A version of this post originally appeared on the Lesley on Africa blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
Yesterday in Addis Ababa a Cessation of Hostilities Agreement was signed between the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement / Army in Opposition (SPLM/A in Opposition).The agreement enters into force 24 hours from the time at which it was signed.
Contrary to what some media are reporting, this cessation of hostilities is not the same as a ceasefire, and I would recommend reading this very informative Watch International post on the lexicon of peace agreements to understand the difference between the two.
That said, an astute fellow analyst has pointed out that the cessation of hostilities has some elements of a ceasefire:
"Practically, since this agreement also includes provisions for a joint monitoring and verification mission, it mirrors a lot of the components of a ceasefire. However, unlike a lot of ceasefires, it doesn't call for the United Nations to be involved in monitoring violations. Instead, it leaves that in the hands of the two parties, plus their mediator, the regional IGAD organization."
Therefore, it may be more appropriate to refer to this cessation of hostilities as a "diet ceasefire" or "ceasefire lite."
The signing of this cessation raises a number of questions on the way ahead, which I will pose below:
Is the SPLM/A in Opposition as cohesive as it's made to appear in the agreement?
I've long doubted that Riek Machar has a monopoly on anti-government force since the crisis started last month, and the SPLM/A in Opposition may not be able to control violence perpetrated by SPLA defectors General Peter Gadet or General James Koang Chuol or by the resurgent White Army, which has vowed to fight on. In fact, there's a chance that SPLA defectors and members of ethnically-defined localized armed groups may see no benefit in adhering to a cessation of hostilities between political elites.
What comes after the cessation of hostilities?
It is very important to recognize that the cessation is not a peace agreement that spells out political and military power-sharing arrangements, reconciliation initiatives, and plans for Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR). Rather, it's better to think of the cessation as a "time out" that effectively freezes parties to armed conflict in place, requires them to disengage from fighting, and allows for humanitarian access.
I think the cessation of hostilities is an enabler that at least gets the warring parties apart long enough to set up a formal peace process that could address these deeper issues.
Who are the guarantors to this cessation of hostilities?
Although this is not a peace agreement, I think we can draw some insights from that body of academic literature.
Glassmyer and Sambanis (“Rebel-Military Integration and Civil War Termination,” Journal of Peace Research, May 2008 vol. 45 no. 3, pp. 365-384) and Hoddie and Hartzell ("Civil War Settlements and the Implementation of Military Power-Sharing Agreements, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 40, no. 3, 2003, pp. 303-320) argue that the presence of third-party actors can verify compliance with the terms of a peace agreement and can act as guarantors of security.
In some cases -- and I would argue that South Sudan is one of them -- third-party actors need to have the diplomatic clout to convene warring parties and ensure implementation and the military power to deter or physically separate warring parties if the agreement falls apart.
In the present case of South Sudan, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) which brokered the talks, is responsible for setting up a Joint Technical Committee (JTC) which will establish a Monitoring and Verification Team (MVT) that is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the agreement.
However, the issue of who can provide a military deterrent is unclear. The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) is not mentioned in the cessation agreement but even if it was, UNMISS is still in the process of receiving the additional 5,500 soldiers and 440 police to strengthen the mission, plus GRSS is in a war of words with UNMISS over what it perceives to be the UN's impartiality in South Sudan.
IGAD has also approved a 5,500 person force to be sent to South Sudan, and there is a chance that this force could consist of IGAD member states but contribute to the new UNMISS mandated force strength.
However, the problem with IGAD troop contributors is that they may be perceived as impartial like Sudan or (Ahem!) Uganda, or like Kenya and Ethiopia, and may be militarily overextended due to their commitments to other peacekeeping missions.
That leaves Djibouti and Somalia as potential troop contributors to an IGAD force, so I'm just going to hazard a guess and say that by default, UNMISS will have to be the military guarantor of the cessation of hostilities - or there will be no guarantor at all.