BY: Joseph Oreste Odhok, South Sudan, APR/21/2016, SSN;
There were high hopes and a jubilant mood in Juba city by the citizens as the government and the armed opposition members of the advance team were engaging in preparations for reception of the SPLA/M-IO Leader and the 1st VP designate Dr. Riek Machar. But it appears these hopes are now being dashed because of the government’s refusal to grant flight and landing clearance for the armed opposition general chief of staff plane.
Traded accusations by the opposing parties is seen by observers as lack of political will and commitment by both parties to implement the agreement.
With this new development in the country’s politics, the future of South Sudan looks grim and gloomy. Realistically, since the eruption of conflict in 2013, and what accompanied it of violations of human rights and crimes committed against humanity, there has never been a genuine dialogue between the warring parties to resolve the conflict peacefully.
Both parties had sought military solutions which further exacerbated the situation on the ground and led to more sufferings and displacement of the civil population. This reality increased the rift and polarized the masses along political and ethnic lines.
Regrettably, the government continued to pursue a divisive policy line being led by its tribal wing referred to as JCE (Jieeng Council of Elders). It put to use the state resources in an attempt to crash the rebellion and silence its real and perceived political opponents. It also used and continue to use the mercenaries from Sudanese rebels of SPLM/A – North and the Darfuri rebels of JEM known as TORABORA.
Reports and forensic evidence confirm the participation of those groups alongside government troops in battles fought against the Opposition forces for control of Malakal and Bentieu cities. To date the SPLA/M – N rebels of Southern Blue Nile of Malek Agar still maintain heavy presence in areas of Melut, Renk and Maban counties of Upper Nile State. They are used by the regime as a mobile force and readily available on request.
While government strategies to put down the rebellion proved futile as they could not bring about the desired goal according to plan, the SPLM/A –IO was gaining more territory and following and the war continued to rage indefinitely at the expense of human suffering.
At this hopeless situation, ARCISS was the best thing the International Community and the Regional Groupings could offer to South Sudanese as a means through which the hostilities could be arrested and peace eventually realized.
Although signing peace is an important step in the process of realizing peace and security, implementing it is equally the most crucial and the most difficult step in the process.
Judging by similar instances where signed peace agreements between opposing parties did not see light or endure, it could be deduced that the foot-dragging in implementing the security arrangements with regards to the demilitarization of the capital among others are indications of lack of commitment and political will by the government to implement peace. The agreement is therefore doomed.
Even if more pressure is exerted on the government to respect the agreement and allow for transportation of weapons and military personnel as required by the agreement, the government is likely to put new obstacle in the way of implementing the peace agreement in letter and spirit. Issues such as the question of the 28 states that it unilaterally created and went ahead to put into effect, could be one of such standoffs.
Despite all attempts by the government to block the return of Dr. Machar to Juba, he remains morally responsible to join his fellow comrades on their “Mission Impossible” errand in Juba. The armed opposition VIPs including Riek’s deputy, Alfred Lado Gore and its Chief Negotiator, Taban Deng had arrived in Juba on different dates ahead of Dr. Riek’s anticipated return and are now taken hostage with restrictions on movements and assembly sternly imposed on them.
A situation that makes one wonder if this peace is not a farce.
In the light of the foregoing facts, it is apparent that war is imminent even after the formation of the transitional government of national unity (TGoNU).
Possible Reactions of Sudan and Ethiopia to the Renewed Armed Conflict in South Sudan:
South Sudan’s northern and eastern neighbours, Sudan and Ethiopia, are currently hosting more than half a Million South Sudanese refugees fleeing the war in their country. And with the renewed armed conflict in South Sudan, more refugees would be expected to cross the border into Sudan and Ethiopia, thus increasing the already existing burden on resources and services on these countries at the time when there were high hopes of peace to prevail and subsequent repatriations.
Apart from this, there are security and economic concerns that would surely be put under jeopardy by resumption of war.
Logically, each of these countries is expected to handle the new development in accordance with its national interest and would be ready to devise strategies that better serve this purpose. It will cooperate with any of the warring parties that would respect and work together towards addressing these concerns.
Resumption of War and Declaration of Parallel Government in South Sudan:
As has been explained in the proceeding paragraphs, war will erupt as a result of partners in the newly formed Transitional Government of National Unity failure to resolve any of the contentious issues as provided by the ARCISS. It could also happen as a provocation by the SPLA/M–IG as it is currently doing in Western Bahr El Ghazal, Greater Equatoria Region, and some parts of Upper Nile.
It appears the war will be long as it would include new territories and new elements from some ethnicities. These ethnic groups have their land forfeited and carved to President Kiir’s Jieng ethnic group.
It remains to be seen whether the Opposition forces would stick to their previous strategy and fight on till they capture Juba or may change their vision and mission to a Strategic, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound before they finally march to Juba.
If the opposition forces were to speedily capture the remaining major towns from Kiir’s government in Greater Upper Nile as the situation on the ground suggests, they would likely establish a functional civil administration in order to consolidate the power of the revolutionary forces among the civil population and help them rebuild their lives.
To achieve this, the Opposition SPLM would declare a parallel Government with one of the major towns of Upper Nile as its capital. This step will boost the political standing of the opposition and win im sympathizers and friends from the regional and international circles.
The opposition has the necessary civil service working force with qualifications to run all various civil institutions in territories under the opposition forces.
It would be up to Riek and his envisaged government to use their PR and diplomatic experiences skillfully with the neighbouring countries as well as countries across the globe to establish ties and relations for the common good.
Having firmly established its political system with functional civil and military structures, the opposition will be in a stronger position than before to wage a full and decisive war for total liberation of the country. END