The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) is an oversight body established to track implementation of the South Sudan peace agreement signed in August 2015. The JMEC is comprised of representatives of the signatories (parties), other South Sudanese stakeholders, regional guarantors, and the international community, and it monitors, evaluates, and oversees the implementation of the agreement and the mandate and tasks of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU). In the event of non-compliance, the JMEC is mandated to recommend appropriate corrective actions.
In June 2017, when the peace process had virtually stalled, the JMEC chairperson recommended the need for a revitalization of the peace process in South Sudan. He proposed an inclusive, high-level forum for the signatories, including other estranged groups and stakeholders, to agree on concrete measures to restore the permanent ceasefire, which had broken down.
In September 2018, after fifteen months of negotiations, the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) was signed. The JMEC was reconstituted two months later and became known as the Reconstituted JMEC (RJMEC).
The R-ARCSS significantly enhanced the RJMEC mandate and expanded its membership from twenty-eight to forty-three persons. Of particular note is that the RJMEC provides the opportunity for scrutiny of peace implementation from a range of different actors, including faith-based leaders, women’s groups, civil society, eminent personalities, business groups, academics, and youth.
In practice, all of the RJMEC’s members meet each month to discuss and exchange views on the status of implementation. This innovation, for example, permits the youth representative or the women’s representative to question the government or implementation mechanisms on the actions they have taken during the previous month.
Under the original agreement, the JMEC simply reported issues to the TGoNU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Council of Ministers, but this did not necessarily trigger further action. Under R-ARCSS, the RJMEC is required to “report all serious incidents of violation and critical issues that may arise during the implementation of the Agreement,” to the revitalized government (RTGonU) and IGAD, and IGAD is then required to convene an extraordinary meeting within fourteen days to decide on appropriate remedial actions.
The RJMEC is supported by an independent secretariat, which assists the Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson(s), and Commission members in the discharge of their oversight responsibilities. It serves as the secretariat for regular and extraordinary meetings of the RJMEC and ensures its operational functioning and reporting.
The RJMEC receives regular reports from implementing institutions and mechanisms and holds monthly plenary meetings in Juba. The secretariat convenes regular consultation meetings with Commission members, the parties, key stakeholders, and the various bodies implementing the agreement. The RJMEC has six thematic sub-committees, which systematically evaluate implementation of the Agreement, task by task and chapter by chapter, to assess progress.
In the case of non-implementation or any serious breaches, the RJMEC recommends appropriate corrective actions to the RTGoNU and to the guarantors (IGAD, the African Union, and the United Nations). In case of a deadlock, the RJMEC is mandated to propose measures to resolve the problem, and, if a party refuses, it is referred to IGAD for enforcement. The RJMEC provides regular reports and briefings to the RTGoNU, IGAD, AU, and UN.
The R-ARCSS provides a genuine chance for achieving a lasting peace in South Sudan. Even though many challenges persist, compared to the 2015 ARCSS, the revitalized peace agreement has already achieved very tangible results in a very short period of time, including a permanent ceasefire, cantonment of forces, improved security, and humanitarian access across the country.
In 2015, when JMEC was formed, there was very little evidence of progress on the peace process, as fighting continued. When the initial transitional government was formed in April 2015, implementation stalled and the July 2016 Presidential Palace fighting erupted. Preliminary gains were reversed and the conflict worsened.
The R-ARCSS is more inclusive, and is very popular with the parties and ordinary South Sudanese. Unlike the 2015 peace agreement, the parties appear to have a greater commitment to implementation of the revised agreement.
The most recent JMEC assessment shows that out of sixty-three key pre-transitional tasks, thirty-one have been completed, twenty-two are ongoing, and only ten are pending. The pending tasks are important, however, and are pre-requisites for the formation of the Revitalized TGoNU. These tasks include determining the number and boundaries of states within the country, restructuring of the Council of States, and the training and redeployment of the unified forces.
The recent one hundred day extension provides another opportunity to consolidate the gains that have been made in the peace process so far, to expedite and complete all the critical pending tasks, to build trust and confidence amongst the parties, and to establish a solid foundation upon which the revitalized new government of national unity can be formed to effectively implement the agreement and build a lasting peace in the Republic of South Sudan. The RJMEC continues to appeal for regional and international support for the full implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement as the best option for ending conflicts in South Sudan.
Stephen Oola is Senior Advisor on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC) overseeing implementation of the South Sudan peace agreement and a 2011 alum of the Kroc Institute’s Master’s in International Peace Studies program.