By Kachuol Mabil Piok, Juba, South Sudan
who is eating who?
April 19, 2015 (SSB) —- The quest for peace in South Sudan started a month after the country descended into the current abyss following political bickering within the SPLM which culminated in the bloody December 15.2013. Concerted attempts by the TROIKA (US, UK, and Norway) and the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD) to bring peace to South Sudan have been continuously frustrated by the warring parties-the Government of Republic of South Sudan (GRSS), and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO).
The cessation of hostilities agreement which was signed on the 23rd January, 2014, by both parties has never been implemented hitherto despite both parties pledging to abide by it. Attacks and counterattacks have been mounting in some parts of Greater Upper Nile (particularly Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile States). Political rhetoric and ethnicization of communities has been scaled up to unprecedented levels as both sides rally their strongholds to their cause.
The pursuit of zero-sum politics by parties to the conflict continues to diminish hopes for attaining peace. This has been as a result of both parties rejecting any proposed deal that does not guarantee the access to excessive amounts of power for either side. This elucidates the hard line positions adopted by the two parties. Hence their refusal to adopt the proposed deals calling for the placement of South Sudan under UN Trusteeship for certain period of time and the establishment of a transitional government that excludes both principals should be nuanced with lens. Instead both parties have engaged in blame games against each other or lashing out IGAD, and TROIKA as biased towards the other party when terms do not favour them.
From the outlook as things currently stand, South Sudan is on a steep road to collapse, unless the world resolves to take resolute action to salvage humanity. I concur with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry’s assertion about the irrelevance of legitimacy in the ongoing crisis. There is nothing sovereign or legitimate about a state that does not afford to protect its citizens, or provide basic services and yet is completely indifferent to the appalling situations in the country.
Instead of bitterly protesting threats of sanctions or placement of the country under UN trusteeship, why can’t both leaders dredge up the courage of their convictions for the love of their country and its people and strike a deal without much ado? Isn’t it unwise for both leaders to lash out at other nations who are trying to salvage their people from this senseless war? What does IGAD or TROIKA owe to South Sudanese that warrants condemnation? Isn’t Riek and Kiir who were elected on the same ticket in Sudan April 2010 general elections? Instead they should appreciate the efforts exerted by TROIKA and IGAD for peace to revisit South Sudan again. What if they lay back and say who cares, the people dying are your citizens. Will they not seek their help in bringing peace to South Sudan?
Given the above scenarios, it is prudent for the International Community, TROIKA, AU, and IGAD to impose peace on South Sudan. It is pretty much obvious that the two leaders have subordinated the common good of their citizens to their own pursuit for power. It goes without saying that coercing them through punitive measures is the only viable approach if South Sudan is to be saved.
Zero-Sum Politics is an Antithesis to Peaceful Settlement
It is writ large that both sides have no political will to end the current crisis. Instead they have chosen to remain blind to the appalling humanitarian situation in the country. In Upper Nile State, mammoths of civilians are still sheltering in deplorable conditions in UN camps in Melut, Palloch, and Malakal Counties. Thousands more have sought refuge in UNMISS Camps in Bentiu and Juba respectively. There are also reports that thousands more are starving in Greater Bhar El Ghazal, particularly in Warrap, and Northern Bhar El Ghazal Stat, needless to mention the perpetual inter-communal violence as a result of the power struggles spillover to the local terrains.
It is unfortunate and intolerable that both parties are unrelenting on their demands. With the SPLM-IO presenting unrealistic demands of power sharing, two armies, dissolution of national assembly, and financing of the debts they have incurred. President Kiir nonchalantly recounted how he turned down rebels’ demands in his recent state address during the rally organized by the SPLM in March 2015.
To the disappointment of the nation, which awaited a message of peace, the President continues to flex his muscles, in sheer disregard of shocking plights the people of South Sudan are facing. Thousands are wallowing in despair within and beyond the country’s borders. Why would those who claim to be genuine and not surrogates leaders cling to power?
With both parties pursuing their own interests at the expense of national interests, it unwise for the world to play spectator’s role as the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. Instead the two warring parties have perfected the art of “scapegoating”, castigating and lashing out at those nations and individuals who have remained indifferent to or rebuffed their positions and rhetoric and in the process hoodwinked the international community into inaction.
All the while, the country expected peaceful and quick resolution of the ongoing current crisis as opposed to a unilateral military settlement of the crisis. A defeat of either side will never be a win-win solution and will not augur well for long term stability of South Sudan. The world is full with history of wars that ended through military victories of some parties over others but still face recurrent wars as the vanquished sides still seek revenge. South Sudan will make no different, as a military victory by either side cannot guarantee long lasting peace.
The presumption that the government will crush the rebellion has informed its reluctance to compromise. The opposition has on the other hand been bolstered by incessant criticism against the government by the International Community- which they naively translate as a justification and legitimization of their campaign. All these misperceptions have relegated primacy of peaceful settlement of this crisis to the periphery.
If the government were to crush the rebellion today, will the Nuer nation support it? Or if the rebels oust President Kiir today, will that make Dr Riek Machar the president of South Sudan? If neither side is certain of what fate lays ahead of it, it is prudent for the warring parties to discard their hard line positions and double their efforts to a negotiated settlement to secure a permanent long term deal.
Given the impracticalities of the demands of both parties, it is important for the International Community and other regional organizations to coerce both parties to reach a deal sooner than later so as to salvage the civil population from war auxiliary catastrophes like hunger, and ethnic cleansing.
Avert State Collapse in South Sudan
Imposing peace will also serve to avert state collapse in South Sudan. South Sudan Finance Minister David Deng Athorbei made a plea recently to the donors, the International community, and the Regional Countries to help South Sudan from imminent economic (https://radiotamazuj.org/en/article/south-sudan-appeals-help-donors-avert-economic-collapse). this comes at a time when the minister is in negotiations for $ 500M loan with Qatar’s National Bank (QNB) to help cover the budget deficit.
The minister also acknowledged that the current war has depleted countries’ coffers. The conflict has seen the government recorded an all time low in revenue collections in both the oil and non oil sectors. Continued inaction of the world to the continuing economic crisis in South Sudan, the government will not be able to pay her employees in few months time. This will exacerbate the situation in South Sudan and the repercussions will be costly to the region, better the world acts now rather than later.
State collapse in South Sudan will be a source of regional and international security threat. It will be characterized by massive crossover of refugees to the neighboring countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan. Already these states are hosts to millions of South Sudanese who fled after the outbreak of the current crisis. Consequently, allowing the current situation to continue unabated will haunt the world in terms of security, military, economic and humanitarian costs as well as diplomatic efforts.
South Sudan is of great strategic importance to the world especially in the war against terror as the country provides a buffer to sweeping waves of terrorism across Sub-Sahara Africa. This is because of it virtually Sui generic socio-cultural and religious homogeneity; hence it cannot be allowed to descend into anarchy and sanctuary to the aggressive Jihadist elements in the region.
Economically, South Sudan has accumulated huge amounts of debt since the onset of the conflict. Some sources which preferred anonymity estimated the debts to accumulate to $15b two months ago. And if the conflict continues unaltered, the world will pay dearly in terms of mobilizing funds for reconstruction of the indebted nation. The earlier the world intervenes, the better because further accumulation of debts will mean depletion of the country’s resources. The oil rents and the borrowed money are being spent on arms, and financing of disastrous patronage networks. This will be an enormous setback to realization of millennium development goals.
In the military and security fronts, continued conflict will force world to contribute and finance troops, and other personnel to protect civilians and provide humanitarian services. Currently UNMISS has stationed thousands of troops and personnel in South Sudan because of the deteriorating humanitarian situation. The maintenance bill is already in $ billions. Had the world contributed for infrastructural development, South Sudan would be some few miles behind the developed world.
In the diplomatic front the TROIKA countries are estimated to have spent about a $ 1 billion on the tortoise paced negotiations in Addis Ababa. Thus failure to impose peace will undoubtedly lead to more resources being spent in the future. Will the tax payers in these countries be happy putting up the bills of some people who want to lynch themselves over reasons best known to them?
To prevent repeat of Rwanda in South Sudan
Signs of a repeat of Rwanda in South Sudan are glaring to both parties in conflicts. The Nuer nation will realize after the end of this war that it has lost a generation in a not worthy cause. The Dinka on the other hand has lost a significant number of its population in an equally unworthy cause.
But the impending Armageddon of the two tribes lies in the continuation of this war. Undeniably this conflict is a function of continuous reproduction of hatreds by selfish elites to perpetuate their existence in power. This has resulted in endemic ethnic mistrust that continuously shrinks the development of inter-ethnic social capitals.
Back to repeat of Rwanda in South Sudan, both Dinka and Nuer are vulnerable to possibilities of genocides if this senseless war is not halted. In regards to the Dinka nation, threats are abound, particularly from those other tribes who see the current crisis as an opportunity to avenge historical injustices. Anti-Dinka sentiments are rising each day because of the bullies meted against others by its rogue elements from the regular forces or vulgarity of utterances made by some of it members.
However, that does not exonerate other tribes from all sorts of vulgarities against each other or against the Dinka. Thus continuation of this war will polarize the country enormously. Whilst it continuation means subjecting mostly Nuer to the barrels of sophisticated weapons which devour quite a huge number of poorly armed and ill trained young people.
In a nutshell the continuation of this war will cost South Sudan its young energetic youth which it direly need for development. Given all the above undesirable situations, it is prudent for the International Community to seize this opportunity and impose peace to save the souls of South Sudanese from going to waste.
How to impose peace: Coercing the warring parties (coercive diplomacy)
The possibilities of the warring parties striking a deal unforced are currently next to impossibilities. Therefore, it is high time for the regional countries under the umbrella of IGAD, and the International Community to weigh pros and cons of a failed or belated peaceful settlement of South Sudan crisis.
This author favors a concerted coercive strategy by the IGAD and TROIKA against the warring parties. Coercive diplomacy has been used in various countries, Liberia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Libya among others. Military interventions were undertaken in order to safeguard freedoms, and security. The aftermaths of military interventions in Iraq and Libya notwithstanding, military interventions have had positive impacts in Liberia and Columbia due to strong commitments shown by ECOWAS and UN respectively.
The coercive strategy should not solely use empty threats to force the warring parties to reach an agreement. If inducements are proven futile, then it is prudent to embark on change of strategy. It is time to actualize the threats of targeted sanctions, arm embargoes, and boots on the ground among others. Sanctions that include freezing of assets, and travel bans will force the warring parties to make a U-turn toward peaceful mechanisms.
Imposition of arm embargoes on both parties will reduce casualties and the arm trafficking across the regional borders as witnessed in the nineties. Boots on the ground will be required to enforce peace by deterring any party that will violate the agreement. It has worked in Liberia when the nine member states of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened militarily in Liberia. Their intervention paved the way for successful conduct of the peaceful elections which enthroned Charles Taylor. Thanks to the Nigerian military.
The author acknowledges the challenges poses by the absence of hegemonic power in the Horn of Africa like Nigeria in West Africa. Nigeria was able to deploy her troops and contributed 90% of the funds for ECOMOG. State collapse in Somalia was largely a result of the lack of state that would play big boy’s roles in the Horn of Africa. The dearth of the big boy is now playing out in Addis Ababa in regards to resolving South Sudan crisis.
TROIKA’s restlessness behind the scenes micro-managing the negotiation processes is not helpful at all. Instead it encourages intransigence from both sides and has hardened them on pursuing military approach. Better for the TROIKA to come out and crack the whips on the warring parties. It is then that shall peace be realized in South Sudan.
Engaging the external patrons
The two warring parties have received supports from the neighboring countries in terms of arms and finances. For instance, no sooner had the war erupted in Juba, than President Museveni sent in Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) to help President Kiir dislodge the rebels headed by his erstwhile Vice President Riek Machar, who were advancing toward Juba, after overrunning the town of Bor, Jonglei State Capital.
Sudan, on the other hand, has renewed it support to Machar as it did in 1991 during the infamous split in the SPLM/A. Sudan is giving support to the SPLM-IO along the borders in terms of guns and logistics. Until today, the SPLM-IO is launching attacks on government positions in Northern Upper Nile from the Sudanese territories.
Thus, it is important for the international community to engage the external patrons of the warring parties to cease supporting their allies. And if they are intransigent, the international community ought to adopt other measures such as labeling them as rogue states or states sponsoring terrorism, terminating financial supports (foreign aids) or imposing sanctions on them if need be. Such measures will apparently engender compliance of both the warring parties and their external patrons.
Charles Taylor was pressured by the UN, UK, and ECOWAS to cease supporting the Sierra Leoneans’ Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of Sanko Foday against the government following their intransigence despite signing an agreement with the rebels. Some states like Sudan, and Libya were sanctioned under the same conditions.
From the above analysis, it is imperative that the benefits of an earlier settlement of South Sudan crisis are immense. Continuation of war will impact greatly on the regional and international security. Because majority of South Sudanese will cross over to other countries seeking refugee, with the benefits of hindsight from the security situation in Kenya, hospitality has been massively abused, the Kenyan population is becoming the victims of their own hospitality to Somalis. This is largely due to militarization and radicalization of the refugees by Somalis militant group-Alshabab.
Second security threat will be the exacerbation of cross border cattle raid between South Sudanese pastoralist communities bordering countries like Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia among others. This will happen against the backdrops of the non-existence of an authority to enforce order.
The third threat to the region will include massive reduction in trade volumes between South Sudan and East African countries, particularly Kenya and Uganda. The shutdown of significant number of oil wells in Upper Nile and Unity states at the onset of this crisis has subsequently depleted sources of revenues. South Sudan, as an importing economy, has run out of hard currencies to import more goods and services from the neighboring countries.
While in the domestic fronts, South Sudanese communities get polarize everyday along ethnic lines. Imposition of peace will be a face saving move because the retreating social capitals will be dredge up before sinking deep amidst hatreds. Now is the time the world should act.
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