By: Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak, JUL/20/2015, SSN;
While writing this article, preparations are underway to reconvene peace talks between South Sudan warring parties. One’s purpose or specific intention to write this article, is to remind readers about the culture of negotiations, political compromises as well as the grave dangers laying ahead for the people of South Sudan if war continues to intensify.
This time around, the sponsors of the upcoming peace talks had provided a serial sequential schedule that they termed as “the IGAD plus Peace Process Timetable”.
According to this sequential segmentation, IGAD Plus Envoys, which are going to comprise of 19 members, will meet this week starting today on July 20 to 23, 2015 in order to acquaint or serve themselves with IGAD Plus Draft Peace Agreement proposals on South Sudan peace initiative.
In their gathering, the team will approve the Draft or make any necessary changes pertaining to the peace proposal. Then, on July 24, 2015, the government of South Sudan and the SPLM/A-IO rebels will be called to converge in Addis Ababa to be served with the IGAD plus Draft Peace Agreement proposal.
After a brief get together ceremony to mark the official start of the talks, the parties will be given 10 days to go over the draft and discuss it with their respective leaders in Pagak and Juba respectively.
Hence, on August 5, 2015 the parties will be called back to Addis Ababa again to negotiate on the draft peace agreement proposals. After both delegations re-engage with mediators, two or three days later, they will be joined by their two Principals.
The process of the negotiation is that, the two parties will negotiate to improve the text drafted by IGAD Plus and provide a better language which will be agreed by the two parties.
If no agreement by the two parties, the language provided by IGAD Plus will be the one to remain and be signed. On August 10 or so, the IGAD plus Summit will be called to witness the two parties’ signature to the Peace Agreement.
Based on the above sequential timetable, one wonders, is peace really possible to be attained in South Sudan in August 2015?
Before one could dive deep to pinpoint some negative consequences, an ill-defined peace could bring, it would be good to shade light on past negotiations.
When the war broke out, envoys from Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Somalia and Uganda converged in Juba trying to find ways to help tackle the new nation’s crisis.
Theirs and the international community pressure came to life when on January 6, 2014, government and rebel delegations met in Addis Ababa to iron out their differences so that peace comes back to South Sudan.
First, the two delegations met separately with mediators at a hotel to pin down the points they would negotiate. Second, both sides met with the Ethiopian foreign minister for a ceremony to mark the official start of the talks before actual negotiation started.
The urgency of the talks was so sensitive, given that guns were booming and many innocent lives were being lost.
In that early stage of negotiations, the two warring parties were asked to present their grievances, rebels had three agendas, which were (1) release of the detainees, (2) withdrawal of foreign forces, including Ugandan, Darfur and SPLM-North fighters which Salva Kiir has invited to crash down Riek Machar’s rebels and that, (3) Salva must step down given the fact that he has lost legitimacy for ordering his private militias to massacre Nuer in Juba.
To the rebels, resolving these issues would clear the way for further discussions. However, government delegation carried only one agenda, which is “let Riek Machar surrender unconditionally so that peace returns”.
Then, IGAD mediators had only two items on their agenda, these are the cessation of hostilities and the status of the detainees in Juba. South Sudan government rejected all three rebel demands.
After lengthy discussions, the ceasefire deal was signed on Thursday January 23, 2014 by Nhial Deng Nhial the head of the government delegation and Taban Deng Gai, head of the rebel delegations, under watchful eyes of IGAD mediators and International community observers.
Immediately, such deal was dishonored.
The second and other sessions, including the closed door face to face talks between President Salva Kiir and the rebels’ leader Dr. Riek Machar ended up in Addis Ababa with disagreements on nine issues, declaration of permanent ceasefire, release of report of the Enquiry committee on Human rights, wealth sharing, settlement of debts, permanent constitution making process, dissolution of the current Assembly, power sharing establishment of national executive council and national council of ministers.
It looks like the culture of political compromises has not been employed by the parties.
In any negotiation, you don’t get 100%. For example, during the CPA negotiation, discussions were heated on power sharing protocol where SPLM/A’s delegations were serious on the rotation of the presidency and how the capital Khartoum should be divided in half, one side could be used as the seat of the government of southern Sudan and the other side as the seat of the Sudan government.
The two parties agreed only on general principles for the power sharing in government which include conducting an election during the interim period. They couldn’t agree on rotating the presidency and splitting the capital.
After the peace talks had broken down, the next round of talks were scheduled to take place and General Sumbieywo introduced a new format to accelerate the pace of negotiations by involving the top leadership to break deadlocked issues.
He drafts the compromise plan and gives it to the parties for observation as a basis for discussion at the upcoming opening session similar to what is now being proposed. At that time, the SPLM/A accepted his compromise plan and the government rejected it.
The government delegation denounced Sumbeiywo’s plan as hopelessly flawed which favored only SPLM/A position on separation and very soft on unity. Omar Hassan al Bashir complained that unity hasn’t been given much room.
The document was strong on secession which is the only concession they must offer toward the end of the interim period. He also could not allow self-determination for the south if southerners are demanding such demands as splitting the capital Khartoum during the interim period.
After bitter unproductive discussions, negotiators made up their mind to set aside some of documents.
In mid-August 2003, talks resumed again in Nanyuki Kenya where the two sides immediately deadlocked by the issue of whether to continue talks on Nakuru’s document or a new document could be proposed as the basis of the negotiation.
In order to break the deadlock, foreign minister of Kenya, Kalonzo Musyoka, suggests face to face discussions between top leaders of the parties to the negotiation; something Taha and Garang agreed to do.
His suggestion was seconded by western observers; they thought that direct negotiation between Ali Osman Mohamed Taha and Dr. John Garang De-Mabior might accelerate the search for lasting peace in Sudan.
The two leaders were locked up in direct negotiation at the tourist resort town of Naivasha, in central Kenya. At that juncture, there was no passing the torch to anyone else any more. The two leaders were facing each other on critical issues working on making progress or admit failure.
Profoundly, comprehensive Peace Agreement was entirely a complex document dealing with security arrangement, wealth sharing, and power sharing with modalities that included the Machakos protocol and the resolution of the conflict in three marginalized areas. Yet, the well-defined CPA tackled important differences between South and North.
In our current situation, one would assert without doubt that South Sudanese have been sharply divided due to the bad leadership, systematic human rights abuses, war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity committed by the top leadership of the country.
If South Sudan is going to survive as a strong Federal democratic State, several needs should be addressed, which will include democratic constitution, flexible federal system of governance, and a democratically elected Transitional National Government based on secret ballot of one man/woman vote.
Failure of creating a viable Federal democratic State, the danger we are now longing to erase, will resurface before the end of the tunnel.
Any political stumbling blocks in South Sudan that could occur during or after interim period, could produce more dangerous and serious consequences which will yet affect civil population greatly.
Without well-defined democratic political guarantees, there could be another outbreak of war between the tyrannical regime in Juba and the SPLA rebels.
We all know the war in south Sudan has been described since its early inception as an ethnic tribal war, which involves ethno-centric hatred that targeted one ethnic group.
Failure to identify the main causes of the conflict as being grossly the lack of a permanent democratic constitution to guarantee safeguards for all citizens, lack of the good governance, the rule of law, and the persistent denial of access for minority of the South Sudanese tribes to the political and economic mainstream by one ethnic group, which had created nepotism as a means to enrich themselves.
This will result into another ugly political event in the country; which means people of South Sudan will slip backwards.
In that regard, we shall not accept any settlement that falls short of creating a “Federal Democratic Republic of South Sudan” that facilitates the creation of the rule of law, and provides equal socio-economic and educational development for all citizens.
Exclusion of any group could trigger a bloody war. It is obvious that, there are still unhealed wounds in the hearts of many people who have lost loved ones in the Juba massacre.
Literally, South Sudanese are divided, and the division between them started from the top leadership through power struggle, political and ideological differences, and tribal loyalty and its primordial identifications.
In that regard, South Sudanese nationalism is expressed in terms of tribe affiliation rather than as a unifying force to enhance the creation of the one national interest.
There is lack of equitable power sharing, resources sharing, and the denial of some minority tribes to be included in political and economic beneficiary of the country.
This indicates that retaining an undemocratic leader, and criminal who ordered the massacre of innocent civilians who have nothing to do with the power struggle in the SPLM party, someone whose crime against humanity is suited for the International Criminal Court indictment, to allow him to continue ruling with an iron fist is uglier than you could imagine.
However, in the culture of negotiations, unwanted resolutions are accepted in order to avoid further destruction. This assertion is solely for the thought of resolving the conflict constructively.
It is noticeable that rebuilding trust under Salva Kiir is impossible, but, we need to move beyond the limit of impossibilities in order to settle this would-be 20 months or two years old conflict.
We also expect the murderous igniter of Juba massacre and his cronies, to concede to all reforms our movement had put forth such as the idea of Federalism, adding of 11 more States to the current 10 and amalgamation of the South Sudanese army just to name only a few.
We expect him this time around to avoid some of his everyday vocabularies such as, “I refuse, red-line, if I die,” and his intransigence, “how would you feel if I signed an agreement for two armies in the country?; would you be happy?” and so forth.
Failure to incorporate Federal Constitution that has basic laws to protect all citizens, guaranteed human rights, and social equality for all, freedom of expression, press, assembly and other democratic values could undermine the legitimacy of the peace.
In summing, worldwide agreements are signed and if these agreements aren’t well-defined and suited with the causes of the conflicts, dissipating, fragmentation, and dishonoring of the agreements are always nearer.
In that regard, mediators are expected to be serious on efforts of democratization and address each group’s political grievances amicably.
We need to keep in mind that South Sudan has been divided by tribal, political, and ideological differences; if there is any failure on the part of the IGAD-Plus in providing necessary needed change in the country in any agreement they wanted to impose on South Sudanese, the possibility of peace to be derailed away is far greater than we might have anticipated.
Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak
The author is a political commentator: he should be reach at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com