The government of South Sudan is under pressure to allow the formation of the hybrid court and release political detainees as a sign of goodwill in the implementation of the September 12 Agreement.
The two issues are emerging as the most crucial in the implementation process, with President Salva Kiir coming under pressure from the Troika — the US, UK, and Norway — to act on them.
The Troika has been concerned by the recent statement by Minister for Information Michael Makuei, who accused Western powers of pushing for the hybrid court — which is included in the agreement.
“There are people pressing for the hybrid court, especially the Troika because they have not abandoned the policy of regime change,” said Mr Makuei in a statement.
“The Hybrid Court is an instrument that they want to use against the leadership of South Sudan. The agreement gives the hybrid court the right to indict anyone at any time. They are trying to selectively target South Sudan politicians through the hybrid court.”
Besides the court, which is supposed to bring to account those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity during the civil war, the issue of political detainees has also put President Salva Kiir’s government in a tight corner.
On a recent visit to Washington to ask for US support for the process and funding, First Vice-President Taban Deng Gai was at pains to assure the Trump Administration that the government would release political prisoners and implement the peace agreement fully.
However, Mr Taban’s reply that the arbitrary detention of opponents was evidence of the rule of law in the country increased scepticism in Washington, and so dollars may not be forthcoming after all.
Mr Taban held a meeting with Cyril Sartor, special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council, and Caroline Sahley, the director for Africa at the council.
The first vice-president was hard-pressed to explain why the US should continue giving aid to South Sudan while there is nothing to show for the $14 billion given out since 2005.
This came at a time when a group of political detainees, on October 7, disarmed guards at the National Security Service Headquarters commonly known as Blue House, and created a standoff for 12 hours protesting their being held without trial and demanding to be released as had been decreed by President Kiir.
Stephen Par Kuol, head of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) National Committee for Foreign Affairs, said that President Kiir must release political detainees as part of the cessation of hostilities agreement signed in December 2017.
According to John Deng D’Akiyooi, a South Sudanese author and adviser on International Criminal Law and Human Rights, the push for accountability by the Western powers could make the implementation difficult.
“Accountability should come later because pushing for the Hybrid Court at the moment is too dangerous for civilians, who have been suffering for the past five years,” said Mr D’Akiyooi.