The major outbreak of violence in the South Sudanese capital of Juba this past week caused hundred of deaths. The violence, which has also displaced 30 000 people, continues despite a joint call by President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar to stop the clashes. This raises questions about their control over their respective factions.
This recent flare-up was met by a forceful reaction from the African Union Peace and Security Council (AU PSC), which called for an unconditional ceasefire and threatened to adopt targeted sanctions against those responsible for the outbreak of violence.
These developments follow on the 17 August 2015 peace agreement in South Sudan, and the formation of the transitional government of national unity in April this year. At the time, the AU welcomed this as an important step in ensuring peace after several years of destructive civil war. There is no sign of tensions being resolved anytime soon, however, with serious clashes also reported at the end of June in the north-west of the country.
Waiting for inclusive dialogue in Burundi
Since June last year, the PSC has held at least eight meetings on Burundi. Apart from its engagement in Somalia, the situation in Burundi has taken up most of the PSC’s time.
In January this year, heads of state of the PSC reversed the decision taken in December 2015 to deploy a military force to halt the deterioration of the situation in Burundi. Instead, the PSC sent a high-level delegation of heads of state led by South African President Jacob Zuma.
The delegation asked for the resumption of the inter-Burundian dialogue without any preconditions and the doubling of military experts and human rights observers from 100 to 200 personnel. In May, 32 human rights observers and 15 military experts were already deployed.
Meanwhile, the government is still opposed to the inclusion of opposition groups that have not renounced violence, such as the Conseil National pour le respect de l’Accord d’Arusha pour la Paix et la Réconciliation au Burundi et de l’Etat de droit (CNARED). The first round of the inclusive dialogue was held in Arusha in June with some elements of CNARED, but not as an organisation.
On the ground, the context remains volatile with assassinations of military personnel and grenade attacks against the civilian population. The PSC has again asked for the full deployment of human rights observers, military experts and police officers. The PSC also conducted a field mission to Burundi in June.
DRC: a facilitator appointed
Elections are due in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in November this year. Incumbent President Joseph Kabila is barred by the constitution from running for a third term. The opposition accuses the government of intentionally trying to delay the election in order for Kabila to extend his stay in power. A ruling by the Constitutional Court in May stated that Kabila could stay in power until his successor was inaugurated.
Meanwhile, Moïse Katumbi, a presumptive presidential candidate, has been pursued by the courts. In June 2016 he was charged for selling a building he did not own and convicted to three years in prison in abstentia. Former Organization of African Unity (OAU) secretary general, Edem Kodjo, was appointed at the request of the Congolese government to help it to organise a national dialogue with the opposition. However, opposition parties claim the facilitator lacks impartiality; and denounced the national dialogue as an illegal way to prolong Kabila’s stay in power.
Guinea-Bissau: tensions around presidential powers
The political context in Guinea-Bissau remains volatile due to tensions in the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde between the president and certain factions regarding the extent of presidential powers. The PSC held a session on Guinea-Bissau on 9 March; stressing the importance of respecting the constitution.
On 21 March the council conducted a field mission and held consultations with relevant stakeholders. It appealed to the president of Guinea-Bissau to promote compliance with the constitution.
On 31 March the PSC requested the appointment of a high-level team to facilitate dialogue between the political stakeholders, and to promote an inclusive agreement of ‘Government Stability and Peaceful Coexistence’. The PSC again met on 9 June and expressed its concern at the deterioration of the political climate in Guinea-Bissau.
Somalia: looking for sustainable funding and effective command and control
The funding of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has been the major issue on the PSC agenda. In its decision on 29 February, it recalled the need to improve command and control in line with the Djibouti Declaration by Troop- and Police-Contributing Countries at the level of Heads of State and Government.
Earlier this year, the PSC underscored the need for the federal government of Somalia to ensure that citizens enjoy peace dividends in areas liberated from al-Shabaab, including through the provision of basic public services.
At its meeting on 28 April, the council extended the mandate of AMISOM for 12 months. It called for a review of the concept of operations to better align it with the security environment and the necessity of renewed offensive operations against al-Shabaab in Somalia.
Sudan: a contested roadmap for peace
On 27 April the PSC welcomed the signing of the roadmap agreement for peace by the government of Sudan. This document calls for the end of hostilities in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile. However, opposition groups rejected the roadmap agreement, asking for the inclusion of confidence-building measures.
The PSC encouraged the joint working group composed of the United Nations (UN), the AU and the government of Sudan to elaborate an exit strategy for the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The council expressed its concern about the prevailing humanitarian situation in Darfur, with continuing restrictions and denials of access and clearances being imposed on UNAMID and humanitarian actors.
Terrorism discussed by heads of state
The terror threat posed by Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin was not on the agenda of the PSC in 2016, but was treated under the thematic issue of terrorism. So were the incidents of ongoing violence in Mali and the terror attacks in Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire.
In January, the council stressed the need for increased mobilisation. Among other measures, it urged member states to sign and ratify the OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism and its 2004 Supplementary Protocol.
The PSC called upon the commission to develop and integrate counter-terrorism in pre-deployment training for peace support operations and in regional exercises.
On 19 April, the PSC also held an open session on the role of de-radicalisation policies in the fight against terrorism. Participants urged the establishment of a comprehensive continental counter-radicalisation and counter-terrorism strategy. Little news, however, has filtered through on the readiness of the Lake Chad Basin joint task force against Boko Haram – an AU initiative following a decision in January 2015.
Forgotten crisis in Mozambique
The conflict between the ruling Frelimo (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique) and the opposition Renamo (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana) has grown in intensity since the beginning of the year. The source of this rift is the attempt by Renamo’s leader Afonso Dhlakama to seize power in regions that he claims were won by Renamo in the last elections in 2014.
Since mid-2015, clashes between the country’s security forces and Renamo have caused the displacement of 12 000 people to neighbouring Malawi. After many attempts, the warring parties accepted the mediation by Malawi’s president on 17 June. The conflict has not been addressed by the PSC.
Written by Yann Bedzigui, Researcher, Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis division, ISS Addis Ababa