks. Six of the 14 representatives were members of the SSCSA executive, including the chairperson and deputy chairperson of the SSCSA. CPJ was selected to serve as the focal point for following up on the issue of civil society engagement with IGAD in Addis, while the SSCSA was selected as the focal point for activities in South Sudan.
On 17 May 2014, IGAD notified CPJ that its request for civil society representatives to be accredited to participate in the peace talks had been approved. IGAD requested five additional names to be added to the list of 14 to maximize the representativeness of the group. Three additional individuals from the SSCSA secretariat and two individuals from state-level CSOs were added, bringing the total number to 19. In June 2014, the 19 civil society representatives traveled to a stakeholder symposium being organized by IGAD in Addis Ababa with the understanding that this would be an opportunity for them to formalize their relationship with IGAD and the peace talks.
A New Selection at the Stakeholder Symposium
The stakeholder symposium got off to a late start due to concerns expressed by some of the stakeholders about the participation of the 19 independent civil society representatives. It was a somewhat chaotic scene. Both the Government and the SPLM-in-Opposition had arrived with their own syndicated civil society organizations. Groups of civil society organizations that were not invited to the event were also mobilized to attend in the hopes that they would be able to convince IGAD to let them participate in the process.
The day after the symposium ended, Ambassador Lazarus Sumbeiywo called the civil society representatives for a meeting. Roughly 40 individuals, including 16 of the 19 independent civil society representatives, several groups that traveled from Juba of their own accord, and other CSOs affiliated with the Government and Opposition were in attendance. Ambassador Sumbeiywo announced to the room that they should elect seven representatives to participate in the peace talks: one chairperson, two women, two youth and two elders. The announcement came without any advance notice to the 19 independent civil society representatives and without explanation as to why a new selection process would take place. The group in attendance proceeded to elect the seven representatives; only one of the 19 previously selected representatives was retained.
The Way Forward
CPJ has not yet received an official explanation from IGAD as to why the 19 civil society representatives that had been notified that they would be accredited to the peace talks have been replaced by a new group of seven individuals selected in such a hasty manner. The new group of seven does not reflect the diversity of the outgoing group, and as a result of this decision, many of the most capable and highly regarded CSOs in South Sudan have been cut out of the process.
CPJ is committed to working for the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan and we will do what we can to support all stakeholders in the process. Nonetheless, we would be remiss if we did not express our deep concern at the course that civil society participation has taken. We urge IGAD to reconsider its decision and to sit with CPJ and other independent civil society coalitions and networks to find out how this situation might be remedied in a manner that is amenable to all concerned parties.