Will the Revitalization Forum Salvage the Situation in South Sudan? – Part 1

Posted: December 18, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Arop Madut-Arop, Columnists, Commentary, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

Would the Addis Ababa Revitalisation High-Level Forum Meeting Provide Tangible Outcome?

By Hon Arop Madut Arop, Nairobi, Kenya

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A young South Sudanese girl poses with the flag of South Sudan

December 18, 2017 (SSB) — This week, all eyes are turned to Addis Ababa as representatives of the international community, regional, continental bodies and South Sudan representatives of various stakeholders are converging in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian in the effort to revitalize the Agreement for the Resolution for the Conflict in South Sudan. It is expected that how to silence the guns and move the war-ridden nation forward toward sustainable peace, will top the agenda of priorities of the Forum dubbed HLRF.

As usual, opinion is divided among South Sudanese populace. There are Pessimists on the one hand who believe that what is taking place in Addis Ababa is just a public relation exercise and they give reasons. One of the reasons they give is that regional interest may hamper unanimity among the regional bloc. The optimists, on the other hand, are of the opinion that given the international community involvement and the hardships the people of South Sudan are experiencing; both the conveners of the Forum and South Sudanese stakeholders may find it expedient to re-adjust the August 2015 agreement and implement it. As a long time keen observers of South Sudan politics, I thought it necessary to examine and float some ideas that may guide the Forum through thin and thick.

If the members attending the High-Level Revitalisation Forum (HLRF), in its current endeavors, were to succeed to persuade the warring parties to agree for the secession of hostilities, the next move would be how to finally silence the guns by the declaration of the permanent ceasefire. The Forum will then move forward and design the type of transitional arrangement that will manage the affairs of the state throughout the timelines set, which is already laid down by the HLRF, in its recent press release. Hopefully, the silencing of guns is expected to set the ball running for the execution of what would move the country toward sustainable peace and the installation of a credible democratic government that would steer the ship of state safely ashore against the inherent storms ahead.

Understandably, during the current discussion in Addis Ababa, the HLRF will be faced with a number of difficult issues surrounding the restoration of peace in South Sudan. Basically, the Revitalisation mechanism is set to rearrange the August 17th, 2016 peace Agreement for Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) which both the Conveners of the Forum and the South Sudanese stakeholders are quite aware that it has not been fully implemented.

However, in essence, all are agreed that, the ARCSS must be brought back on the right track for feasible implementation. However, it will be important to state that, while the transitional coalition government in Juba is expecting the revitalisation of the ARCSS, to find out how to adjust the elusive clauses entailed thereof, follow by the harmonisation of the timeline; some elements among the stakeholders in the August 17th, 2015 peace agreement are calling for the resuscitation of the peace agreement, which they described as already collapsed and must, therefore, be revived and fully implemented. The main controversial problem that would confront the HLRF would be how to harmonize the two explicit views already expressed by the stakeholders: revitalization and resuscitation.

Fundamentally, the word revitalisation or vitalisation, if you like, stems out from the Latin word ‘’vita’’ which means life. Plausibly, the Forum would want to put back life to the ARCSS which all members of the Forum are convinced has not worked. As for resuscitation it simply means to revive and fully implement, in spirit and letter, the ARCSS, which according to the main rebel opposition organisation has already collapsed. However, as a long time keen observer of South Sudanese politics, I feel that I should analysed and offer ideas which expectedly may confront the peacemakers at the Addis Ababa High-Level Revitalisation Forum and which must be addressed forthwith.

Essentially, if, by the Will of Allah, the Forum was to manage to resolve the first item on the agenda, declaration of permanent ceasefire, the next step would be how to move forward and choose a transitional government that would manage the affairs of the war-ravaged country throughout the timelines already on the table; expectedly to run from 2018 to 2023.

As my aim of writing this piece is to float ideas to whom it may concern I would like to advance here below three proposals from which I hope the Forum may benefit from, assuming that the proposal is the best workable and acceptable proposition to all the stakeholders to the conflict.

The first such proposal I have in mind has to do with the effective declaration of permanent ceasefire throughout the country. The next move would be the installation of an inclusive coalition transitional government apparently shared between the incumbent government and the amalgam of all the armed and un-armed rebel groups; plausibly the latter acting as the grand alliance in the opposition.

The difficulty that could face the Forum in this connection, as I see it, is that, there are so multiple fractured opposition groups to the extent that, it will be difficult for one of the rebel groups to poise as the majority group to take over from the incumbent government in Juba. However, if this proposal were to be acceptable to all the stakeholders, it will mean smooth implementation of the agenda set down in HLRF timeline, which runs from 2018- to 2023 with immediate effect.

The second proposition which has already been floated by some circles in the grand alliance of the opposition groupings is that, the incumbent authority holding the reins of power in Juba must go and a neutral regime composed by the technocrats that would be presided over by apolitical national personality all the stakeholders must have consensus on him, be put in place. The specific purpose for the regime of technocrats according to its advocates will be to prepare the country for a democratic election that shall be free and fair. The difficulty that may impede the implementation of this proposal is that there are too many rebel groups which are understandable, at variant to one another agenda and ideology.

The question which begs immediate answer in this regard is, how feasible will the government run by technocrats be; who would be at the helm? And are there credible technocrats available for the grab in the Government of South Sudan? To answer the two questions will be to look at the South Sudan civil service institution in the post-war South Sudan from which credible technocrats that would be capable to manage the affairs of the government could be obtained. But who will pick the technocrats given the wide diversified policies of the political groups and the government? Please bear with me as I re-examine the Southern Sudan civil service institution that was put in place in 2005.

Following the formation of the Government of Southern Sudan, it was decided that, the two civil administrations for New Sudan (CANS) and the South Sudan Coordination Council (SSCC) were to be harmonised and put in place as the public service of South Sudan. It was also decided that, the undersecretary positions of all the ministries be given to the SPLM defunct CANS. While the positions of directors general in the new public service be apportioned to the defunct South Sudan Coordination Council. The difficulty which would later contribute for lack of establishing credible public service was that that, while the SSCC was composed of handpicked inexperienced and semi-literate civil servants by the NIF government in Khartoum to fill the vacuum left by the disintegration of the civil service in the South during the war, the members of CANS had spent twenty-one years doing very little, or nothing at all, in the field of modern civil service mechanics.

The combination of these two incompatible institutions into the civil service of South Sudan was a bad start, indeed. Arguably, most of the failures in delivering services to the people of South Sudan, during the interim and post-independence period, apparently, came about as a result of the harmonisation of the two inexperienced and incompatible administrations. Precisely, the wrong formation of the civil service institutions continued to hinder any progress in the region throughout the pre and post-independence period.

Given the explanation above, the HLRF may find it difficult to find credible technocrats who could form a government during this critical and crucial time. Nonetheless, the only technocrats from among whom the Forum could get technocrats is from the former trained and professional technocrats who are officially tired from their official functions or were sent on redundancy, so to speak. Additionally, most of the former well trained public servants who had left their positions are either politicians in their own right or members of the organised forces.

The third proposal is to look at the previous two Sudanese experiences; the first which was ushered in after the fall of General Ibrahim Abboud and the second put in place after the overthrow of Field Marshal Jaafer Mohamed Nimeiri. In discussing this proposition one must look at the common adage that, in order to plan for the future people must look back to the past history and experiences of other people or other countries. Let us look at the two experiences one by one.

In 1958, General Ibrahim Abboud overthrew the first democratically elected government and ruled the country for the next four years; using unprecedented scorched earth policies. Assuming that he was firmly in the saddle, General Abboud allowed press freedom and the Trade Union activities to continue. These good intentioned actions by the military Junta were exploited by the defunct political parties that were overthrown by the military regime. It is to be reiterated that the defunct political parties had been clandestinely active throughout the four years of the military rule. The activities of the political parties led by the Communist and Muslim Brotherhood parties agitated the trade unions and student organisations against the military regime.

Meanwhile, as the Anya Nya insurgency escalated and galvanised into a civil war in the South and in attempt to put an end to it, General Ibrahim Abboud decided to form a charade for the democratic experiment by appointing a handpicked legislative council to assist the regime how to resolve the insurgency in the South. The Central Legislative Council as it was called, only accelerated the downfall of General Abboud regime.

The fall of General Abboud was also accelerated by his own another blunder. As his government was trying to put down the strikes, a police shot one student, Mohamed al Ghrashi, dead. The killing of a student-led to general strikes by student, trade union and the workers union in the three cities that formed the country Capital.

As the government was grappling with the increasingly worsening situation, young military officers led by Lt Colonel Mohamed al Baghir Ahmed, Lt Colonel Muzamil Ghandour and Lt Colonel al Rasheed al Thaher sided with the demonstrators. That was the last straw which broke the back of the camel so to speak.

Reading the message on the wall, General Ibrahim Abboud dissolved the ruling Supreme Council for the Armed Forces and took over himself as the head of state. Meanwhile, the amalgam of trade unions, university dons, and that of the defunct political parties formed a loose organisation that became known as the Professional Front.

Following the later resignation of General Ibrahim Abboud, the members of Professional Front set down and formed a transitional coalition government that included members of the defunct political parties overthrown by General Abboud in 1958. The Coalition also reached a consensus that the transitional government must be led by a neutral national figure that the stakeholders would agree on him.

The choice of a neutral nationally recognised personality fell on Mr. Sirr al Khatim al Khalifa an experienced civil servant who had also worked in South Sudan and was by then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education. Mr Sirr al Khatim al Khalifa transitional government ran the country only for six months and conducted democratic election in April 1965 which ushered in, once again, the Umma Party that was overthrown by the military in 1958 to office,

The second experience of a transitional government which the Forum may look at has also to do with the transitional government which was formed soon after the overthrow, in 1985, of the government of Field Marshal Jaafer Mohamed al Nimeiri. It is to be recalled that, Field Marshall Jaafer Nimeiri had ruled the country for sixteen years after overthrowing the second democratic regime in 1969.

Like the fall of General Ibrahim Abboud, the government of Field Marshal Jaafer Nimeri was equally brought down by a coalition of the army led by his minister of defence, Field Marshal Abdel Rahman Mohamed Hassan Sowar al Dahab and the joint activities of the National Democratic Alliance composed of the defunct political parties that had been operating clandestinely throughout his despotic rule.

Incredibly, unlike the overthrow of the Abboud Military Regime when the military allowed the formation of a civilian transitional government to prepare the country for a democratic election, the army decided to form a Transitional Military Council (MTC) led by Nimeiri former defence minister Field Marshal Abdel Rahman Mohamed Hassan Sowar al Dahab, jointly with the National Democratic Alliance and the trade Union groupings.

While the MTC acted as the head of the state and government the National Democratic Alliance and representative of rural solidarity groupings that accelerated the overthrow of the May Regime through insistent demonstration; ran the day to day affairs of the government led by the leader of the Doctors Trade Union as prime minister. It was against this backdrop that the National Alliance and the members of rural solidarity met and agreed and formed a civilian transition administration with the leader of the doctors Trade Congress, Dr al Gazouli Daffaalah as the administrative prime minister. However, at the end of the transitional period which lasted for one year (1985-1986), democratic elections were held in April 1986, which once again brought to office the Umma Party which was overthrown by Field Marshal Jaafer Mohamed al Nimeiri in 1969.

The third option the RHLF could look at has also to do with the French federal experience, which is both parliamentary and presidential. If the RHLF take a neutral approach by consensus from the above, they should look at the French presidential and parliamentary experience, where the President is both head of State and government while the prime minister who may come from a different party other than the ruling party, becomes prime minister.

If the members of the Forum were to adopt this French experience, it would mean that the Incumbent President General Salva Kiir Mayardit shall remain president. The Prime Minister who, would expectedly look after the daily activities of the government, would come from a party with large number of members in parliament.

If the SPLM was to put itself together in accordance with the Arusha Declaration recently revived in Cairo and Entebbe, it could take both the position of president and the prime minister. But if the amalgam of the numerous parties in the opposition were to unite as a bloc, it could also take the post of prime minister.

Hon Arop Madut Arop, currently an MP for Abyei at SSLA and an international media consultant, holds a Diploma in Socialist journalism – International Institute of journalism (East Berlin); Advanced Diploma in Liberal Journalism International Institute of Media Studies (West Berlin) and Masters of Arts Degree in International Journalism (City University of London). He is the author of two books: Sudan Painful Road to Peace, a full story of the founding and development of SPLM/SPLA (2006) and The Genesis of political consciousness in South Sudan (2012). He is also the author of a number of unpublished books. He can be reached at gotnyiel122@hotmail.com

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is 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, plus a concise biography of yourself.


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