By Hon. Taban Abel Aguek (MP), Rumbek, Lakes State
March 31, 2015 (SSB) — Is it out of love or mockery that Africa appears to care too much about South Sudan? From the first day the conflict erupted in South Sudan, Africa has been suggesting possible remedies to the crisis in the country.
Apart from hosting peace talks in Addis Ababa, the African Union (AU) also promptly formed a five member commission of inquiry to “investigate the human rights violations and other abuses committed during the armed conflict in South Sudan and make recommendations on the best way and means to ensure accountability, reconciliation and healing among all South Sudanese communities”.
The commission of inquiry is composed of prominent and respected individuals with exceptional skills and experience. The Chairperson of the Inquiry Commission is composed of former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo, Lady Justice Sophia Akuffo who is the Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana, Prof. Mahmood Mamdani of Makerere University (Uganda), Bineta Diop who is AU Chairperson’s envoy for Women, Peace and Security, AU Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security and Prof. Pacifique Manirakiza who is a commissioner at the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights in Banjul, the Gambia.
No doubt, this is a team of well placed African leaders that equally possess huge experience and tested competence.
Now, one wonders why a series of very dirty wars were allowed to rage on in Sudan long before the separation of South Sudan the former O.A.U couldn’t take such a step. Until today, another bad war is raging on in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains and Darfur region and the AU instead of investigating crimes committed – genocide included – chooses to protect the main proprietors of the crimes and conflicts in Sudan.
No investigative team of inquiry has been set for Sudan. And President Beshir stays insulated from the ICC by the AU. So, there are two Aus: one that investigates crimes in South Sudan and the other one that shields Beshir from going to the court in the Hague. But maybe for the AU loves South Sudan so much, there can be nothing else anyone can say than to appreciate such a concern.
The report of this Commission of Inquiry has not yet been made public. But there had only been a leaked report purported to have been prepared by AU. The ‘leaked’ report almost caused an outrage and misunderstanding both in the Government and the opposition camps.
Not because it carried such weird and witty recommendations like the axing of both the President and the rebel leader Dr. Machar in the formation of a transitional government, but it also looks shallow, unprofessional and lacking content to match the jurisdictions and standards of a veritable inquiry.
The AU, in person of Chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamina-Zuma, has already disowned the report. That has helped a bit fixed the mess.
Regardless of the fact presented by the AU in delaying the report – for fear that it may obstruct peace process in Addis Ababa – the US, the EU and so many other affiliate NGOs, still call for publication of the official report.
That makes it quite perplexing how the same agencies and organizations that call for a speedy peace process also adamantly demand for the release of the AU Commission of Inquiry report when we all know that it could delay peace. As seen in the leaked report, any document that carries coined stories and discrepancies may likely bang the door closed on the Addis Ababa talks.
The leaked report of the Commission of Inquiry, since it now lacks any official backing and rightful authenticity, can be assumed a bluff. But the question remains: can the current team of experts investigating into the country’s crisis produce an honest, credible and unbiased report? And can this commission be fair enough in their findings and recommendations? Methinks No!
With due respect to each and every member of the Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan crisis with regards to ‘human rights violations, atrocities and so much more’ not many South Sudanese believe that this commission of inquiry is one that they should trust to carefully and honestly analyze the crisis, make proper findings and suggest the right recommendations on the conflict in South Sudan.
This is not because we may suspect the competence of the team. Neither do we think they can be manipulated by some interest groups with stakes in the war in the country.
We all know who President Olusegun Obasanjo is. He is a well respected African statesman who made a name in the making of both modern and the old Nigeria. He handed over power peacefully in 1979 after he lost elections to Shehu Shagari. In 1976, he ascended to power by the privilege of death as President Murtala Mohammed, who he deputized, died in assassination. But he could not hold onto power during the election. Nigeria, through him, saw a peaceful transfer of power. That he handed over power peacefully made him a darling of the West, particularly the US, Germany and Britain.
But just like Dr. Riek Machar he attempted coup in 1995. The coup failed and he was not as fortunate as Riek Machar who miraculously found his way out of Juba simply to embark on a rebellion in a matter of days. Obasanjo was arrested, tried and jailed for life. The West, because they were the architects of his failed coup, pressurized for his release.
Due to that pressure his sentence was reduced to 15 years. By a complete twist of fate, he was again a beneficiary of death as his arch enemy Gen. Sani Abacha died of an illness in 1998. A year later Obasanjo contested elections and won comfortably. Like an American President who served two complete terms he led Nigeria for eight straight years.
That Obansanjo is a believer of coups is not the point of concern. Rather, the issue – and relevance to the case of South Sudan – is his concept of reforms. Nigeria, in so many aspects, does not resemble South Sudan. So, Obasnajo’s reforms for Nigeria cannot marry up with the South Sudan reforms.
Still one asks himself if everything has worked well for Nigeria. President Obasanjo’s homeland, just like South Sudan, is until today deep in crisis. It has for a long time been engage in a series of insurgencies and is still held knee-deep in one of the worst corruption in Africa. The Boko Haram poses a big threat to Nigeria the way Riek’s rebels are to South Sudan. That begs the question: has Obasanjo put right his home country to even dare look into issues of other countries?
There is a belief that Obasanjo holds experience and valid solutions to Africa’s problems as he is taken to be a symbol of reform and democracy. Yet, Africa has moved much more than Obasanjo. It seems Africa is still being driven by personality cult.
Much as we hail President Obasanjo’s huge experience, there is a question of his age. It is my personal feeling that Uncle Obasanjo has not very much energy left in him. The Obasanjo of 1998 cannot be the Obasanjo of 2015. He can easily be outwitted and asked to sign a blind cheque for South Sudan. The commission of inquiry on South Sudan crisis can be manipulated under his watchful eyes by those that hold very dangerous views on South Sudan. And that might be the greatest fear of South Sudanese.
One such fear is the inclusion of Prof. Mahmood Mamdani of Uganda in the same commission of inquiry. Like Obasanjo, Prof Mahmood Mamdani possesses an intellectual power but that cannot stop us from interrogating his inclusion into this important commission. This is because Prof. Mahmood has a long held view that Dr. Riek, South Sudan’s rebel leader, is a reformist.
At the Annual Retreat of the National Resistance Army (NRM) at Kyankwanzi on February 11th, 2014, which was later published by the New Vision of Uganda on 16th Feb, 2014, Prof Mahmood Mamdani delivered a lecture on South Sudan conflict titled “No power sharing without political reform”. In the lecture, the well endowed Professor gave his analysis on the genesis of South Sudan crisis, its ripple effects and the way forward.
In some instances he made his views clear on Riek being a reformist – how he arrived at that only God knows – but there was never clear inclination anyone would easily put him in since he appeared spread all over and pointing the issues of the ethnicity between the Dinka and the Nuer. True to his writing, the British heightened ethnicity in South Sudan. But he equally has his own views and one dangerous thing among them is his criticism of the independence of South Sudan.
Prof. Mahmood made it clear that he was against the independence of South Sudan. He said, “The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in 2005 turned out to be a shoddy affair, rushed by those in a hurry to birth an independent South. The people of South Sudan are just beginning to pay the price for that haste.”
Poignant to the feeling of South Sudanese, Prof. Mahmood believes that South Sudan is a “child of the war on terror.” That explicitly means that South Sudan statehood was driven not from our own struggle but born out of the war on terror. There has been no abuse like this on the history of struggle of South Sudan.
In short, Prof Mahmud Mamdani is one guy that has long formed an opinion about South Sudan. He made his position clear that he is inclined to support Dr. Riek’s reforms. He continues to blame what he termed as ‘rushed’ independence of South Sudan’. Therefore, there can be no reason he could have been appointed into the team of inquiry on the crisis of South Sudan. According to global criteria on choosing an inquiry team should not have been a member of the team of inquiry for south Sudan. It is like sending a sensitive case of sheep to a wolf.
Looking already at the leaked ‘fake’ report of the commission of inquiry, one wonders if you don’t see the hands of Prof. Mahmud Mamdani. While Mzee Obasanjo leads by his good name, the dirt may continue to be done by the enemies of South Sudan.
Prof. Mahmud has also been fighting against the term limits of President Museveni of Uganda. His inclusion in the committee of inquiry on South Sudan crisis only helps him find another podium from which he could fight Museveni away from home.
So there goes the story of the AU Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan! South Sudanese have to waste not their time in laying hope on this commission. They should expect a bad report that is based on manipulations under the supervision of a helpless old man.
South Sudanese shall forever continue to give their respect to President Obasanjo as one of the living fathers of the modern Africa. But that people will agree with the report of an important inquiry committee may only come as a surprise.
Taban Abel Aguek is an MP in Lakes State Legislative Assembly – Rumbek. He can be reached at email@example.com
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