South Sudan Under Salva Kiir: An Examination of Three Transitional periods in the South Sudanese Politics

Posted: August 19, 2019 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers, peaceful coexistence, R-ARCSS, R-TGONU, Tong Kot Kuocnin

By Tong Kot Kuocnin & Yar Telar Deng, Nairobi, Kenya

Monday, August 19, 2019 (PW) — The Third Transitional Period From 9th July 2015 to 9th July 2018. As discussed in the first and second preceding parts of this article, this is the third and final part which will concentrate on the third transitional period in South Sudanese politics from 9th July 2015 to 9th July 2018.

This part examines the last phase of the transitional period by shading more light on the political developments which ensued in 2016, after the signing of the compromised peace agreement. A dog fight erupted around the Presidential Palace – J1, shortly after the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU).

Equally, the government extended the term of office of the president and other officials in July 2017 ushering in the third transitional period ranging from 9th July 2018 to 12th July 2021. The bill which amended the transitional constitution was introduced by Hon. Dengtiel Ayuen, the chair of the legislative committee in the parliament.

The amendment of the constitution allows H.E President Salva Kiir to remain in power until 2021 and extends the mandate of the current South Sudan transitional government, parliament and governors of all the 32 states for another three years.

The reason for the extension of the mandate of the president, parliament and the governors of all the 32 states for another 3years was part of the agreement, though SPLM-IO faction under Gen. Taban cunningly cheated the people of South Sudan, the region and the international community to believe that he was in full control of the SPLM-IO which was not practically the case, the agreement was about to expire as per the provision of the ARCSS, 2015.

However, the third phase of the transitional period began shortly after the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) in April 2016 and was to run through to 9th July 2018 as per the provisions of the Peace Agreement. This follows the fact that, four years after South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011, the South Sudanese citizens were bedazzled at the in-fighting that was on-going between their leaders.

After Dr. Riek Machar had declared a rebellion in 2013, the violence escalated. The two main armed factions were the SPLA forces under H.E. President Salva Kiir and the SPLA-IO (In opposition) led by Dr. Riek Machar, the immediate former vice president of the Republic.

The war continued unabated despite several attempts to have the two groups negotiate an agreement that would at least bring a lasting peace to the country and its people. The two warring parties managed to negotiate a deal to be dubbed as ‘Compromise Peace Agreement’ in 2015 under the auspices of the IGAD and the AU with supervision from the TROIKA countries.

This agreement was perceived as a breakthrough by many, it was however quite a fragile agreement since it was based on unwilling individuals who were under a lot of international pressure and threats of Sanctions from the International community. Unfortunately, both parties dragged out the implementation of the agreement.

Lo and Behold, in January 2015, a couple of agreements were signed in Arusha. Among these agreements were cessation of hostilities and agreement to solve the differences within the SPLM. In August 2015, a peace agreement was signed. This was the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan, 2015 (ARCSS).

As stipulated in the agreement, Juba was to be de-militarized. Therefore, tensions increased in the capital city and the warring parties experienced difficulties in bringing to a halt the violence. In addition to, international observers did not have the mandate  and adequate powers to keep the soldiers’ in check.

To everyone’s dismay on 8th July, 2016, as President Salva Kiir, his then Vice President, Riek Machar and vice president James Wani Igga were in a meeting, fighting ensued outside the Presidential palace. And just with that, violence sparked again. The Violence spread to other states and Riek Machar was on the run again.

This dog fight at J1 made Dr. Riek Machar, the then FVP and some of his other colleagues from SPLM-IO fled Juba for safety into the bushes, up to the border of South sudan and Congo where he was picked up by the UN on the so-called humanitarian basis.

However, the implementation in letter and spirit of this agreement faced a lot of political hurdles. The peace agreement of 2015, had to collapsed, although many were made to believe that Gen. Taban would steer forward the train whose mules or van-wagons had broken down and taken along by the former FVP, Dr. Riek Machar as he fled from Juba, and whom many Nuer, traditional leaders and intellectuals never faced or challenge. 

In December the same year (2015), President Salva Kiir dissolved the Country’s 10 states and created 28 states which was seen as a violation of the provisions of August peace deal. In April 2016, Riek Machar Teny returned to Juba, and was re-instated as Vice President.

In December 2016, the government initiated a national dialogue involving peace and reconciliation at local, regional and national levels. In July 2016, President Kiir issued  a decree relieving Dr. Riek Machar as the First Vice President and replaced him with Gen. Taban Deng Gai who was previously Dr. Riek Machar’s chief negotiator.

This move made the implementation of the peace agreement, as many commented and believed, not implementable and thus crippled the implementation process and violated the agreement which again created another front for a renewed opposition by the loyalists of Dr. Riek Machar.

There came into being, two factions of the SPLM-IO. One faction of SPLM-IO – In Government under Gen. Taban Deng Gai who became the country’s FVP after the July 2016 J1 incident and the other SPLM-IO faction under Dr. Riek Machar who was still wielding paramount influence despite his house arrest in South Africa.

The war didn’t stop and peace was never attained in the country even with Dr. Machar under house arrest in South Africa. The war continued and many lives were lost and properties being destroyed on a massive scale.

Why? What was wrong? Why were many lives still being lost and more properties being destroyed? What went wrong that led to many South Sudanese fleeing from their homes to seekrefuge in refugee camps in Uganda and Sudan? These are questions that would be lingering on the South Sudanese citizens minds. Quite the contrary, the government underestimated the power of  just one man, Dr. Riek Machar. The government, and indeed the president, thought that Gen. Taban equally enjoyed the same popularity and support from the Nuer community, who are predominantly the drivers of the SPLM-IO under Riek Machar.

The government and the president for that matter, werewrongly advised that dismissing Dr. Riek Machar as FVP and replacing him with his negotiator and a family member as he relates to Angelina Teny, the wife to Dr. Riek Machar, would ease the political heat that was befalling the president and his government. Little did the president and his government know that Gen. Taban could not be equated to Dr. Machar in no uncertain terms as Dr. Machar was seen as a second Ngun-Deng to the Nuer community irrespective of their many sections and clans and thus, nobody, in their eyes and hearts could fit his shoes, leave alone replacing him.

Many lives were still being lost simply because the sympathizers, supporters and followers of Dr. Riek Machar were still standing their ground and thus were on the offensiveagainst the government, its sympathizers and supporters, resulting to the loss of lives and destruction of properties. 

What wrong was that the war was taking toll on the vulnerable citizens who their places of habitual residence were made to be theatre of operations by either the government or the opposition forces, either struggles to retain control. This led to many people fleeing to neighboring countries in search for safety and security.

This phase was marked by a crumpling and fuddling rummage as many politicians and generals wanted the war to continue so that they as well continue to loot the country’s resources unquestionably under the pretext that they’re fighting the rebels who’re deemed to be enemies of the state and its people.

The transitional period was supposed to end, as per the provisions of the agreement on the resolution of the conflict in the republic of South Sudan.

With the economic situation, and the skyrocketing of the prices of basic goods and other foodstuff exacerbated by the depreciation of the value of South Sudanese Pounds, the cost of living still on the rise exacerbating the country’s humanitarian catastrophe caused by the conflict.

This economic crisis is significantly curtailing the governments’ political room to maneuver and prove to the region and the world that the economy is well and kicking. The government has not been able to pay wages to its civil service workers although it is using future oil revenues as collateral for new loans to help pay its workers and hence fund the war.

The few who have amassed and embezzled public funds for themselves became strong and grows so very powerful. These few mafias and oligarchs became arrogant and thus untouchable. They deal away with whoever that opposes or criticized them ruthlessly. They have held the country hostage.

This period has been characterized by incessant political and economic crisis as it has been exacerbated by violent conflict which has engulfed the whole country and thus made nation ungovernable.

On the 3rd of May 2019 in Addis Ababa, the meeting of the leadership of the Parties to the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 2 to 3 May 2019.

At the meeting, the Parties took stock of the status of the implementation of the R-ARCSS, identified progress made, challenges encountered and deliberated on the way forward and agreed on a roadmap.

The Parties observed that key Pre-Transitional tasks that are critical for the formation of the Revitalized Government of National Unity such as the cantonment, screening, training, unification and deployment of forces and the determination of the number and boundaries of state are pending.

The Parties identified lack of political will, financing and time constraints as the major challenges that have delayed implementation of the Pre-Transitional tasks and underscored the need to ensure that specific pending tasks are adequately funded within a clearly set out and reasonable timeframe.

In light of the above, the Parties unanimously agreed to extend the Pre-Transitional period by an additional six (6) months effective from 12th May 2019 to enable the execution of the critical pending tasks.

At the end of the meeting, the Parties agreed upon and signed a resolution that captures the discussions relating to progress and challenges, with recommendations on the way forward. The outcome of the meeting includes the agreement in principle for extension of the Pre-Transitional Period for six months to be tabled for consideration at the upcoming 67thExtraordinary Session of the IGAD Council of Ministers that was to be held on 7th to 8th May in Juba, South Sudan.

A “revitalized” peace agreement signed by government and opposition leaders in September did not end the fighting between government forces and various rebel forces. The agreement envisions a transitional government led by President Salva Kiir with Riek Machar as first vice president and four additional vice presidents. It provides for an eight-month pre-transitional period, followed by a 36-month transitional period.

All parties to the conflict committed serious abuses, including indiscriminate attacks against civilians including aid workers, unlawful killings, beatings, arbitrary detentions, torture, sexual violence, recruitment and use of child soldiers, looting and destruction of civilian property. Some of the abuses constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity. All parties to the conflict restricted access for the United Nations (UN) mission, those providing humanitarian assistance, and ceasefire monitors.

Since the conflict started in December 2013, more than 4 million people have fled their homes, with 2.47 million taking refuge in neighboring countries. Close to 200,000 people are living in six UN “protection of civilians” sites across the country. Seven million people need humanitarian assistance, most of whom faced acute food shortages.

Lack of accountability continued to fuel the violence, while progress on establishing the hybrid court envisioned in the 2015 peace agreement remains stalled. The government continued to restrict media and civil society and arbitrarily detain perceived critics and opponents.

Tong Kot Kuocnin holds Bachelor of Laws (LLB) Degree from the University of Juba and a Master of Laws (LLM) specializing in Law, Governance and Democracy from the University of Nairobi. He is an Advocate before All Courts in South Sudan. His areas of research interest include: Constitutional Law and Human Rights, Rule of Law and Good Governance.You can reach the authors via their respective email addresses: Yar Telar <yartelardeng@gmail.com> and Bullen Tong<tongbullen@gmail.com>        

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