​FINAL DAY, 16 FEB 2018: UPDATES ON THE IGAD-LED HIGH LEVEL REVITALISATION FORUM IN ADDIS ABABA

By Nakuwa Junior

Morning folks: Apologies for not having updated you promptly in the last few days as anticipated earlier. 
So much has been happening here in Addis – both inside the HLRF Plenary Hall and outside. Ethiopia, and perhaps the whole Eastern Africa region, African continent and the world, wakes up to the shocking news of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Hailemarian Desalegn resignation yesterday. This followed the other night’s induced resignation of South Africa’s President, Zuma, resigning. With Mugabe resigning late last year after nearly 40 years in power, these high-profile induced resignations are often very rare on the African continent, as they also come with their owns measures of political jittery and anxiety. On the other hand, there has been a buzz and glee amongst South Sudanese, especially on social media, praying and hoping this rare wind of change (resignations) whips westwards from these Ethiopian highlights towards the Nilotic plains. Oh well, we shall have to wait and see…
Back to the South Sudan Civil Society Forum’s and Coalition of Women Groups work here in Addis in the past week, I would like to share with you on my own behalf that we have had several lobbying and advocacy meetings with several African and western Ambassadors, Special Envoys, policy makers and South Sudanese political groups like NAS, TGoNU, SPLM-IO, ANC, FDs, NMC, NDM, etc
In the last couple of days, for instance, we’ve met with the embassies of Egypt (Ambassador), Rwanda (Military Attache), Japan (two junior officers), Norway (Special Envoy Erling Skojonsberg, Amb. Lars Andersen & Johnaness) & United Stated States of America (Amb. Mary Beth Leonard, Senior Advisor Paul Sutphin & Political Officer Kelly Baumgartner). I can’t publish the intricate details of these meetings as the rule of the Chatham House applied. 

I
n general though, and in no particular order and depending on who it is that we were meeting, we raised the followings:
1. Our collective gratitude for their continued support on the peace process and also on humanitarian front. The US, for instance, have spent a total of a staggering 11 Billion US dollars since South Sudan became independent in 2011, and a further 752 million US dollars so far this year, and we are only in February. Norway, probably our oldest true ally has been there since 70s/80s. They, commit their support towards the peace process and that when peace is realised, they shall then long-term development partnerships/co-operations.  
2. Our concerns on the IGAD-led process; although inclusivity (more political parties, women, youth, etc) has been relatively bettered this time round, the process is not really addressed the root-causes of the conflict, as it seems to concentrate more on power-sharing and maintenance of the status quo, and that many South Sudanese are losing trust and confidence on it.
3. We also amplified the voices of the desperate South Sudanese people back home, the Diaspora and refugee camps calling for PEACE. 

4. The need to persuade and also apply more pressure on our leaders (both in opposition and government) to put their individual interests aside and compromise on key areas that have proven difficult to agree on.
5. That peace deal yet to be signed must reflect the collective and broader agenda of the youth, women, and marginalised groups; minority ethnic groups, people with disability, gender & sexuality minorities, religious minorities, etc
6. The need to apply more pressure on the neighbouring countries that have either been directly playing a negative role in South Sudan’s conflict or through regional bodies like IGAD. The issue of more arms embargoes, sanctions on financial institutions facilitating illicit money from South Sudan, targeted and effective sanctions on corrupt officials and their associates, more asset freeze, etc were raised.
7. The need to create more and secure civic space in South Sudan and the region for the civil activists to carry on with their work without fear of intimidation, arrest, forced deportation or being killed.
With today effectively being the last day of the Second Phase of the High-Level Revitalisation Forum, talks are underway in the Plenary Hall on Chapter One: THE REVITALISED TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL UNITY (TGoNU). This Chapter has been the most engaging part of this whole HLRF process so far, with last minute wrangles, persuasions, rigid positioning, despair and at times hopelessness. 

• It’s reported that parties (incumbent TGoNU & most opposition groups – both armed and unarmed) are planets apart when it comes to certain key issues like

• Power-sharing ratios

• Size of the government – lean vs accommodative 

• Number of States – 32 vs 21 vs Vs 15 vs 10 vs 3 Regions

• Constitutional provisions on those to be serving during the transitional and post-transitional periods 

• and many more issues of contention 
With today’s talks likely to go deep into the early hours of tomorrow, it’s still ‘very early’ to tell the trajectory of what the outcome of these talks will be. However, reading from the general moods and comments from the Plenary Hall, observers, analysts, and the greater need to thoroughly delve into the sticky issues, it would be a BIG ASK to expect a good and sustainable peace deal to be signed by the end of this second round of the HLRF.  I’m sorry, people! There is a genuine need to find more time to go through these critical issues where consensus hasn’t emerged. Perhaps, a break might be needed so that all parties go back and reassess, rethink and re-evaluate their positions, and revitalise their energies levels.
We, South Sudanese, ourselves, and especially the leaders, need to really come for these kinds of peace fora with inner peace and then we be hopeful.
As for those into miracles (I am not), please do hope that they can still happen.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE UPDATES LATER TODAY. 

(Please peruse through pictures of the past many days)

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