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South Sudan’s peace monitors call for end to state of emergency

South Sudan’s peace monitors on Thursday called on the government to officially lift the state of emergency in some parts of the country to restore political space needed for achieving sustainable peace.

Augostino Njoroge, Deputy Chairperson at the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), said this in a statement issued in Juba.

Njoroge said for confidence-building purposes, the government should pave way for the recognition of democratic rights and freedom of speech, including the role of a responsible media.

“For confidence-building purposes, we recommend to officially announce the lifting of state of emergency.

“This will ensure that the political space needed for exercising the individual’s democratic rights and freedom of speech will be in place, and the role of a responsible media is duly recognised.’’

Njoroge said the confidence-building measures already initiated by President Salva Kiir should continue to constructively engage all stakeholders and parties to the agreement to ensure inclusivity of the revitalised deal.

“Together and in a spirit of unity, the president and the leaders of the opposition should travel throughout the country and advocate for peace and reconciliation to the people of South Sudan,” he added.

He appealed to regional and international guarantors to fully support the implementation of the agreement through appropriate political and economic support.

The state of emergency was declared in the greater Upper Nile region following the outbreak of the conflict in 2013.

But it was later extended to two regions of Bahrl-el-Ghazal and Equatoria after forces loyal to Kiir and his former deputy Riek Machar engaged in combat.

In another development, South Sudan’s peace prospects could help strengthen China’s engagement with the east African country and in turn cement ties between Juba and Beijing, an expert said on Thursday.

James Okuk, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Strategic Policy Studies, a Juba-based think tank, said Beijing had maintained good relations with South Sudan even when many countries turned their back after the nation plunged into a devastating civil war in late 2013.

Though the conflict slowed down economic engagements between the two countries, Okuk said, the recently signed peace deal, if implemented, would enable China and South Sudan to forge stronger ties, especially in the areas of trade, infrastructure, and economic development.

“China has already done some infrastructure projects in South Sudan, and with peace, I think the relation is going to be stronger and more fruitful,’’ Okuk said.

Since South Sudan’s independence in 2011, China has become one of its biggest trading partners, according to official data. Beijing is also one of South Sudan’s largest sources of investment.

“When it comes to economic development, they ( the Chinese) are very good.

“And once peace is holding and the economic situation becomes very good, it will really cement relations between these countries and take it to a higher level,” Okuk said.

South Sudanese president Salva Kiir, his former deputy and arch rival Riek Machar, and several opposition groups in September signed a new power-sharing deal aimed at ending the five-year old conflict. (Xinhua/NAN)

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