By Alfred Ladu Gore
1. The Effects of Flawed Methodological Approach on the Fundamental Issues Arising from the Crisis Situation in South Sudan
In the methodological context of this paper, it is better to be up-front as a non-partisan method of analysis in revealing the emotions, feelings, experiences and interest of the author in exposing what is really happening with the IGAD peace process that has stagnated and in turn how it has not made any head way at all.
The collapse of the South Sudan peace talks mediated by the IGAD was expected because the process was fraught with difficulties and far from achieving its target, despite setting numerous datelines to achieve peace and restore stability to South Sudan. The failure of the talks exposed the lack of knowledge and deficiency in the methodology the mediators employed. Such failure compounds the IGAD peace process without concrete understanding of the obstacles and opportunities confronting those who want to bring fundamental political change.
In the current stage, it is not possible for the mediators to fully comprehend how peace and justice can be achieved in that young country. It is also a clear indication of the lack of the seriousness on the part of President Kiir’s regime, which committed genocide in Juba in December 2013 and horrendously waged war on South Sudanese citizens based on ethnic differences, to restore peace to the people of South Sudan, precipitating the level of political violence of unprecedented scale in the country. The stakeholders and the International Community should now know who, exactly, is obstructing peace agreement at the talks in Addis Ababa. The downturn of the peace process was not by accident but a failure resulting from a wide range of factors which became ever more apparent as some concerned parties eventually found out.
President Salva Kiir, adamantly, refused to negotiate peace agreement in Addis Ababa because some of his rouge ministers and army commanders in Juba threatened to take over the government if he signed any peace agreement with the SPLM/SPLA leader, Dr. Riek Machar. They intend to buy time to apply military solution to resolve the conflict – a fate he has failed to achieve in the last 15 months. President Kiir should have realized by now that he has failed to use military means to win the war he started. It is very unfortunate that Salva Kiir and his group have decided to prolong the suffering of the millions of South Sudanese just to remain in power for three more years using unconstitutional means.
The amendment to extend the terms of a sitting president and National Legislative Assembly is not provided for in the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan. Therefore, the government of President Kiir should be considered illegitimate. By the act of manipulating the instruments of governance in the country, Kiir has declared war on the South Sudanese and expressed complete disregards to the IGAD peace process. The regime in Juba is now a legitimate target for forceful eviction from power as it is no longer an elected government and has resorted to employing dictatorial tactics to remain in office.
It is now time that the report of the African Union Commission of Inquiry in South Sudan (AUCISS), that has been deliberately withheld purportedly to give the peace talks a chance and not to jeopardize it, is made public and all culprits mentioned in the report taken to the court of justice to prevent the repetition of government sponsored war crimes and crimes against humanity in the future. The publication of AUCISS report will put a complete stop to the impunity perpetrated by the government and its machineries against innocent unarmed civilians.
The UN Security Council resolution to pass sanction regime against certain individuals in President Kari’s regime who are accused of instigating genocide against Nuer tribesmen in Juba is timely and very much welcomed. This is a step in the right direction and will make those who claim to lead the people of South Sudan be more accountable for any barbaric actions against South Sudanese citizens. The sanction on individuals should not be misconstrued as sanction on the whole country. Salva Kiir and his cronies in Juba are trying to mislead people that the UN Sanctions will be imposed on South Sudan to evoke the emotions of the citizens. The UN Security Council document clearly says the sanctions will be imposed on individuals who are found to be instigators of the violence and, by extension, responsible for the killing of Nuer people in Juba and obstructing peace to return to the country which they have destroyed
2. A Set of Critical Choices the Mediators Must Make for Successfully Negotiated End to the Conflict.
To avoid facing challenges with the South Sudan peace negotiations once it is started again under the refurbished IGAD forum, the mediators need to approach the conflict in a constructive manner and rethink the entire process. It is important that the countries participating in the mediation are increased and selected judiciously giving considerations to the principles of neutrality, knowledge, skills and experiences. The negotiation process should be allowed to benefit from dialogue on the critical issues that would bring lasting peace to the country.
The mediators need to resist the temptation of predesigned peace agreement that the parties will be forced to sign or face consequences disciplinary action. By doing so, the interactive problems that beset the first nine sessions of the peace negotiations could be circumvented and imposition of solutions in favor of the genocidal government of Kiir can be prevented, to open up the process for constructive dialogue among the conflicting parties and participants based on democratic practices. Nevertheless, all those challenges can be corrected now by setting forth a new process and communication standards among the concerned parties. The importance of reinvigorating the peace talks cannot be underestimated. It is imperative, urgent and decisive for the success of the next round of talks, so that it does not stagnate and crumble.
The IGAD, African Union (AU), United Nations Security Council (UNSC), United States of America (USA), China and Troika have to make a critical set of choices to determine the nature and extend of the transitional government of national unity. They seem to be unconcerned about the fundamental issues that triggered the conflict. The conflict has not only evolved into a civil war in South Sudan, but it has sparked a cycle of horrific social disorder that is rapidly spreading everywhere due to the inability of Salva Kiir’s regime to cope with it. The level of lawlessness in the country has now started a wave of popular uprising of South Sudanese in Upper Nile, Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria regions, who elected Kiir in the 2010 general elections, to remove him from power.
The widespread disapproval of the regime in Juba is a reality that mocks the assertions that President Kiir is a legitimate president. The support of some foreign countries to President Kari’s government, even after slaughtering more than 50,000 Nuer and other ethnicities in a period of 2 days, amounts to double standards. It also confirms that these countries and some individuals connected to the IGAD peace process have interests in South Sudan that could only be protected by President Salva Kiir. The killing of thousands of innocent South Sudanese does not matter to them as long as their interests are intact. These countries and some individuals with vested interests in South Sudan have orchestrated and overseen the utter destruction of other regimes in other countries in the name of democracy and human rights. Why then is the fascist regime of Salva Kiir an exception?
Over one year following the holocaust in Juba, the country remains without human rights, basic freedoms and institutions of law to protect its citizens. It is a typical “failed” state and the most dangerous place to live in the world as independent observers have labeled it. This underscores the fact that Kiir is untrustworthy because he focuses on himself and cares less about his own people. Such a leader, automatically, breaks bond of trust with the people who support him and those he governs and should no longer be treated with high honor and respect as before. Those countries and individuals seen to be taking sides in favor of the Juba regime in the peace talks are compromise their positions and must be excluded from the talks.
The recent announcement to reconvene another round of peace talks, possibly in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, has come as relief. It is a welcome initiative and indicates the commitment to restore lasting peace in the war-torn country. But certain cardinal questions to ask are: Will the new initiative focus on the root causes of the war leading to a permanent resolution of the conflict or it will simply seek to impose peace agreement without addressing the core issues? Will the mediators approach the new peace negotiations without factoring in their subjective, preferential alignment with a warring party at the expense of another as was explicit in the, previous, collapsed peace talks?
3. The imperative need for new Paradigm shift to create socio-political space: Inclusive and Equitable Processes for Meaningful Change.
As the IGAD and its partners think of new mechanisms and strategies to end the conflict in the country, it should, seriously, consider not limiting the negotiations to power-sharing and structure of the government during the transitional period. But they should develop a comprehensive framework to resolve the root causes of the conflict to usher in a government that is transparent and accountable to its citizens.
Any attempt to bring about peace agreement that concentrates power in the hands of particular ethnic elites backed by politically aligned army, will only put in place a system that will oppress South Sudanese. Every effort must be exerted to ensure the military, security and law enforcement agencies are representative of the diverse ethnicities of South Sudan and must be separated from the political leadership. The peace talks must be approached in a systematic manner and not changing from one position to another or coming up with new and unacceptable proposals every time a new session of peace talks begin. This sort of vacillation makes the talks more difficult, problematic and counter-productive because the mediators want to patronize and impose their will on the participants by refusing to take into account their views on the settlement of the conflict.
Furthermore, the lack of well conceptualized agenda to guide the peace talks is to blame for the failure of the mediators. It is important to develop a framework containing core issues which are of uttermost concern to South Sudan such as federalism which, from 1947 has been their demand in the quest for a genuine democratic system of governance that devolves power to the masses. It is now clear that federal system of governance is the most popular demand of the people of that country, as endorsed in the resolution number 2(c) of the National Peace Conference of South Sudanese Tribes held at the Nyokuron Cultural Center in Juba on 17th – 18th February 2015. The IGAD mediators should take heed of this and include in the protocols for the peace agreement if their efforts are to bring lasting peace and stability to those people.
There are important rays of hope with the expansion of the peace process in which a number of countries are expected to take part in mediating the peace talks. Such development deeply concerns South Sudanese people of varied backgrounds and interest. They are yarning for a system of governance that gives sufficient power to the ordinary people to address issues affecting their lives in the areas of security, corruption, tribalism, discrimination, assimilation etc. The prominence of the federal system of governance lies in that it gives freedom to all the ethnic groups that make up the South Sudanese nation without any exception or exclusion. Each ethnic group will have space to spread its wings and can decide its affairs within a federal context.
4. The Exacerbation of Tension and Reinforcement of Ethnic Hegemonic Power: The Collapse of the Regime in Juba and Need for Its Replacement.
It is not surprising such a note-worthy system of governance as federalism, that promotes fraternal solidarity among people, close cooperation among them and their government in designing programs for peace, stability and development to advance their welfare, is opposed and brutally attacked by the regime in Juba. The government is more concerned with promoting ethnic hegemony and spreading social disorder, particularly in Equatoria region than it is with providing security and social services to its people who have experienced the most negative manifestations of that regime’s mismanagement and neglect of their region.
As a result many negative consequences have followed from there as President Kari’s regime, mercilessly, grabbed and occupied ancestral homelands and properties of the people of Equatoria, Upper Nile and Western Bahr el Ghazal claiming that they liberated them with their own blood. The harassment and intimidation of indigenous people in those regions and particularly Equatoria, is going on unabated and is increasing in intensity and coverage. This unprecedented negative phenomena unheard of in Africa, has aroused tensions all over that region. The message, therefore, is very clear and direct – the people of greater Equatoria, who are an integral part of the Republic of South Sudan standing in solidarity with the victimized Nuer people, are facing extermination threats from Salva Kiir’s regime and his war mongering supporters. Equatorians are now left with no other option but to take up arms to fight for their own survival. On account of this, they are demanding for a table at the peace talks to articulate their own views on the conflict and its resolution.
The mismanagement of national issues by the elites of the dominating ethnic groups preoccupied mostly with getting government top jobs in the last ten years overshadowed national interests, casting doubts on the question of South Sudanese nationalism. Salva Kiir’s regime is wallowing in a presumed unlimited power without resolving the nationality question to the satisfaction of the majority ethnic groups.
President Kiir has failed in his attempt to turn the country into a thriving democracy. He has also failed to formulate and implement viable socio-economic and political systems resulting in stagnation of South Sudanese economy and its isolation from the rest of the world. Everyone in the country now knows that with this infamous regime in power, with its ever dwindling support base and lack of respectability nationally, regionally and internationally; democracy, federalism, political accountability, transparency, press freedom, political inclusivity, human rights, public debate and consensus building will not be associated with South Sudan. It is not possible for Salva Kiir to achieve political and economic stability because of his inherent incompetence and divisive policies that are inflaming ethnic tensions and polarizing communities.
• The IGAD and its partners the AU, UNSC, US, China and the Troika must take a momentous decision if they are to contain the harrowing situation in South Sudan. The peace process should focus on achieving a concrete historical agreement that must reflect the broader interests of all the ethnic groups of people. Such an agreement should of necessity be within a political framework in which federalism as the most popular demand in the country is reflected in the composition of the institutions of the resultant government as well as in any of its agencies. The conduct of the affairs of the government shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character and nature of the Republic of South Sudan. Any peace agreement that will seek to promote the dominance of persons from one or a few ethnic or other sectional groups as it is evident with President Kiir’s regime will be resisted.
• Transitional justice must be central to any peace talks because it will bring about the process of healing and reconciliation. However, rebuilding this under the regime of President Kiir is impossible. It is important that peace agreement in South Sudan must be seen to be inclusive and concluded on the basis of wider consultations and participations involving diverse groups who are also victims of and neglected by Salva Kiir’s regime. Therefore, such an agreement must not be imposed from outside.
• Concentrating the peace talks on power-sharing is, understandably, the easiest way out of the current political and military quagmire. But this is ignoring the reasons why genocide was carried out by, supposedly, an elected president. Failure to openly discuss why South Sudanese citizens were killed in large number in December 2013 will constitute a missed opportunity to bring a lasting peace to the country and make South Sudan a politically and economically stable country. In this sense the core political, security and governance issues that brought about the genocide must be on top of the agenda of the forthcoming peace talks.
• Inclusive approach to the peace talks will not only represent the diversity of the three regions of South Sudan, but will bring out the actual underlying socio-political problems that started afflicting the country from before its independence. Without resolving these issues, the stability of the country is doubtful and will throw its future into perpetual political limbo.
• As South Sudanese, there is need to, critically and deeply, reflect on the way forward to save the country from total collapse and disintegration and to give the citizens the chance to transform their lives. However, this level of nationalism will only be attained in the absence of the, current, ideologically bankrupt and perennially corrupt leadership of Salva Kiir’s regime in Juba. The removal of Kiir from power still remains the desired end result of December 2013 uprising, so that it is replaced with progressive government, focused with clear vision and right-minded leadership that can swiftly restore confidence and trust of the traumatized citizens yarning for new country in which every citizen counts. Fundamental change is a vibrant reality that the people demand not political marriage of convenience as manifested in the clamor of the elites of competing ethnic groups to form transitional government of national unity that is never a remedy at all. South Sudanese deserve to be free after suffering and making huge sacrifices for their independence. They deserve to be treated like equal human beings with all rights to express themselves freely without fear of being intimidated by a biased and tribal security agencies, that have unregulated access to guns and operating in an environment devoid of law and order. For all South Sudanese to live in peace and feel secure, the current government must be unconditionally dismantled, reconstituted and guided by a democratic federal constitution.
Alfred Ladu Gore is the SPLM-IO deputy chairman. The views expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author on the current political issues in South Sudan.