By: Taban Abel Aguek, Rumbek, MAR/19/2015, SSN;
The efforts for peace in South Sudan by IGAD and the International Community since the conflict broke out in December 2013 indicate how the world cares about South Sudan.
Much as the coup did fail in Juba, the carnage that has been precipitated by its overflow in places like Bor, Malakal and Bentiu remains the worst. It resulted in a piece of shame that we will never erase in the history of South Sudan.
For more than fourteen months now, IGAD, TROIKA and the UN have been exerting tireless efforts for peace in South Sudan. However, it is important to note that availing a wrong peace is worse than war itself.
It is a serious waste to place on table a peace agreement that will never stay.
It may be in the best interest of South Sudan and the region to expedite peace; but signing peace is one thing and keeping it is another.
That is why peace negotiations cannot be given a fixed time. And that is why peace is being negotiated between Palestine and Israel for years now. Maybe Kenyans are right in their saying, “haraka haraka haina baraka”, (hurrying up with things carries no blessing).
So, why rush with negotiations when tangible issues are not agreed? Human lives continue to be lost but that is due to the fact that Riek and his group fail to respect the cessation of hostilities agreement.
When making peace, it must be efforts of both the mediators and the negotiators to ensure a complete remedy is availed. All in all, peace can never be designed in a way that it serves the interests of one tribe in a country inhabited by more than 60 other tribes. Otherwise, it would result in another endless conflict.
The war in South Sudan is indeed a senseless war. But should not make it deserve senseless solution as well. Rather, it must be matched with solutions that are realistic and acceptable to all people of South Sudan.
If IGAD and TROIKA representatives have the same feelings as we do and try to put themselves in our shoes today, they could certainly see these useless demands by Dr. Riek Machar quite differently.
Dr. Riek’s demands at the peace talks are not only impossible but they also show the world that Riek does not want peace in South Sudan.
The Government of South Sudan has conceded a lot of issues at the talks just for the sake of peace; but that has been badly abused by the opposition. The opposition needed to have reciprocated the Government’s faithful concessions at the talks instead of using the same as the point of weakness to exploit.
The argument by the opposition to keep two armies in the country does not indicate any readiness for peace. Riek as reported in the media claimed that seventy percent of the army defected with him at the start at the conflict. But there is no baseline from which it can truly be placed. The Nuer tribe prior to the conflict had a big representation in the army but still it could not reach the claimed 70%.
It also happened because of the reintegration of several Nuer based militia groups that were aligned to Sudan before the South–South Dialogue.
Dr Riek should be made to drop the argument about the two armies or anything like amalgamation and go for the reintegration of the two armies under one command to ensure trust and togetherness in the SPLA once and for all.
Amalgamation of the two armies may plant in the SPLA the rebel White army that was mobilized and armed without proper training.
And the admission of the White army may amount to calling for the ‘gelweng’ of Dinka and the ‘Arrow boys’ of Equatoria to be included in the army. To allow this to happen may render the national army not only fragile and fragmented but also inflated and bloated.
Federalism has been a call by a section of South Sudanese. But it has no recorded public backing since it has not been put on a referendum. Still, even if all South Sudanese agree on federalism, there can be no way it can be applied straight away after the war.
It is necessary to have census conducted prior to re-division of states into 21 or more federal states.
There are more important things to do before we can embark on federalism. South Sudanese deserve a just peace and national reconciliation first before anything else.
It should be the transitional government to undertake issues that are deemed “firsts” before we embark on federalism now.
The wealth sharing is another issue that got many of us baffled. It is difficult to comprehend why in the first place was wealth sharing included in the talks. The demand for wealth sharing under the ratios the opposition have suggested is a straight call for war.
Dr. Riek and his group must tell us all what did they do in this country to earn them the right to sit and tell us how they want to share out wealth?
It seems the opposition wants to argue for a CPA-like agreement but the first thing they ought to know is that South Sudan was an entity that had existed like a country for decades.
South Sudan was granted semi autonomy and that enhanced for a model that was to suit a two states solution. It can never be applied here now and there is not a single justification for it in solving South Sudan crisis.
Countries like Kenya did experience violence over power in the recent past. And Uhuru Kenyatta should have an insight into what a tribal conflict is since he was accused of supporting his tribe, Kikuyu and in particular a sect of outlaws called ‘Mungiki’ in the fight against the Kalenjin tribe during the 2007 post election violence.
There was sense in sharing power in Kenya because the elections were contested by two parties, ODM and PNU.
But in our case, a former VP sacked under the constitutional jurisdictions of the President, that power be shared is a way to accept peace; otherwise, Dr Riek should have been asked to drop guns and come contest elections either in the party, SPLM or General elections.
South Sudanese are not ready to give away the country in the name of reforms. Reforms cannot be guessed in the faces of negotiators.
Riek is not a reformist; rather he is a disgruntled opportunist who is just trying to cling at every floating straw. His reform agenda is a hoax. He didn’t rebel because of reforms either. If Riek’s demands are the perceived reforms then there is no need for peace at all.
I believe that African dictators are made. And for sure, if Kiir becomes a dictator and South Sudan becomes a hostile state it will be blamed only on frustrations. Mugabe and Zimbabwe may have been frustrated to choose to stand against the West after the realities presented by Zimbabweans were neglected by some external powers.
The West and USA in particular, stepped into Kenyan issues prior to 2013 general elections and declared that “choices have consequences” in an attempt to sway Kenyans from voting-in both Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto. This made Kenyans to become even more defiant.
They chose to look no other way than to point in the eye of the US, voting in what Kenyans wanted and not what the external forces wanted them to.
The ICC was meant to intimidate and dictate what path Kenya should take, but it turned out to haunt its own proprietors. ICC became the launch pad from which the 2013 Kenyan Elections were based as tribal sympathies override the real issues that affect a common Kenyan citizen.
The threats of sanctions on South Sudan could serve the same purpose the ICC was for Kenya: to pressurize the government so as to hurriedly sign peace. Yet, signing a wrong peace agreement means a return to war.
South Sudan cannot manage the situation that happened in Egypt where leadership was swung all around like a pendulum. The talks in Addis Ababa can possibly produce a good agreement but only if the mediators keep away from external influence and stop condoning Dr. Riek’s impossible demands.
It is my belief that IGAD knows South Sudan very well. It is in the expectation of South Sudanese that IGAD and whoever that stands behind it – TROIKA or EU – be bold enough to ask Riek to shove or shelf all his impossible demands.
The circumstances under which the current war broke out are not comparable with those of the last North–South War. Therefore, there is no way whatsoever the same CPA mechanisms can be applied in the case of the current war.
Peace is all South Sudanese need but it must be a genuine one. For signing a wrong peace is signing a return to war.
Better sanctions than sign a wrong peace!
Taban Abel Aguek works in Rumbek – South Sudan. He can be reached at email@example.com