We have learnt with dismay that the eighth session Phase II of the IGAD led peace talks scheduled to take place on the 25th instant has been adjourned indefinitely. This is yet another sign that the warring parties do not have the political will to bring this destructive war to an end.
This development comes at a time when the warring parties have given the international community a blank cheque to intervene in our country. Point 4 of the “Resolutions by the 28th Extraordinary Summit of the IGAD Heads of State and Government” reads:
“Further, the IGAD region shall, without reference to the warring
Parties, take the necessary measures, if need be, to directly
intervene in South Sudan to protect life and restore peace and
Our government, which is a member of IGAD, agreed to this resolution. Note that the intervention will not be by the IGAD organization but the “region”, meaning that no resolution to do so will be taken collectively by the organization. As dangerous as it is, this is not the only worrying sign. All of us are following meetings taking place in regional and international capitals on the fate of South Sudan should the parties fail to reach a peace agreement quickly.
While the future of our country is being debated in foreign capitals, there is no sign that the warring parties are taking serious steps towards concluding a peace agreement that will bring the current devastating civil war to an end. A lot of time is being wasted in promoting tactical positions that have nothing to do with the interest of our people. The last two sessions of the talks were spent discussing the powers of the President and the Prime Minister. As important as this matter is, this is just a fraction of the power sharing arrangement not to mention the other areas of the expected agreement, such as, governance, economic matters and security arrangements. At this pace, how long will we need to get a peace agreement in place?
The two warring parties have now resorted to holding public gatherings which would only serve as public relations rather than being a serious consultation on the sticking points in the negotiations. We are told that the SPLM/A-IO is calling its commanders to Pagak, a border location, to meet and resolve the sharing of executive powers between the President and the Prime Minister. Not to be outsmarted, the government is also calling for a gathering on the 24th instant on the same issue. This is not the first time for the two warring parties to break for consultations, and we never saw such gatherings before. What is new this time? The answer lies in that no party, or at least the hawks within each, would like to make the concessions needed to make an agreement possible, and would want to mislead public opinion that the positions they are advocating were “popularly” adopted.
We would like to note that the same government that prevented a delegation of the political parties from travelling to Addis Ababa to take part in the peace talks, is now inviting them to participate in the gathering it called for on the 24th instant as stakeholders “with a lead opportunity to contribute to and enrich the IGAD-led peace process”. The IGAD-led peace process is in Ethiopia not Juba and the stakeholders have the opportunity to contribute there. Who prevented them from doing so? Our people are intelligent enough not to be taken for a ride. On our part, we have since June been repeatedly wanting to engage with the government as independent stakeholders to see what common areas we can agree on but these attempts have always been contemptuously scoffed. The government has every right to consult its organs and supporters in any way it likes but will not succeed to co-opt independent stakeholders to bless indefensible positions.
Our position as political parties has always been crystal clear. First, there is no future for our country unless this senseless war is brought to a speedy end. Second, the status quo is never an option and all sides need to make the necessary concessions for peace to be possible. Third, the government bears more responsibility towards our people than the rebels and must lead the peace process by being proactive and holding the initiative on possible solutions, not, as its current delegation has always demonstrated, just waiting for suggestions that come from others only to react. Fourth, the resolution of the current conflict to bring about a just and lasting peace, cannot be realized by the two warring parties alone but through a multi-stakeholder round table conference as was agreed on the 9th of May and 10th of June.
We would like to caution the warring parties that while they are engaged in a dangerous brinkmanship, our country is in the grips of war that threatens to destroy it by real threats of external intervention and division of the country. Even a UN trusteeship is being floated for the first time for an independent country. To avoid all these worst case scenarios, all the masses of our people must pressure the warring parties to put the interest of the country above their personal interests so as to give peace a chance.