The role of the IGAD Mission in the Republic of South Sudan

IGAD upgraded its presence in various IGAD Member States namely; Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda to full time presence instead of ad hoc engagements or small liaison offices, while Djibouti remains the seat of the Secretariat and the Executive Secretary. The IGAD presence in the Republic of South Sudan started with a liaison office at the sub-national regional government of southern Sudan in 2005 to follow up on the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and upgraded to a small Juba Liaison Office after South Sudan’s independence on 9 July 2011.

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UN Photo/Isaac Billy
UN Photo/Isaac Billy

The Juba Liaison office (JLO) remained a low-key representation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and the IGAD Secretariat over the years. The Liaison office was headed by an office with the title of Special Envoy to South Sudan, and the position fell vacant 3 years ago after the retirement of Ambassador Abou Zied. Yet, JLO continued to provide support including as mediator in South Sudan’s conflict, the Special Envoy for South Sudan. The two Special Envoys had different mandates, scope of work and titles. 

The engagement of youth and women groups on matters of inclusivity of peace implementation as well engagement on regional programmes is an important priority of the Mission in South Sudan

The recent upgrade of IGAD’s presence in South Sudan focused on the establishment of a diplomatic presence to ease communication with the host country, engage counterparts from the diplomatic community on South Sudan’s specific needs, engage in programming on South Sudan and present opportunitiesto directly engage the general public in  realizing the wisdom and vision of H.E. Dr. Workneh Gebeyu, the Executive Secretary who envisaged a people-oriented organisation.

COVID-19 struck in the first quarter of 2020 and regular IGAD activities such as capacity building, workshops, engagement with youth, women and civil society groups were all affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, yet the IGAD Mission in the Republic of South Sudan continued to build networks with various government offices, officials and counterparts.

Priorities of IGAD Mission to South Sudan 

The engagement of youth and women groups on matters of inclusivity of peace implementation as well engagement on regional programmes is an important priority of the Mission. Many IGAD initiatives on education, free movement of goods and people, trans-humance, cross-border health and livestock programmes, supporting infrastructure development and regional trade are people oriented, and the general public needs to know about, embrace and positively and effectively participate in these actions. These collective programmes across the region are the drivers for regional integration and mutual development of all countries and societies of the region.

The Mission prioritizes collaboration with existing partners in South Sudan such as the UN agencies, international organisations and developmental partners in delivering collectively to the improvement of standards of living for the people of South Sudan and delivery of public services. Other IGAD partners in Africa and globally are always welcome to contribute to the effectiveness of the Mission in its operations such as ACCORD, Swiss-Peace and Crisis Management Initiatives (CMI) among others.

Finally, as South Sudan aspires to continue its contribution to regional peace and stability mediating between Sudanese protagonists, advancing the dialogue to bolster the smooth transition in Sudan and of late, pushing for de-escalation of tension and conflict between Sudan and Ethiopia, the Mission and MSU remain committed to support the Government of South Sudan’s investments in mediation. 

The Mission has succeeded in shifting relations between the Republic of South Sudan as a member and the rest of IGAD

The main challenge to IGAD’s operations in the Republic of South Sudan is the scarce knowledge of what IGAD’s major focus is. For quite some time, all IGAD engagements with people and entities of South Sudan were connected to the peace mediation commencing from the Nairobi Declaration of 1996 which shaped IGAD’s agenda and revitalized it from an entity solely dealing with drought and desertification to one preparing the ground for development through peace making and mediation processes.

To sum up, the IGAD Mission in South Sudan proves to be a positive step in rallying the general public behind IGAD, while creating grounds for understanding the logical framework behind the design of regional interventions both with regard to regional integration and  the peace-making process. 

The Mission so far, has succeeded in shifting relations between the Republic of South Sudan as a member and the rest of the IGAD family, from the previous status of dormant membership with focus on internal affairs to active and constructive membership. It is a leading member in the region on collective efforts that ensures stability and addresses conflicts peacefully having experienced their far-reaching consequences. 

The Mission continues to engage various segments of the society in investing effectively in regional peace and stability, and pushes for the advancement of regional integration equally with other interventions from the remaining member states to realize the dream of uniting under one common agenda this one nation which is scattered throughout various member states.

The presence of the Mission in South Sudan helps to shape global interaction on matters of South Sudan, with the Mission pushing for more ownership by South Sudan’s leaders with regard to the issues and solutions. The Mission’s modus operandi is to encourage dialogue among various elements of society in South Sudan and to address their differences, while understanding where they come from in terms of perspective. 

Aleu Garang, Ph.D., is the Head of the IGAD Mission to the Republic of South Sudan.

ACCORD recognizes its longstanding partnerships with the European Union, and the Governments of Canada, Finland, Ireland, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, UK, and USA.