By: Samuel Atabi, South Sudanese, APR/27/2017, SSN;
In the last few weeks, discerning South Sudanese have detected a slight movement of the needle in the attitudes of the international community towards the government’s violence against its own citizens in their country.
First, the Rt. Hon. Priti Patel, the UK Secretary for International Development, called the scorched-earth campaigns of the Kiir’s regime, with its proper name, ‘Genocide.’
This was followed by the UN-appointed Panel of Experts on South Sudan’s letter which acknowledges that …[B]y far the largest-scale of campaigns have been planned and executed by SPLM/A in Government under the leadership of Kiir.’
Furthermore, the letter clearly states that these campaigns are carried out by a combination of tribal Dinka SPLA forces in conjunction with Dinka militia known as the ‘Mathiang Anyoor.’
Never before has a UN-inspired document been so explicit on stating the tribal character of the government forces.
Then, on April 25, 2017, the US Ambassador to the UN, Hon. Nikki Haley excoriated the Kiir government on the causes of the devastating famine and violence, while at the same time threatening arms embargo against the regime.
But can these welcomed and apparent shifts be viewed as hopeful signs for the much needed resolution of the conflict? Only time will tell.
But, while the same South Sudanese welcome these slight movements, they have also noted the reference, by these sources, to the African Union (AU) as a necessary partner in ending the genocide; most right-thinking South Sudanese do not envisage any arbitration role for the African Union in this war.
They view the prescription to involve the AU as a mistake because of the nature of AU and its track record in solving problems on the continent of Africa.
More specifically, South Sudanese’s historical experience with this institution is at the root of this rejection. The postures of the AU, and its defunct predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), have always been against the political interests of the people of South Sudan. Evidence exists to support this claim.
The OAU was founded in 1963, at the time when most African nations were gaining their political independence from the colonial powers. At that time, the prevailing unifying ideal for these young countries was that of Pan-Africanism.
This ideal had espoused solidarity and unity among African states. In conformity with this ideal, one of the OAU’s main aims was, and still remains, ‘to defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the African states.’
The South Sudanese war of independence, from the Sudan, had predated the birth of the OAU by eight years, and the war was therefore, seen, by the founders of this outfit, to be inimical to the unity that was championed by the new regional institution.
To prove their credentials as stalwarts for Pan-Africanism, the first crop of the African leaders in the 1960’s and 1970’s competed with each other in condemning this South Sudanese war of liberation.
The competition took the form of harassment, detention and even killing of South Sudanese refugees in countries such as Uganda.
In one particular prominent example, the founder and the first leader of the Southern Sudan Liberation Movement, Fr. Saturnino Ohure and his fellow priest, Fr. Leopoldo Anywar, were murdered in Uganda.
As we write, some countries in the region are still involved in similar actions which now include kidnapping, forced disappearance and deportation of South Sudanese refugees who are residing within their borders.
The OAU was succeeded by the AU in 2002. The AU inherited the original objectives of the former as well as its hostility against any group intending to challenge the received colonial borders.
South Sudan was in the midst of a second installment of the independence armed struggle when this succession took place.
In an effort to avoid the hostility of the OAU/AU and its consequences, the then leader of this new independence movement (the SPLM/A), Dr. John Garang, had to disguise its true intention (that of secession) as that of a united New Sudan.
South Sudan became independent in 2011. Clearly, there is no goodwill among the members of the AU towards South Sudanese because of the perception that the latter have defied the objective of the organization as indicated earlier.
Therefore, the AU is incapable, unwilling and ill-suited to be an honest broker in the present conflict in South Sudan. For example, the AU has so far failed to create a Hybrid Court, as recommended by its own Commission, to try those who are suspected of having organized the on-going genocide in South Sudan.
Another hostile regional organization, which is being recommended as an arbiter in the conflict, is the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). This organization has even proved to be worse than the AU.
Its membership has opted openly to side with the Kiir’s regime in Juba.
The UN Panel has this to say about IGAD in their letter: ‘…The regional body has also fractured in its response to the conflict, and coordinated pressure within the region to enforce the (August 2015) agreement has dissipated in favor of bilateral arrangements between its members and SPLM/A in Government, dictated by these States’ national security and economic interests.’
To many South Sudanese, any insistence on further mediation role for IGAD in this conflict, as is espoused by the Russian delegation to the UN Security Council, will be viewed as a hostile act against their interests and a ruse to prolong their suffering in the hands of the rogue regime in Juba.
The perpetrators of what Hon. Patel calls a tribal genocide are known; they should not be allowed to get away with impunity.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the court of last resort and as the possibility of instituting the Hybrid Court recedes, because of the AU’s machination and subterfuge, the ICC should take over the responsibility for trying these genocide suspects.
The international community should be resolute in sending these people to ICC.
To quote the Kenyans during the debate on how and where to try their own suspects of political violence in 2007, we repeat, ‘Do not be vague; take them to The Hague’.
Samuel Arabi is a concerned South Sudanese. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org