Will the Revitalization Forum Salvage the Situation in South Sudan? – Part 2

Posted: January 30, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Arop Madut-Arop, Columnists, Commentary, Contributing Writers, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

South Sudan Hinging Between War and Peace: Will The High-Level Revitalisation Forum (HLRF) Meeting Salvage The War Situation In South Sudan? Part Two

By Hon. Arop Madut Arop, Juba, South Sudan

IGAD plus President Kiir, 25 July 2017

IGAD plus President Kiir, 25 July 2017

January 30, 2018 (SSB) — In accordance to the timeline set by the IGAD led High-Level Revitalisation Forum (HLRF), during its December 2017 inaugural meeting to discuss peace in South Sudan the second talk is expected to reconvene possibly during the first week of February 2018. In the December meeting, two items were discussed and resolved. These were the cessation of hostilities among the warring parties and access to humanitarian delivery to those behind the rebel controlled areas. In the February 2018 encounter, the Forum is also expected to discuss other two main items on the agenda: the signing of the permanent ceasefire and a search for the type of governance that will suit the people of South Sudan; predictably once sustainable peace is achieved.

Seen by observers, the key to the success of the up-coming February meeting will largely depend on how HLRF will harmonise the two positions held by the government and the opposition in effort to forge a mid-way approach to the settlement of the elusive conflict.  But as we proceed with our discussion, it will be important to comprehend adequately the positions of the warring parties. On the first hand the Transitional Government of National Unity, would want to revise or rearrange the clauses of the August 2015, ARCSS document, whose implementation has been frustrated by a number of co-related issues. The opposition groups on the other hand, would want to renegotiate the said peace deal resuscitate it.

But as most of the participants in the HLRF speak English as a second language, there are fears that the terms used by the conveners, the government and the opposition groupings may frustrate the upcoming HLRF peace process, as each may interpret the others terms differently. Hence; a compelling need to comprehend adequately, the terms used by the Revitalisation Forum and South Sudanese stakeholders. Unless these positions are well understood, one does not see how smoothly any meaningful discussion will progress to a successful end.

Generally, the word vitalisation simply means a process in which more energy is put into something important in effort to gain more strength. In our current context, the word revitalisation will therefore refer to a process of bringing back on track the 2015 peace deal to a situation where it will be possible to implement it successfully. Similarly, the term resuscitate is also a term used by paramedics to bring back to life of a sick person who have collapsed and is at the point of death. The opposition uses the word resuscitate to mean bringing the August 2015 ARCSS to a position where it could accommodate their position.

In both cases, the two words; revitalise or resuscitate are synonymous English words but differ only in their usage and the importance the user attaches to it or intends to achieve. Other similar words which apparently have the same meaning are: revise, re-arrange, redefine, review, recharge, restore, reanimate or resurrect.

Remarkably, the good news is that, the positions being held by the conveners and South Sudan stakeholders appear, as if all of them have admitted the existence of the August 2015 Agreement for Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), but not fully implemented.  If this was to be the case, there is an apparent consensus among the parties to the IGAD led Revitalisation Forum upcoming talk that, the ARCSS still exist and must be brought back on track where it could be reshaped or polish or if you like reviewed for sustainable discussion for full implementation. It may, in brief it may mean that there are controversial points that must be addressed on the ARCSS for full implementation.

As regard to the two main items on the February meeting agenda: the signing of permanent ceasefire and definition of the type of governance that will be acceptable to the people of South Sudan; observers are of the opinion that, despite the numerous undeniable ceasefire violations, the South Sudanese stakeholders: both in the Transitional Government of National Unity and in the grand opposition alliance, may be pressured by the international community to live up to their commitment to accept the fact that the continuation of the war is not in the best interest of their people, who will vote them tomorrow into power or out of it. Regardless to the recent numerous accusations and counter accusations by the warring parties; there is still a glimpse of hope that permanent ceasefire will hopefully be signed thereby paving the way for further discussion on the items engrained in the HLRF timeline. And as Hon Aldo Ajou Deng Akuei MP put it in his recent article, permanent ceasefire is a key for the attainment of sustainable peace in South Sudan.

Assuming that, permanent ceasefire would signed, the stakeholders will then move on and discuss the second most complex item on the agenda; the type of governance that the meeting will have to adopt as suitable for the people of South Sudan. More still, in accordance to the HLRF timeline, another Transitional government of national unity must be put in place first before the participants in the Forum could proceed with the discussion on the broad terms of the governance.

Understandably, there are two possible feasible types of transitional arrangements in sight; one of which should be put in place immediately for further discussion to move forward. In the process, the stakeholders will either, agree to maintain the incumbent Transitional Government of National Unity in which most of the warring  parties are already represented or; a problematic new transitional government of national unity which will also accommodate representatives of the new opposition grand alliance, be put in place.

Advisably, and in order to form an acceptable transitional administration, the stakeholders will need to revisit three previous governments of South Sudan. Basically, the first post- independence administration was composed of 38 ministries. Through pressure from donors plausibly, a lean government of 18 ministries was put in place. The third one was the incumbent government ushered in by the ARCSS composed of 30 ministries.

If the stakeholders were to agree on the maintenance of the incumbent administration it would mean that other 8 ministerial portfolios will be created for the grab by the new amalgam of the ten opposition groups, currently taken as the grand opposition. Otherwise, a new type of transitional authority in which each of all the parties or stakeholders could be negotiated before it is adopted.

The Prelude to the Synopsis

Based on my experience on the politics of South Sudan, it is my humble and considered opinion that, the literature and culture of research in our young republic, is in short supply. In that sense, this synopsis is intended for brainstorming for the stakeholders to make their own researches about the world various types of governance; so that each of them will be able to present to the Forum, the type of governance its party thinks will be suitable for the people of South Sudan, for endorsement. This writer will not pretend to speak specifically of any suitable type of governance to be adopted by the HLRF stakeholders.

But rather float some ideas in effort to brainstorm the parties to make thorough researches in order to make it easy to choose the type of governance suitable for South Sudan. If all the stakeholders were to make proper research on the time of governance, they would, under the guidance of HLRF, be able to compare notes among themselves during the plenary sessions.  But even so, it will have to remain in theory until a permanent constitution is written and is approved by the people of South Sudan in a nationwide referendum at the conclusion of the agreed timeline.

In regard to the type of governance that will be discussed in the February meeting, it would appear that, all the South Sudanese stakeholders taking part in the current peace talk, are agreed that a federal system would be the basis of governance in the young republic, once the peace reigned. Again, the word federalism, like revitalisation, revision or resuscitation, is a lopsided term used by nearly all the countries of the wide world with some variation. This will demand that each of the protagonists will have to present a paper on the type of federalism their groups believe will be the best form of governance in the republic of South Sudan for endorsement by the Forum.

Federalism or Federal Type of Governance

Basically, the term federal mode of government is a system in which the central, national, federal or con-federal governments do share powers and resources with the peripheries: Counties, Districts provinces, regions or states. In these circumstances, the powers and resources shared are not universal but are defined by the interest of the concerned dominant authorities. Even then, the powers and resources that must be shared are included in the national permanent constitution and which will have to be approved by the citizenry in a nationwide referendum. Having given some idea as to what federalism is all about, it will be instructive to make a brief about various types of governance that have come to the fore since the beginning of modern civilisation.

The first original form, the HLRF stakeholders must look at, has to do with the centralised system of governance. In the centralised system of governance; all powers and resources are owned and controlled by the central/national authorities. As we all know it was the system which was put in place in the Sudan in the pre-and post -independent period (1956 – 1982). But the May Regime enacted the regional system of governance laws. It was there and then that all the former provinces were upgraded to regions. When the incumbent Islamist regime came to office (1989), the regions were renamed as states and the country were given a ceremonial name of the Federal Republic of Sudan. But in those circumstantial changes in the Sudan, there has never been clear division of powers and resources to acknowledge for the country to deserve the name of a federal state.

The second type of governance which the South Sudanese stakeholders must also examine has to do with the devolution of powers in which some powers and resources are given to the regions. Good example is that of the United Kingdom government, where power and resources are devolved to its four regions of: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The third type of governance is the decentralised system in which certain amount of social powers and local resources are given by the national government to the lower level of governments: counties, regions or states. This is an administrative federalism system which is now in force in the Republic of South Sudan.

The fourth system of governance the stakeholders must examine was the ideologically and administrative wrapped up system which was adopted by the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; which brought together 15 republics with the Russian  federation as a dominant authority if not the pay master general. The Soviet system of governance was to all intent and purposes, a totalitarian federal system where the powers and resources were controlled and directed by the central committee of the communist party based in Moscow.

Once the communist ideology fell apart, in 1990s, the 15 republics in the Soviet Union became separate independent states. This type of administrative and ideologically bound federal system was also adopted in the Union of Socialist Federal Republics of Yugoslavia; which also later splintered into six independent republics of: Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Slavonia and Kosovo. In both the defunct Union of Soviet Socialist and Yugoslavia federal Socialist Republics, there was no apparent binding clause in the constitution to prevent any member of the federation to break away. Once communism collapsed, there was nothing to keep those republics together.

The fifth type of governance to examine as the most enduring system of governance is the United States of America (USA) federalism. In the USA federalism, power and resources are reasonably and rational shared between the Federal government and the states. Remarkably, the USA type of federalism is so unique to extent that it cannot be adopted outside the United States of America; in the sense that, the founding fathers of American federalism based their constitution on absolute freedom and justice for all the citizens. The reason for the adoption of this unique system was due to the fact that the population of the USA is composed mainly by migrants from different parts of the world, who had both run away because of persecution, oppression, subjugation and many other forms of injustices. These migrants was led by the Anglo-Saxon which is a dominating class, followed by the Hispanics, the Irish, Arabs, Africans the Jews and the indigenous people among others.

The sixth type of governance is the system of cantonment in Switzerland. Remarkably, the Swiss system of governance is also a unique type because the population consist only of three main nationalities: French, Germans and Italians who are bound together by the system of cantonment. The power and resources are therefore distributed equitably,

Presidential-Parliamentary Federalism

Advisably, the South Sudanese stakeholders in the IGAD led Forum must also look closely at other forms of federalism. The first of this type is the French dual federalism which is both presidential and parliamentary. In the French federalism, the President is both the head of state and government. The official residence of the president is housed at Elysee Presidential Palace. The French federal prime minister who could come from one of the opposition parties shares executive powers with the Federal President in the sense that, the prime minister chairs only the daily activities of the government ministries, of course by a delegation from the president as provided for in the constitution. But when there are serious issues of national nature tabled before the two houses of parliament like the presentation of national budget, national security and policies related to foreign the president in his capacity as head of state and government.

The second exemplary federalism the South Sudanese stakeholders must look at, has also to do with the Indian parliamentary federalism. Like all the parliamentary democratic federalism, the Indian President sits in New Delhi as a ceremonial non-democratically elected head of state. Whereas, the Indian prime minster is the head of government he also sits in the Capital New Delhi. The head of the regions or states are called chief ministers who come to power through democratic elections to extent that some of the states, a government could be formed by one of the dominant opposition parties in a state other than the National ruling party in New Delhi. The state governors in the Republic of India are not elected but appointed by the president and enjoys ceremonial powers like that enjoyed by the president.

Although the role of a state governor is also ceremonial like that of the president; nonetheless, he has some extensive powers like vetoing the state policies. The state governor as representative of the President, as head of state, can dissolve state parliaments and call them to recess. According to the constitution, state governors also call for the dissolution of states parliaments and order fresh elections. According to the Indian constitution, there is a clause in the Indian parliamentary federalism that strictly prohibits any state from seceding from the rest of the Republic of India

The 1972-1982 Regional Experience Revisited

Having discussed the types of federalism and division of power and resources between the Federal and state governments, it will be important to look at the scanty untapped resources in the South Sudan states and how they could possibly be shared between the federal and the state governments. While the sharing of power in a would-be-federal republic of South Sudan would present fewer problems, the sharing of resources would present tremendous challenges. Because most of the resources in South Sudan are untapped and could feasible be shared only in theory. But for practical reasons, one does not see the feasibility of apportioning the resources still underground between the federal and the state governments.

In this connection, it will be important to revisit the Regional Government of 1972 experience. When Justice Abel Alier became the president of the High Executive Council (regional government) he recruited and appointed highly educated, well trained and experienced Southern Sudanese from the Central Government. These officials came and laid down sound basis for the initiation and implementation of projects and resources generation in all the three then provinces.

The former Southern regional government despite the little resources which came mainly from the central government, nonetheless initiated projects I each of the districts in the three provinces;; which had the following potential export earning projects distributed as follows: Aweil Rice Scheme, Wau Canning Factory, Wau White Nile brewery and Dairy Farming at Marial Baai, Tonj Kenefa, Rumbek ox-plough project; Mangala Sugar and Textile, Kapoeta Cement, Upper Talanga Tea, Yei Tobacco and coffee, Melut sugar and Malakal paper industry. Last but not least the Nzara Agro industry complex. All these projects were destroyed beyond repaired and have remained in ruins till the time of writing this piece. If these projects were rehabilitated sooner after the descent of peace in 2005, by the GOSS, there could have been sufficient reasons to adopt the federal type of governance in which the federal government could share resources with the peripheries.

Indisputably division of resources between the federal republic of South Sudan and its states to be, will present tremendous problem because, nearly all resources in the young republic are still underground. Another problem that will face the stakeholders in their efforts to share resources with the expected federal republic of South Sudan and its states will be unfair because there are states with no known existing potential resources that will be exploited to bring hard currency. May be Aweil Rice scheme, and the oil producing states could fare better. Even so, most of the oil plants will need to be rehabilitate before people can think of making the oil projects fully operational.

In brief all the resources in South Sudan except the oil areas are still untapped. Hence HLRF will find it difficult to think as to how untapped resources are to be shared by the federal government and its states. In any case as some of compatriots take the word federalism as an end by itself, for expedience and convenience, it would be important to use the federalism in theory until permanent constitution is formulated and is approved by all the citizens of the South Sudan in a nation-wide referendum. .

Will the HLRF Salvage the Situation in South Sudan?

As to the question raised in the synopsis as to whether the IGAD designed Forum (HLRF) will salvage the elusive war situation in the Republic of South Sudan, it will be important to look at the UN, AU, Troika and IGAD, putting them together as the international community. Firstly IGAD members do appear unanimous in their approach to the solution of the South Sudan conflict. According to reports, some members of IGAD seem to agree that the incumbent administration in Juba led by President General Salva Kiir and First Vice General Taban Deng, should be maintained politically and financially and to be used as basis for the formation of a new transitional government of national unity that will accelerate peace discussion throughout the HLRF timeline scheduled.

Notwithstanding, there are members of IGAD who reportedly believe that, the best way would be to reconcile the two SPLM IO factions with General Taban Deng giving his position back to Dr Riek Machar in any Transition government of National Unity to be. The members of the former group are of opinion that this is non-starter as it will escalate the war between the two factions; making it difficult to reach any agreement being negotiated under the auspices of the IGAD led HLRF. Unless members of IGAD are united and genuine in their pledge to support the realisation of peace in the world younger state, any success of the Revitalisation Forum, will appears questionable, to say the least.

The members of the TOIKA Countries on the other hand reportedly are at variant and appear to have no unified position toward the HLRF agenda. The USA, as shown by daily utterances of its officials; is reportedly hell bent for the regime change. The other two members of the TROIKA, UK and Norway appear lukewarm in their official positions. In any case, while the members of Troika openly appear supportive for the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan in general, they have not clearly thrown their full weight behind the IGAD led Revitalisation process. If they did they would have made sufficient funds available in order to finance the IGAD led Revitalisation Forum process.

On the position of the South Sudan stakeholders, the Transitional Government of National Unity in Juba, and its affiliates have already come up with one common agenda and will stand together through thin and thick. As for the opposition groups, their unity appears to be a marriage of convenience, in the sense that, while some of their leaders who rebelled in order to gain recognition and reward, will cooperate and accept any solution, others are hell bent to replace the incumbent president and therefore will not genuinely cooperate. The latter group’s agenda: is either it is me or not all, regardless to how long it will take the war to bring the conflict to an end. However, through pressure from the international community, this group may cooperate positively, a move which will definitely enhance the position of the Revitalisation Forum.

In a nutshell, any future success of the Revitalisation Forum, to salvage the situation in South Sudan will depend largely on the following factors. Firstly, it demands the international community to stand together genuinely and cooperate; in order to bring pressure to bear on all the South Sudanese stakeholders to work for the fulfilment of the HLRF peace mission; at best for the interest of their people. Secondly, the South Sudanese citizenry and the Church believe that in order to make HLRF work successfully, it will need the international community to bring pressure to bear on the opposition groups to unite, present one common peace agenda and confront the Incumbent Transitional Government of National Unity and its affiliates that have already decided to stand together as a bloc.

This will demand that the international community to bring the South Sudanese stakeholders to the negotiation table with the incumbent Transitional Government of National Unity and its affiliates standing as a bloc versus the amalgam of grand opposition also standing as a bloc. If the two groups were to present their respective positions to the Revitalisation Forum, it will only be then that, the IGAD led Revitalisation Forum could move forward and salvage the situation in the South Sudan, God Willing.

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, commentary or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. PaanLuel Wël website (SSB) do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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