By: Taban Abel Aguek, Member of Parliament, FEB/22/2018, SSN;
As talks on the Revitalization of the Peace Agreement continue in Addis Ababa (which has collapsed), many suggestions are being put forth on ways and means to remedy the situation in South Sudan. The search for peace in South Sudan is good but it seems strange that, as we look for solutions to the conflict in South Sudan, we create more mistakes that tend to prolong war than avail peace.
In real essence, the Addis Ababa peace agreements seem to plant more recipes for war than avail complete cure for our problems.
“A new Transitional Government without President Salva Kiir is a farce; a mere fallacy devoid of reason and one that delivers no concrete solution to South Sudan’s conflict.”
In the first agreement there was an issue of two armies which later resulted in the Juba fight on 8th July, 2016.
Another new recipe for war again today is if IGAD accepts the demand by the opposition groups and one civil society organization called Centre for Peace and Justice (CPJ) for President Salva Kiir Mayardit to be excluded in the new transitional government of South Sudan.
In the first place, I am one of the South Sudanese that did not support the High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF), I was rather supporting the National Dialogue. In my opinion, the National Dialogue should first have given been a chance. If it fails, then we would be obliged to try the Revitalization of the 2015 Peace Agreement.
So I am one of the South Sudanese people who opposed the HLRF because I believe that, both legally and principally, there is a legitimate Peace Agreement already on the table. The Government in Juba was formed through the provisions (and is operating) using the same guidelines of the agreement that was signed by all parties and witnessed by all stakeholders, Troika included.
Some people won’t tell us directly but they seem to insinuate that Dr. Riek Machar is either synonymous with the agreement or he is the agreement himself. When Riek is not in government these people say that the peace agreement has collapsed. Yet, the same people who claim that the agreement has collapsed, the SPLM Former Detainees for instance, do still have their ministers even today in the Transitional Government of National Unity in Juba. That is what we call hypocrisy.
The other cheeky thing is that the same people who gave us the agreement now turn around to shift blame to the government on their own flaws in the agreement. The flaws we pointed out in the 2015 peace agreement which were actually published across all South Sudanese media were ignored. One such flaw was the issue of two armies in one country. More mistakes should be avoided now.
The South Sudan Peace Agreementof August 2015, clause 6.4 says that, “And in the event that the post of the First Vice President falls vacant during the Transitional Period, for any reason, including mental infirmity or physical incapacity of the office holder, the replacement shall be nominated by the unified ruling party. Such a process of nomination shall not exceed forty-eight (48) hours. The successor as the First Vice President shall serve in office until the end of the Transitional Period.”
After the J1 fight, President Salva Kiir on record went live on media calling on both sides to stop fighting and he specifically called on Dr Riek Machar to come to office. Dr Riek Machar, instead of heeding to such call, kept on fighting for another seventy-two hours until he and his forces had to be finally pushed out of Juba.
If Dr Riek had accepted the plea of the President to cease fighting and come to office, he would have stayed as the First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan until today.
After long tireless efforts, there was nothing the Transitional Government could do otherr than ask the members of his party to sit and nominate another person in Riek’s place as provided for in the agreement. That is how Gen. Taban Deng Gai became the First Vice President of this country.
Again, records show that Gen. Taban has outwitted Dr Riek on many occasions. Each time Dr Riek stands up against Gen Taban, it is Taban that in the end laughs last and laughs best.
One recent example was when Dr Riek, as a sitting Vice President, supported his wife to be Governor of Unity State in 2010 against Gen Taban. Gen Taban did not only win against Dr Riek’s wife but in fact he wrestled control of Dr Riek’s home state. When some Riek –allied militias probed up against Taban in Bentiu, Taban ruthlessly squashed them into submission in a very short time.
By current standing, Gen. Taban Deng Gai has already taken with him more than half of the SPLM-IO rank and file members. Those who have remained in Dr. Riek’s war are a few students mainly in the diaspora and some remnants who have long become highway terrorists that deserve to be banned in the region and treated like Kony’s LRA.
The second reason why I don’t support the HLRF is that we need to discourage the politics of rebellion. South Sudanese want to use rebellions as means to get to political and military offices.
Now in South Sudan, if you have five loyal soldiers, you can kill five people on a highway, go to Addis Ababa peace talks after five days and all of a sudden you either an SPLA general or minister just in five days. That is why most rebel movements in our country are briefcase organizations.
Their stories are big, their atrocities are downplayed and the stakeholders continue to give them ground. That is why many South Sudanese accepted the Addis Ababa II, or call it the IGAD High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF).
If South Sudan government had rejected the Revitalization Forum of the peace agreement, it would have been easy to take it as being responsible for the continuity of war and suffering of the South Sudanese people. So, it went to such talks in good faith.
All in all, what we need in South Sudan is peace and stability. Period! Whichever way total peace can be achieved in this country, if it is through HLRF, so much the best.
But the problem now is that the highly proclaimed and the High Level Revitalization Forum is again trying to condone very useless demands, in fact untruthful demands, that may keep peace at bay for long time.
One of such demands by the opposition groups is that President Salva Kiir Mayradit be excluded from leading the proposed new Transitional Government. Another Human Rights Body, the Centre for Peace and Justice, had earlier suggested that both Kiir and Riek Machar be exempted from the transitional government.
According Radio Tamazuj, the opposition demand that Kiir be excluded from leading the transitional national government is that they accuse him of violating the 2015 peace accord. CPJ on the the other hand in a statement published by Sudan Tribune argues that “Experience shows that Kiir and Riek cannot work together,” asserting further that President Kiir attempted to kill Dr Riek twice.
Both arguments are not only incorrect but they are not practical in pursuing peace in the country. Regardless of all notoriety, propaganda and the games, the bottom line is: peace cannot be achieved at this time in this country without President Salva Kiir.
I still maintain that the 2015 peace agreement did not collapse. It is being revitalized at the request of rebels and pressure from Troika. The 2015 peace agreement faced major hiccups when Dr Riek’s soldiers in Juba were misled into thinking that they could overrun Juba.
But still there is no enough and convincing reason that President Kiir be excluded from leading the government. That could amount to nothing less but an organized coup, which is not acceptable in all terms.
Well, CPJ might be correct that it is difficult for President Kiir and Dr Riek to work together. But again it is not necessary that they work together. The rhetoric by Mr Tito Anthony published on Sudan Tribune that, Kiir tried to “assassinate Riek twice” is not only false but a scam designed to get his argument through.
President Kiir has had every chance, if he wanted, to kill Riek but he never wanted to kill Riek. The last fight in J1 sparked off by Riek’s soldiers can be the right example to use. After very intensive fight, Dr Rieks soldiers waned in the end but President Salva Kiir ordered his bodyguards not harm Dr Riek let alone kill him.
Dr Riek was escorted by Kiir’s bodyguards up to his residence in Jebel from which, without reciprocating the good deed, launched another brutal fight. The SPLA had no option left but to defend themselves, the country and the President.
If Dr Riek forces had captured J1, would one imagine Kiir being alive today? But there was Riek there without guards and Kiir protected him from his own angry bodyguards whose colleagues were killed.
Such a suggestion or call it a demand that a legitimately elected President be removed from power unconstitutionally is anti-peace. If such sentiments don’t stop then it’s our feeling that we as people of South Sudan to ask our delegates not to set foot in Addis Abba again.
Such suggestions once given room by IGAD may backfire in the very near future. IGAD leaders ought to be really careful. South African countries have developed a culture of overthrowing their leaders through army and/or party parliamentary caucuses. Our countries here in East Africa are trying to forge a way through which they can overthrow their elected leaders. We must try to avoid such ugly means of transfer of power.
President kiir is a validly elected President. One of the guys gunning for his seat today through the back door, Dr Lam Akol, only managed to garner less than 7% against Kiir in the 2010 general elections that were witnessed by UN and so many other global institutions.
Moreover, Kiir commands a large support in the ruling party, SPLM and across the country. Any attempt to remove President Kiir unconstitutionally shall straight away plunge the country into a complete chaotic mess.
Take it here: it is better when these so many splinter groups fight Kiir. Without Kiir, who is now the common enemy, there will be no one left to fight. It is better to have these people engaged in fighting Kiir. You wait when there is no Kiir there is nobody that cannot be President in South Sudan.
Generally, and for records, its good to state that talks in Addis Ababa may possibly produce an agreement that at best is modus vivendi. A change of governance presents not the lasting solution to the conflict.
What the Addis Ababa talks should majorly address is how the various armed groups be united and integrated into one command and then silence the guns. The talks must seek ways to bring the IDPs and refugees out of camps to their homes.
The other vital issue that needs joint efforts is how the revitalization and the restoration the South Sudan economy. If we stop war through honest and rightful means, then it is possible to achieve meaningful peace in our country.
The best and the only prudent way to settle the leadership wrangles in the country is through the democratic elections. If President Kiir loses elections, no one of his supporters will fire a bullet. But if forced out by a few delegates in Addis Ababa then there shall surely be more chaos than peace in this country for another very long time.
Taban Abel Aguek is a member of State Legislative Assembly in Eastern Lakes State, Yirol. He can be reached at email@example.com.