The aging mango tree is a long way from the corridors of power in Brussels. On the outskirts of Yei, it’s the venue for the final meeting of the visiting European Union delegation in this once prosperous town in South Sudan’s greenbelt.
The visiting delegation, led by the Mr. Patrick Simonnet, (Director of the Horn of Africa Division, Brussels) and European Union Ambassador to South Sudan Dr. Sinead Walsh includes Mr. Stergios Varvarousis (Desk Officer South Sudan Brussels) and Ms. Frances Collins (EU Deputy and Head of Political Section, Juba). The delegation is in Yei to visit the work of the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism. CTSAMVM has a Monitoring and Verification Team (MVT) based at the local UNMISS compound and plays a critical role in monitoring, verifying and reporting on the implementation of South Sudan’s ceasefire in Yei River State.
The CTSAMVM MVT Yei’s regular patrols include the verification of forces and cantonment sites, investigating allegations of violations to the ceasefire, and meeting regularly with communities and representatives of signatory parties to the ceasefire.
While the ceasefire has generally held across most of the country since the peace agreement was signed in September 2018, the area around Yei remains potentially volatile. The town’s once thriving market is open, some children have returned to school but many businesses remain shuttered.
Earlier in the day, the delegation met with Yei River State Deputy Governor the Honorable Youstos Baba Dema Lukudu and members of cabinet. Mr. Simonnet told the Deputy Governor that the EU was happy to hear that the ceasefire was holding, and that it was important that all groups adhered to the peace process.
The delegation also met with Brigadier General Malong Agat, the Commander of the South Sudan People’s Defense Force (SSPDF) First Brigade, and discussed the planned cantonment of forces and the importance of ensuring access for CTSAMVM’s monitors in order to fulfil CTSAMVM’s mandate.
Under the mango tree, the EU delegation meets with more than 150 of the civilians displaced by fighting in Mukaya, 20 kilometres from Yei, earlier in the year. The small community outlines their security concerns and their wish that peace and security return so they can resume their lives.
“We continue to ask all parties to the conflict to resolve their differences by dialogue and not by fighting,” Mr. Simonnet told the assembled crowd. “The European Union will continue to stand by the people of South Sudan in their efforts for peace and development.”
The European Union, through the African Peace Facility, a fund set up to support the African Union’s efforts in the area of peace and security, has provided €5 million to the regional body IGAD in support of CTSAMVM’s core functions and activities in accordance with Article 2.4.6 of the R-ARCSS.