Assessing the viability of the reconstitution of the national dialogue steering committee

Posted: April 30, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël in Columnists, Daniel Juol Nhomngek, Featured Articles, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

A missed opportunity! Assessing the viability of the republican order no. 08/2017 for the reconstitution of the national dialogue steering committee, 2017, in bringing peace in South Sudan (part 1)

By Daniel Juol Nhomngek, Kampala, Uganda

peace

April 30, 2017 (SSB) — The Republican order no. 08/2017 for the reconstitution of the National Dialogue Steering Committee, 2017 A.D. was issued on 25th April, 2017 to appoint numerous persons to lead the National Dialogue in South Sudan. The purpose for the National Dialogue is to bring lasting peace in bringing the war to an end in South Sudan. That war which was begun on December 15, 2013 proved to be a disaster for the country. It is said to have killed over three hundred thousand (300,000) people and internally displaced millions of people. Also, about million of citizens have sought refuge in the neighbouring countries, notably, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

Center for Conflict Resolution (CECORE) and the Centre for Peace and Development Studies (CPDS) projected that the intensity of the conflict may cost South Sudan of about between US$22 billion and $28 billion if the war continues unabatedly. In addition, (CECORE) and (CPDS) pointed out that if the action is taken now to achieve peace, then the international community, particularly Western donors, may save about US$30 billion by reducing expenditure on peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance. It concluded that this scenario would also mean that the neighbouring economies of Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda could collectively save US$53 billion.

Based on the above  economical cost and effect about the war, many attempts have been made to end the war and to find the lasting peace through modern means of roundtable peace talks between the both armed and non-armed oppositions and the government but have so far failed.  Thus, the option remaining to bring lasting peace in South Sudan is to turn to the traditional African way of making peace. That African way is National Dialogue hereafter referred to as the Dialogue.

To establish the Dialogue, President Kiir issued the Presidential Republican Order mentioned in the title of this work to appoint the committee that will lead it. In that Order, the President appointed one hundred and thirteen (113) members to lead the Dialogue in search for peace. This Republican Order was issued to replace the previous decree issued in December 2016 and to reconstitute the National Dialogue that was supposed to take off in March 2017 but failed because of the lack of support from international community, other stakeholders and citizens.

 In that regard, the present Republican Order (the Order) was issued purposely to amend the first Order so that more stakeholders and citizens are involved. Even if this Order has expanded membership, there are still some endemic weaknesses in the present Order in regard to the constitution of membership and the manner of the appointment of the members. Therefore, this article is intended to assess the veracity of the Republican Order referred to above.

In that respect, assessing the veracity of this Republican Order means analyzing its strengths and weaknesses that will enable us to give recommendations on how to improve it or how the National Dialogue should be conducted if it is to bring peace in South Sudan. I, therefore, begin the discussion in the order I have just given above.

However, before I give strengths and weaknesses of the Order in question, it is important that we briefly discuss the principles of National Dialogue that the President ought to have observed before issuing it if the current National Dialogue is to succeed. It should be noted that these principles shall be discussed in details in Part II of this discussion, will come immediately this work. Nonetheless in brief, the principles of National Dialogue include—

Inclusivity of dialogue

An effective national dialogue must include almost all stakeholders where possible to ensure a deliberative process. This means that all key interest groups such as opposition groups, women, youth, Civil Society Organizations and other traditional groups should be invited to participate in the process.

Transparency and public participation

 For national dialogue to achieve its purpose, it must be transparent and allows public participation.

A credible convener

A convener is a person whose job it is to call people together for meetings of a committee. In that respect, if the National Dialogue to be trusted by citizens and secure the participation of a wide variety of stakeholder groups and to avoid perceptions of bias, a credible convener is of the utmost importance.

Agenda that addresses the root causes of conflict must be adopted

Importantly, for a national dialogue to succeed, it must be preceded by an agreement on key issues facing a country, which have been the root cause of the war. This was done in South Africa in 1990s at the end of apartheid era, which took two years, 1991-1992.

Clear mandate and appropriately tailored structure, rules, and procedures for national dialogue

Another important point about National Dialogue is that it must take place outside of the existing institutions of government. This is because national dialogues are often convened due to the fact that the sitting government and existing institutions are unable to resolve the major issues at hand, either because they are seen as neither legitimate nor credible, or because they are unwilling to challenge the status quo.

Agreed mechanism for implementation of outcomes

It has been agreed that National dialogues should feature an agreed plan or framework to ensure that the resulting recommendations are implemented through a new constitution, law, policy, or other programs.

Cautions for international support to national dialogue and ownership of the national dialogue

Finally, National dialogue is important because it is a tool with the potential to facilitate peaceful political transformation, though it cannot achieve such a goal without external support. It implies that there a need for the international community to support a national dialogue. This is important because it helps in ensuring that the national dialogue is backed by sincere intentions on the part of national leaders.

Having explained the principles of National Dialogue above, it is important to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the present Republican Order in light to the above principles of National Dialogue.

Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the republican order no. 08/2017

Strengths of the republican order no. 08/2017

The importance of this Order is that it sets the precedent for current and future national dialogue in South Sudan. Besides, it is the improvement of the first Republican Order on National Dialogue. In addition, it has widened the membership of the committee and if the weaknesses enshrined in it as discussed below are amended.

Weaknesses of the republican order no. 08/2017

The first weakness of this Order is that it begins the process of National Dialogue in the middle. The first thing done in conducting a National Dialogue in a country where the war is still on is to end hostilities first. This means that there is a need for comprehensive and permanent cease fire. In this respect, comprehensive and permanent cease fire can only be achieved when all parties to the conflict have come together and then agreed to end hostilities. This is where the role of the International Community becomes vital so that the negotiations to achieve permanent ceasefire are conducted under the supervision of members of the international or regional body.

As discussed in the above paragraph, the reason for permanent ceasefire is to provide for friendly environment where the people participate in the National Dialogue without fear. As a matter of fact it is not advisable to conduct National Dialogue where there is restriction of freedom of speech or fear of war. The overall consequence of conducting National Dialogue in the environment characterized by fear is that it will affect its effectiveness and the National Dialogue may eventually fail.

For that reason, beginning the National Dialogue with peace talks that aim at achieving the permanent ceasefire is strongly advisable as it enables because Dialogue is good where there is no fear of any kinds. Moreover, beginning the National Dialogue with negotiation or political process enables the warring parties to begin talk and if possible agree on modalities how to conduct national dialogue. In that respect the parties will be able to agree on contentious issues that will form the basis for the national dialogue. Furthermore, during the negotiation, parties may also agree on members to lead the National Dialogue and convener or the head of the national dialogue, which will give confidence to all parties and hence legitimacy of the process. Beginning the National Dialogue in the middle is one of the fundamental weaknesses of the present Republican Order.

Another fundamental weakness with this Republican Order is that it is not inclusive, which is against the spirit of National Dialogue. The National Dialogue must include as many people in the country as possible irrespective of their relationship or political affiliation. This means even those we consider “enemies” must be included. In my opinion, the people listed below ought to have been appointed to head the National Dialogue or included in the list of those leading the National Dialogue in South Sudan as provided in the Republican Order above—

Barani Eduardo Hiiboro Dr. Kussala, catholic Bishop of Yambio-Tombura Diocese should have been appointed as the head of the national Dialogue. This is because of three reasons: first, he is an expert in the National Dialogue as he authors some books on it. Second to it, he is apolitical. This will make him not to have any political leaning during the National Dialogue. Thirdly, he is also professional, which is important because he is going to be neutral as he will only seek for the truth, which is essence of National Dialogue. These three attributes are important as they can help in moving forward the National Dialogue. He will be able to offer guidance to members where the disagreement may arise or where there is a need for guidance he can advise the rest as to the appropriate approach to the National Dialogue.

In addition to the above person, other people that should have been appointed are: Daniel Awet Akot (already appointed); Kuol Manyang Juuk; King Kuong Dak padit of Chollo Ckingdom, King Wislon Peni of Azande Kingdom and king Akwai Agada Akwai ,of Anyuak Kingdom respectively, Gen. John Koang Nyuon; Bior Ajang Duot; James Hoth Mai; Hon. Atem Garang; Professor Francis Mading Deng already but in a rapporteur; Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin; Rebecca Joshua;  Benjamin Majak Dau (appointed); James Kok Ruei; Gen David Okwer Bukulu; Mark Nyipuoc Ubong; Rt. Hon. Speaker Anthony Lino Makana; Amb.John Andruga, Hon. Jemma Nunu Kumba; Ezidin Nimir Deng; Sheik Juma Ali (appointed), Ambros Riny Thiik; Philip Marol Mading; Mary Apai; Nadia Arop Madut.

Nhial Deng Nhial; Garang John (Journalist); Muolana Beny Gideon Mabor, Paride Taban (Emeritus) Bishop of Torit; ArchBishop Daniel Deng Bul;  Gen. Agasio Akol Tong; Michael Makuei Lueth;  Gen. Pieng Deng Kuol (appointed); Isaac Mabur; Louis Lobong Lojore; Clement Wani Konga; Dr. Luka Manoja; Rizik Zachariah Hassan;  General Makur Thou (appointed); Lily Albino Akol Akol;; Riek Gai Kok; Beda Machar Deng and John Gai Yoh.

Deng Deng Hoc Yai;  Martin Macuei Malual; Engineer Joseph Malual Dong;  Gen Elias Way, Gen, Andrew makoldit, Gen. Salva Mathok Geng;  Gen. Acuil Tito; Hon. Ayen Majok; Moulana Paul Mayom Akec (appointed); Justice Madol Arol; Hon. Marik Makur (appointed); Professor Moses Kacoul Machar; Deng Aloor Kuol; John Luk Jok; Johnson Jim Okot; John Mayiik Jou; Onyoti Adigo Nyakuac. Pagan Amum Okiech; Dr. Majak Agoot; Madam Rebecca Nyandeng Garang (already appointed); Oyai Deng Ajak;  Dr. Riek Machar Teny; Angelina Jany Teny; James Koang Chol; Johnson Olony; Peter Gadet;  Gen. Thomas Ciril Swaka; Colonel Joseph Bangasi Bakasoro and Dr. Lam Akol.

If all the above people I have just listed appointed, their appointment will give the National Dialogue legitimacy as it will be considered inclusive. At the same time, the Government of South Sudan will have shown its willingness to achieve peace through National Dialogue.  Moreover, the Government will have shifted the blame to anybody that will object to the appointment among the above mentioned people. However, failure to add the above persons shows the weakness due to the lack of inclusiveness in the National Dialogue, which is another major weakness in the present Republican Order.

Another weakness in the Order is in regard to the appointment of the representatives of other Countries. The President appears not to have consulted those countries whose representatives are appointed. If that is the case, then the President was wrong in doing that. The best thing he should have done was not to appoint the representatives from those countries directly but to request the political leadership Host Countries to nominate those whom they think will help in ensuring the success of National Dialogue in South Sudan.

In relation to the above, it therefore implies that if the President needs a particular person or people from those countries, then he has to request them indirectly by using the words such as “we request you to send for us representatives to take part in the National Dialogue and if it may please you, you can send us so and so but it depends on your acceptance of that or those names”.

 Using the above language is important in the international relation because it shows that South Sudan recognizes the sovereignty of other countries. This further means that the President should have not mentioned people in the Decree but should have only made reference to the fact that it has requested the regional countries to send their representatives.

Another weakness in this Republican Order is that it has not given preference to opposition groups, civil society Organizations, women, youth, and other traditional groups but it only concentrates on politicians which will put the dialogue at risk as they are likely to interfere or influence the people if they see that what people may decide is likely to affect their interests. This also shows that the Order has ignored the principle of inclusiveness.

Another weakness in this Order is that it has not linked the National Dialogue to Local Dialogue or States Dialogues. This weakness might have come about because of the lack of consultation with the experts before issuing the Order. What ought to have been done is to carry out wide consultation on how the National Dialogue should be conducted and what are required for it to succeed. One of the factors that should have been considered is how to involve the local people, which, further means that the local dialogue committee should have been established to work in collaboration with the National Dialogue Committee. This would have been done if the president has carried out wide consultation with experts, which would have further helped to establish framework within which the National Dialogue should operate.

In that regard, if there was a framework governing the National Dialogue, it would have provided for the Terms of Reference (TOT), which is important for the work of this kind. The TOT would have offered guidance to the Committees on the extent of their work. Hence, it will have helped in controlling the members of Committee to avoid deviating from the aim of National Dialogue.

Finally as shown in the above paragraph, another weakness of this Republican Order is failure to provide for the Term of Reference. However, it is better now that after discovering these weaknesses, the Terms of References shall be discussed during the time of negotiating cease fire and how National Dialogue should be conducted as shall be given in the conclusion and recommendations below.

 Conclusion

In conclusion, it is a missed opportunity as the country is ready for peace the leaders are not ready for peace. As can be understood from the foregoing discussion, it is possible that the peace in South Sudan can be achieved through National Dialogue if properly conducted. In fact, many people have recommended that the only viable option to bring peace in South Sudan is through the National Dialogue, which the Order failed to meet its requirements. This will help to achieve reconciliation among South Sudanese and what agreed in the National Dialogue would form the basis of a new constitution, law, policy, or other programs for development of South Sudan, which are now affected by the war.

Recommendations

It is, therefore, recommended that before the parties think of National Dialogue, a comprehensive cease fire must be declared by all parties to the conflict. If the rebels are not willing to declare ceasefire as it is the case now, then it is advisable for the government to call the rebels to the negotiating table to discuss ceasefire and its modalities, which will be followed by the negotiation on how the national dialogue should be conducted.

Going to the negotiating table to discuss the Permanent ceasefire will further help all parties to the conflict to decide on and agree on how National Dialogue should be conducted. This includes the discussion on the issue of membership and chairperson or co-chairpersons of the National Dialogue. It is part of National Dialogue that the members and the chairperson should be selected and agreed by all parties to the conflict. When I talk of all parties in this context, I mean the Government, The SPLM/A-IO both in Juba and in the bush, the Former Detainees, National Salvation Front and other groups that are identifiable. Nevertheless, those who should participate in negotiation for permanent ceasefire, are those who are on the ground fighting but the rest will only join in talk when it comes to the discussion on how the National Dialogue can be conducted.

It is also recommended that during the ceasefire and before the National Dialogue begins, the government and all oppositions must agree as a matter of necessity on reforms of National security and other organized forces in South Sudan. These forces should be reformed to observe social, political and economic needs of the people and be bound by the principle of constitutional supremacy throughout the National Dialogue. They should also be reformed into politically non-partisan which make them neutral and stand as neutral third party protecting the national interest. This will force parties to commit themselves to resolving conflict primarily through non-violent means. Moreover, whether parties go to negotiating table over the issue of ceasefire and national dialogue or not, it is desirable for the future of South Sudan that all parties to the conflict should commit themselves to the peaceful settlement of the Conflict as war will never achieve peace.

More importantly, it is further recommended that in order for the National Dialogue to be inclusive it should also involve all South Sudanese in Refugee Camps and in Diaspora. This implies that secretariats should be established in all areas where South Sudanese are found. The main function of these secretariats is to work in collaboration with the Committee of the National Dialogue Committee by soliciting the views of the refugees and other South Sudanese in Diaspora which will be forwarded to the National Dialogue Secretariat in Juba. Such views will form part of overall recommendations which shall be the basis of the future South Sudanese Constitution.

It is further recommended that in order to ensure proper and massive participation of the citizens, the respect for human rights and democracy, which involves the respect of the freedom of speech and expression, should be ensured. This is important because it will enable citizens to talk freely about the issues that affect them and also be able to give their recommendations in regard to what should be done to achieve lasting peace in South Sudan.

Finally, it is recommended that there is a need for the establishment South Sudan National Integration and Monitoring Commissions (SSNIMC) should be established and persons serving in them should be given the necessary training and certification to enable them to efficiently perform their functions in an impartial and objective manner. The formation of SSNIMC will help in controlling political parties and members of local communities from making inflammatory remarks in relation to the causes of violence, and to ensure that all parties desist from apportioning blame based on unsubstantiated evidence while matters are under review or under the investigation by the Commission. The functions of these local monitoring commissions should be—

(1) to monitor the compliance by the signatories to the code of conduct as agreed by all the parties to the National and local Dialogues; (2) to monitor the behaviour of parties and organizations at grassroots level in relation to violence; (3) to monitor the compliance of parties and organizations to the National Dialogue after it has been brought to their attention that they have been in violation of the Code of Conduct.

NB//: The author is Human Rights Lawyer and can be reached through: juoldaniel@yahoo.com or +256783579256

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made are the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing from.

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Comments
  1. Eastern says:

    Daniel,

    It’s a tall order for Kiir. He’s fighting Dr. Machar, Dr. Akol/Olony, etc. It’s rediculous for Kiir to think he can appoint these forces he’s fighting on equal footings Joseph Bakasoro.

    Who attends Kiir’s national dialogue should be decided by the parties he invites. Kiir seems to be cherry picking by appointing “soft stakeholders” to his national dialogue which he wants to remain in charge of. Nobody seems to have the guts to tell the King that the approach he is taking is a non starter. Let’s not waste time on trivilalities, posterity will judge the current generation harshly!

    Kiir simply has to take a backseat and let agrieved South Sudanese dialogue and decide for their future.

    Like

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