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Some South Sudan IDPs Call for Peace Monitor's Ouster


FILE - Former President of Botswana and then-U.N. special envoy Festus Mogae attends climate change conference in Algiers, Nov. 19, 2008.

Some residents of a South Sudanese displaced persons' camp say the head of the group that monitors the country's 2015 peace deal should be fired.

The residents accuse Festus Mogae, who chairs the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, or JMEC, of failing to speak up about government violations of the cease-fire, including alleged killings, rapes and torture committed by soldiers against civilians.

JMEC has reported on cease-fire violations and placed the blame on both sides in South Sudan's civil war.

But internally displaced people (IDPs) say Mogae is not accurately describing the situation faced by hundreds of thousands of civilians forced from their homes and into United Nations-run camps since the start of South Sudan's civil war.

Bikan Kuol, a community leader at the IDP camp in Juba, says IDPs like him have lost hope that JMEC's chairman has the ability to monitor implementation of the peace agreement.

Impartiality questioned

"He has shown beyond any reasonable doubt that he is no longer impartial," Kuol told VOA's South Sudan in Focus. "And he fears telling the truth to the international community about actual events happening in the country."

FILE - Displaced people gather around a water truck to fill containers at a United Nations compound which has become home to thousands of people displaced by the recent fighting, in the capital Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 29, 2013.
FILE - Displaced people gather around a water truck to fill containers at a United Nations compound which has become home to thousands of people displaced by the recent fighting, in the capital Juba, South Sudan, Dec. 29, 2013.

Ann Dau, a 39-year-old mother of eight, said she is tired of living in the IDP camp. She says she and her family ventured outside the camp for a time last year, but had to restrict their movements after renewed fighting broke out between government forces and rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar last July.

"We tried to move freely without fear. But July 2016, there were a lot of rapes [and] killings; even women were killed during that time. So now for this time we need Festus Mogae not to be there,” Dau said.

South Sudan In Focus reached out to JMEC’S communications officer in Juba, Mohammed Adow, for comment. Adow said Mogae is out of the country, but added he would forward VOA's request for an interview.

More than two million South Sudanese have been displaced from their homes during a war driven by political disputes and tribal rivalries.

President Salva Kiir and Machar's rebels signed a peace deal in August 2015 and established a transitional government of national unity, but clashes have continued. Mogae, the former president of Botswana, was appointed chairman of JMEC, which is tasked with monitoring implementation of the agreement.

Cease-fire violations

Under Mogae, JMEC has repeatedly blamed both sides for violating the peace deal. On March 17, Mogae told the African Union Peace and Security Council that the situation has deteriorated to an unacceptable level and asked both the government and rebels to comment on the alleged violations.

FILE - South Sudanese rebel soldiers raise their weapons at a military camp in the capital Juba, South Sudan.
FILE - South Sudanese rebel soldiers raise their weapons at a military camp in the capital Juba, South Sudan.

In February, he said that the continued disrespect of the cease-fire by both sides, other armed groups, and what he called “criminals” during the past few months had worsened the situation, forcing many civilians to flee the country.

Kuol said that’s not enough. He said since July, government forces have violated the peace agreement many times and JMEC Chairman Mogae has remained silent about the killings, rapes and torture.

“We the IDPs, we want peace, but peace without Mr. Festus Mogae because Festus Mogae has failed in reporting everything. Because he is supposed to write whatever obstructs the peace, but unfortunately he has failed to do that. His being here in Juba is nothing,” Kuol said.

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