By Daniel Juol Nhomngek, Kampala, Uganda
January 4, 2017 (SSB) — On December 14, 2016, the President of South Sudan, General Salva Kiir Mayardit, gave one of the rarest and the best speeches in the history of South Sudan. What made that particular speech stood out and the best among all his other speeches in my opinion was the fact that did the President only give what is required in order to achieve peace in South Sudan but he also gave method how to achieve it.
The three stages of how dialogue should be conducted as proposed by the President in that speech is the proper approach to achieving peace because we should not at this time go to the neighbouring countries to search for peace when we have the country. The reason the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, 2005 was made in Kenya was that South Sudanese did not have the country.
Moreover, the Peace that is always made outside South limits the participation of the rural people, which explains why peace process takes only the views of the warring parties without considering the needs of our rural people as the government and the SPLA-IO are presumed to represent the people which are not true.
Contrary to the belief as stated in the above paragraph, the Government and the SPLA-IO represent their own interests and this explains the fact that any slight friction between the two parties will always result into deadly clashes. Because each party jealously protects its own interest and forget the needs of the people that are presumed to be representing.
However, the initiative of the President on how to achieve peace in South Sudan through dialogue will help the people to contribute their views in the peace process and how peace should be achieved. This will further make the people own the peace and protect it and will also make it hard for anybody whether the government or armed oppositions to break it without risking to lose the support of the people on the ground. This point alone makes the approach of the President important in achieving peace in South Sudan.
In addition, the President in that speech as indicated by his choice of words (or diction) showed that he is the head of the nation and he is ready to lead and protect the nation and her citizens and to achieve peace by all means. The fact of the assertion as I have just made in the foregoing sentence is illustrated by the following repetitive but important words of the President—
“I am deeply concerned about the direction our country is heading to: tribal hatred and divisions. I am deeply concerned about the parents who cannot feed their children due to the shrinking economy. I am deeply concerned about the street children and all the citizens of this country. We shall work to preserve and protect the unity of our people. As your President, I will not allow this suffering to continue. I shall be the patron of the NATIONAL DIALOGUE. We fought for the unity of this country but not to tear it apart. We shall guarantee its unity. Let us embrace the unity. I am initiating the national dialogue. It has been the hallmark of the Liberation struggle…”
The words of the president as quoted above shows the seriousness of the president with the peace dialogue this time because he accepted responsibility as head of the State as he has seen the suffering of the South Sudanese and even apologizes to them.
Even though many people are skeptical with the initiative of the president on how to bring peace in South Sudan and even dismissed it as political gimmicks, but as far as I am concerned, the choice of words shows that the President meant what he is talking about and ready to stick to it.
Thus, I really appreciate the humbleness of the president as exhibited in that Speech. In other words, it was a great speech in the history of South Sudan. What makes it a great speech is its practical aspect. The speech outlined the objectives, goals and the procedures to be followed if the peace in South Sudan were to be achieved. Therefore, the President seemed to have realized that if the lasting peace in South Sudan is to be achieved, then, it must be not externally but internally driven.
As has been in our case since the civil war broke in 2013, the effort to achieve peace in South Sudan has been externally driven, which always end up in failure. The reason for the failure of externally driven peace process has been explained by some writers who have observed that externally driven international efforts to resolve the conflict in Africa are often faced with the limitation that local parties are sometimes unwilling, or unable, to relate to such initiatives.
Hence, the local people are always left out in the process of peace making and are unable to relate to such initiatives geared towards achieving peace lasting peace. This is premised on the fact that the peace process is conducted on the official high-level diplomacy hence marginalizing the local population. As a result, the peace process becomes an alien to the local people.
Another weakness of the externally driven peace process or liberal peace project as some of the writers have termed it is that it is an intervention designed to facilitate the establishment of durable peace and prevent recurrence of violence. These include peacekeeping, peace support operations, disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration.
As seen above, the externally driven peace process leaves out the local population and only concentrates on the warring parties and how to stop peace at conflict level. For this reason, the peace accord is always drafted based on the views of the leaders on both sides of conflict and by consequences leaves out the local population or the supporters of the two parties.
The consequence of the externally driven peace is that it can easily be terminated by stronger party when it feels threatened by the content of peace agreement. This was the reason why the Compromised Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2015 of South Sudan easily gave way to another deadliest conflict in July 2016.
The whole thing is that weaknesses of the liberal peace project as explained above might have conditioned the decision of the President to call for national dialogue. The national dialogue as the president envisages it is intended to be a means of finding out the views of every South Sudanese in rural areas other than relying on the views of politicians who only wanted the peace agreement to be drafted in a way that brings them closer to power and resources. After coming to power and resources they forget people only to remember them when their interests are threatened.
Nonetheless, proposing the national dialogue as a means of achieving peace in South Sudan, the President of South Sudan has got it right. This is because the president is going to kill two birds with one stone.
The dialogue is going to bring the war to an end and at the same time the views of the people as obtained in the process of dialogues will provide the basis for the constitution. When we talk of the constitution we mean the supreme law of the land.
The term “supreme law of the land” has its origin from English Common law. In other words, the supreme law of the land refers to the English customs that were associated with the values found in English land and later those customs or English values were adopted by the Norman Kings through the adoption of common law or common customs that were turned into law by Norman Kings beginning in 1066 AD.
Norman Kings were kings who came from France to colonize England in 1066 and in the process of colonization, they adopted common customs. Such customs were later applied throughout England and Wales as common law because they were common customs applicable to all the people in England and Wales.
Thus, because those were common customs, the common law was and it is still respected today in England and Wales. In the same way the dialogue may bring up the common law to all South Sudanese that may be the basis for the common law of South Sudan or strong constitution respected by the local population.
At the same time, the peace process achieved through such a dialogue cannot be easily abrogated by any of the parties to the conflict because all citizens will own it and defend it.
In regard to the need for justice as many people have been making as a point of doubting viability of such a dialogue, I would like to point out that the local people have the rights to decide and express what they need during the dialogue and the President as the patron will be forced to adopt such views. Hence, if they say they need justice and in a given form and to be achieved through a given manner, then the authorities will accept it because they were the ones who proposed the method of peace making process.
In short, the presidential initiative on dialogue for peace in South Sudan offers the rarest opportunity to achieve lasting peace and durable constitution in South Sudan. The only condition South Sudanese should put as a condition for dialogue is that the speech be implemented as it is.
NB// the author is South Sudanese lawyer residing in Uganda and can be reached through: email@example.com; +256783579256
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