Over the week, the UK Ambassador to South Sudan made comments regarding disparity in the assembling of forces at the VIP training camp in Gorom near Juba. His remarks on the available number of government forces at the site caused some discomfort among members of the public, including the government.
On Friday, January 17, 2020, Ambassador Chris Trott made a follow-up interview with Eye Radio’s Daniel Danis, to clarify on his statement, and shade light on the broader aspect of the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement.
Here is the transcript of the 8-minutes interview…….
Amb. Chris Trott: I am aware of the fact that the interview I gave the other morning following my visit to Gorom has caused considerable confusion –for which I’m very sorry. My intention was to draw attention to the fact that there is some discrepancy in the force number in camps across the country. I wanted to congratulate the government for having supplied their forces to the Gorom camp, and recognize that they have brought 1,500 [forces]. And I urge all the institutions of the NPTC to work together to bring the opposition troops to Gorom so the training can begin. So we want to appeal to the NPTC and the various security committees to fulfil their logistic tasks to bring all of the troops to the training camps, so that the work, the creation of a single unified force can begin. So I should again emphasize that the government has fulfilled its obligation in Gorom camp.
Daniel Danis: Have you been able to gather any information regarding other training camps where the government and opposition forces have gathered for training and unification?
Amb. Chris Trott: I have not been to them personally, so it is difficult for me to comment. My understanding is that at the moment, still large numbers of troops –both government and opposition -are being moved to the camps. And the sooner that task is completed, then the training can begin because you can not begin the training with only half of the troops there, or without the troops of only one side there. And that is the point I was trying to make in the interview yesterday.
Daniel Danis: At what point will the United Kingdom –with you spearheading the diplomatic efforts here –help the NPTC to at least facilitate the movement of forces to the training site?
Amb. Chris Trott: I think that the task of the NPTC has been to undertake the logistics with the support of the money that the government has made available for the peace process. And we have no logistical capacity here, so we are encouraging the NPTC to use the money allocated to them to bring the troops to the camps.
Daniel Danis: There seems to be a tactical delay, and what activist refer to as lack of political will, by the parties to fulfil their obligations during the pre-transitional period, what is the role of the international community –and the UK in particular – at this moment to ensure that the parties abide by the agreement?
Amb. Chris Trott: Well, the most important thing is to try and help facilitate compromises to allow the tasks to be completed. The UK ‘Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Robert Fairweather was here [Friday, January 17] to encourage dialogue, and I have to say that he left here [Juba] feeling very encouraged by the progress that has been made, and hopeful that the outstanding issues can now be addressed with the different parties working together to implement the agreement.
Daniel Danis: Let’s talk about the overlapping issues right now in the pre-interim period. The envoys mediating the stalemate over the number and boundaries of the states have proposed a third-party solution, that is to refer the matter for arbitration… have you been informed by the envoys as the international community, and what is your take on this?
Amb. Chris Trott: Yes, IGAD held a briefing for the international community this morning and they explained that this is a proposal made, but they also explained that the parties have been given one week to consider the proposal before they finalize it. So at this stage, we are not entirely sure what it is that we are likely to be asked to do. And I would rather not comment on exactly what we are going to say until we see what we are being asked to do. But obviously what we want to do is facilitate a solution.
Daniel Danis: This afternoon the SPLM-IO proposed the deployment of a UN protection force –and probably this refers to the Regional Protection Force – which the UN Security Council, of which the UK is a veto member, endorsed in 2016…They say this is the compromise and risk they are willing to take if they are to participate in a unity government next month. What happened to the RPF deployed in Juba in 2017, and does the UK think it is time to revive that plan?
Amb. Chris Trott: So the RPF was created to fit within UNMISS, it was not created as a separate entity, because as you know if you have more than one force with more than one chain of command on the ground at any one time, there is a risk that there will be a misunderstanding. So the RPF which was made up of some troops from a couple of the neighbouring countries [mainly Rwanda] was dispatched and they are now part of the general UNMISS force. And they could not be given a separate mandate, they were given a mandate by the United Nations that was eventually folded into the UNMISS mandate. So they are here [Juba], they are performing tasks in accordance with the broad UNMISS mandate. If there are additional tasks that the parties would like UNMISS to do, there is a process for them to make that request –both to the UN Secretary-General Special Representative to South Sudan and the UN Security Council. But obviously, the UNMISS mandate can only be altered, but it has to respect the rules of the United Nations and its peacekeeping forces.
Daniel Danis: The parties agreed for the second time in November to push the formation of a government of national unity to February 22nd, 2020, so that they can determine the number and boundaries of the states, and to reorganize, train, unify and deploy the forces. If by the end of this month the matter of the states is not resolved, and the unification of the forces is not completed, what is the UK prepared to do to ensure the parties respect the timeline of the agreement?
Amb. Chris Trott: Well, really what is important is what the parties think they need to do in order to ensure that conflict doesn’t break out again here in South Sudan. And so if the dialogue continues as we have seen over the last few days, one would hope that in advance of the deadline, if it looks like the deadline is going to slip, there will be a consultation amongst the parties. The most important thing is that all of the parties respect the cessation of hostilities, don’t go back to fighting and continue to have a dialogue in order to try and resolve the difficulties or come to an agreement as to how the difficulties can be resolved.
Daniel Danis: And while we on this topic of cessation of hostilities, what is the UK position on the signing of a declaration by the government and hold-out armed opposition groups in Rome last week.
Amb. Chris Trott: I think that this is a very good thing because the hold-out groups have now reaffirmed their own commitment to the cessation of hostilities and to protecting humanitarian workers, and allowing humanitarian access. This is absolutely fundamental for the security and the safety of the people of South Sudan. In the Rome Declaration, there was also talk about an onward ongoing dialogue that should restart in Rome next week between the non-signatories and the signatories to the revitalized peace agreement. That is also a good thing. My feeling is that the best way for those that have signed the revitalized agreement –to show that the agreement will work -is for us to get to the point where the transition starts. Because then those who are outside, who are saying “we did not sign it because we didn’t believe it will work,” will see that they were wrong and they will come to join the process. And I hope that if they come to join the process, they can be welcomed back.
Daniel Danis: Finally Ambassador, recently the United States placed sanctions on senior government officials, including the First Vice President Taban Deng…is the UK prepared to invoke such consequences to deter the leaders and the parties from violating the agreement?
Amb. Chris Trott: We all have different processes for engaging in South Sudan, and I think it is difficult for me to comment on something that one of our colleague and friends do. But all I know is that all of us are doing everything we can to try and persuade the parties to implement the agreement, and we remain ready –if people are judged to have undermined the agreement, or if people are judged to have worked against the peace agreement, we stand ready to use the tools available to us to put pressure on them to return to the fold.
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