BY: Malith Kur, London, Ontario, Canada, AUG/05/2015, SSN;
When IGAD got involved in a search for peace in South Sudan after the events of December 2013, South Sudanese were hoping that the East African community had a united front against violence in South Sudan. Nonetheless, the way in which the peace process is progressing under the leadership of IGAD has proved otherwise, and South Sudan is not going to see peace any time soon.
But at this point, two things need to happen if peace is to be realized in South Sudan. First, there is a need to show that IGAD is no longer a neutral and credible body to promote peace in South Sudan.
Second the government of South Sudan must not delegate its responsibilities of searching for peace in the country to others. It needs to take full responsible and device a way forward to end the rebellion in the country.
Failure of IGAD Peace Process:
The IGAD-led peace process in South Sudan has worsened the political implications of the South Sudanese conflict. It has created significant gaps in the dialogue between the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and the rebels led by Riek Machar.
These gaps have emerged because the IGAD-led peace process has not considered the ordinary South Sudanese as an integral part of reaching a lasting peace in the country.
But these gaps might be bridged if the majority of South Sudanese were not absent from this dialogue. After all, South Sudanese who want peace form an important constituent in the country. If their voices are ignored, the peace process is a total failure.
The document that IGAD mediators released on July 24, 2015, known as The Compromise Peace Agreement, has deepened the gaps in peace building in South Sudan, because it concentrates the decision-making process in the hands of the political elites.
However, for peace and dialogue to make headways in South Sudan, conversation concerning peace must involve the masses at the grassroots level, particularly the traditional leaders.
The presence of traditional leaders or their representatives in the debate about peace in the country could be important because they will bring the concerns of the ordinary South Sudanese on to the negotiating table.
The current mode of dialogue between the politicians, whose concerns are political powers, has already reached a stalemate. An injection of new ideas from the masses into this process, however, at this point in the history of conflict in South Sudan, would bridge the gaps and cement the relationship between different communities in the country.
But IGAD has no intention of doing this.
The South Sudanese traditional leaders have the potential to revive awareness of the importance of social interconnectedness of the South Sudanese communities the tribal politics has destroyed in the country.
The underlying claim here is that the traditional leaders would allow the communities to begin to re-emphasize their shared heritage, which has been damaged by negative politics of division and enmity.
Therefore, South Sudanese people and their government should design the peace process instead of IGAD.
The current running conflict in South Sudan since December 2013 has created difficult political atmosphere. It has re-opened the previous wounds that were beginning to heal. The reasons the previous wounds are opening up is the way in which IGAD is handling the peace process.
First of all, some IGAD member states treat the rebel movement with a courtesy that gives them a reason to justify the lawlessness they have created in the country. The rebels have been granted spaces in the East African region to function against the government of South Sudan.
The countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya are indirectly aiding and abetting the perpetuation of conflict in South Sudan by allowing the rebels to propagate violent propaganda through the media. The rebels’ commanders are running the war in Addis Ababa and Nairobi.
Furthermore, the IGAD treats rebels on an equal basis with the government of South Sudan. It refers to both the government and the rebels as the warring parties. No one refers, for instance, to the Ethiopian government and the rebels in Ethiopia as warring parties.
These attitudes leave some people wondering about what is so special about the rebellion in South Sudan. Those rebels need to be treated as a group of people who have violated the rule of law in South Sudan.
They should not have been accommodated in Ethiopia and Kenya in the first place. Had they not been accommodated in those countries, they would have seen a peaceful solution to the conflict as a viable way to achieve their aims.
To make matters worse, Kenya and Ethiopia treat Riek Machar as if he were the president of South Sudan in exile. This treatment that Riek Machar gets from these countries remains as an incentive for the rebels to pursue war and defy all efforts to end the conflict in South Sudan.
Riek Machar and his commanders make impossible demands because most of them remain in the comfort of Addis Ababa and Nairobi, without consideration for what is happening in the villages of South Sudan.
In this context, Ethiopia and Kenya need to know that instability in South Sudan is influenced by their unreasonable policies toward the rebellion that is causing upheavals in the country.
In addition, the major factor contributing to the intransigence of rebels is the support they receive from the arch enemy of South Sudan—-Sudan. Sudan is playing a double game here. It is using the IGAD as a platform to pursue its policy of keeping South Sudan unstable.
Peaceful South Sudan is not in the interest of Sudan. Unstable South Sudan offers Sudan a hope of achieving unhindered territorial claims on South Sudanese land.
Therefore, Ethiopia and Kenya provide sanctuary to Riek Machar and his commanders while Sudan supplies him with weapons to destabilize South Sudan.
On the other hand, IGAD has ignored the voices of South Sudanese. It has focused its attention on the political elites, who are not interested in the well being of the people but political power.
The focus of the peace process has been on the way to empower the political class to dominate the people of South Sudan even more. In all the peace proposals that IGAD has attempted, there has not been a concrete mention of the public participation in the peace process.
The people of South Sudan will never be consulted should the government and the rebels sign the proposed IGAD peace accord. IGAD has closed the doors of peace instead of opening them to the people. It is a troubling sign because it is against the very idea of peace.
Troublesome elements of IGAD Compromise Agreement
The IGAD proposed peace agreement is a total failure. It has deepened and worsened the already fragile political situation in South Sudan.
It shows that rebellion in the country will always remain as the best option for anyone having political grievances against the government in the country.
If we look at the terms of this proposed agreement, it leaves many questions answered. Why does Riek Machar always replace James Wani Iga? Why he should not become the Vice-President instead of Wani?
Looking at issues related to governance, one can see that the agreement was designed to provoke even more problems.
The proposed system of “collegial decision” making during the transitional period is a recipe for more problems. It places the First Vice President and the President on a collision course. The President of the Republic will have no powers to making decisions without seeking the approval of the First Vice President.
This agreement was designed to fail because it is not possible to govern a nation on a consensus. I have not seen a country in East Africa where a president cannot make the executive decision to run the affairs of a nation.
The other major failure of the compromise agreement is that IGAD expects problems in the running of the country if the agreement is signed as it is.
IGAD suggests, “In the event of a deadlock in the exercise of the Executive powers….the matter shall be decided by the Council of Ministers.” (See article 9.1.3. of the proposed agreement).
This is a recipe for conflict, which indicates that the agreement was built to make South Sudan ungovernable during the interim period, which is a recipe for war to continue.
It is important to note that any peace agreement in South Sudan without the participation of the people is bound to fail. People will not understand it, and they will not be in a position to defend it.
Similarly, the proposed representation of the rebels in the states of Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Unity is very troubling. It is a signal to those who have not chosen the option of the war to feel a sense of betrayal, and this will not reflect the advent of peace in the Upper Nile region.
The handing over of those states to rebels suggests that violence is the only way for people to demand a change they want.
In a nutshell, this proposal is dangerous and lacks any basis to support peace in South Sudan.
The proposed ratios of governance in the states of the Upper Nile region (Article 1.6) and the proposed “demilitarization of Juba” (Chapter II, Article 5.1) represent IGAD’s mockery of South Sudan’s sovereignty.
Moreover, IGAD does not recognize the South Sudanese National Army, the SPLA. It keeps referring to the “unification of two armies”, instead of suggesting the integration of some rebels into the national army.
The possibility of allowing the peace process to fail is the name of the game here.
All of this explains IGAD’s lack of any credibility as a mediator in the current South Sudanese situation. IGAD is planning to rule South Sudan instead of its legitimate of government.
Indirect colonialism is unacceptable.
All of this has strengthened the resolve of those who want power not peace in the country. It has encouraged the emergence of conflict in other parts of the country.
Those who feel that they might gain nothing in the peace process are creating problems, for instance, in Western Equatoria State, rebellion is developing because those who are running the administration there are feeling insecure.
Because of this contradictory peace process, these forms of tribal rebellions are to increase.
They will be seen as a means of gaining attention from the government.
In short, the factors I have mentioned above have played a significant role in the failure of IGAD mediation. They indicate that IGAD is not a neutral mediator, and it has not understood the South Sudanese situation. It should relinquish the mediation role.
A Better Wary Forward
A better way forward to achieve peace in South Sudan is for the government not to rely on the IGAD mediation. The current peace should be the last round under IGAD mediation. If it fails, IGAD should not be allowed to continue the process. A new mediation should be sought.
When Tanzania initiated the reunification of the SPLM, we have seen the results. The so-called former detainees have now rejoined the government and are functioning as part of peace building in the country.
The Tanzanian example is the form of mediation that the conflict in South Sudan needs. Tanzania does not have hidden agenda in South Sudanese politics. It, therefore, took a neutral stand in the interest of South Sudan and its people to live in peace and prosperity.
Consequently, the peace process in South Sudan does not need those who shed the crocodile’s tears but those who shed genuine tears for the suffering people of South Sudan.
In general, South Sudanese expect their government to protect them and ensure that peace prevails in the country. For peace to prevail in the country, South Sudanese, and their government must make the final decision on how peace should be achieved in the country. They should not allow the outsiders to dictate the terms of the peace process.
South Sudanese and their government should own the process. It entails that the government must come up with its own proposal to initiate ways to establish peace in the country.
The government of South Sudan should not be the one to react to proposals made by people who desire nothing but the continuation of war in the country. It has the duty to propose solutions to the conflict because it knows what can work better in the country.
It is quite naïve for the government of South Sudan to expect Ethiopia and Kenya, for example, to place the interest of South Sudan first instead of their own. We all know that Riek Machar’s headquarters is in Addis Ababa. Ethiopia has political interests in doing so. Therefore, Ethiopian-led mediation is lame.
The same is true for Kenya. Riek Machar, shortly before South Sudan’s Independence Day in July this year, declared the government of the Republic of South Sudan illegitimate in Nairobi.
Kenya has a political interest in doing this as well. Machar was allowed to call a press conference in Nairobi to promote his violent political propaganda.
When those countries do not set clear parameters between the rebels and the legitimate authorities of a sovereign state, how will their mediation be different?
These examples should be a wakeup call for the government of South Sudan to take a full control of the peace process and establish new methods of making peace a priority.
The growing protests against the IGAD peace proposal suggest that the people of South Sudan have realized the dangerous path the country is heading to.
Therefore, South Sudan’s government needs to show its people that it is in control of the destiny of the country because the future of the country is not in the hands of the IGAD. The IGAD countries have different agendas and interests in the peace process.
The future of South Sudan should be in the hands of the government and its people.
IGAD’s Compromise Agreement has failed the test, and South Sudanese must decide the way to achieve peace in the country.
Malith Kur, London Canada