By: Oyhath Aromi, MAR/25/2015, SSN;
Enough is enough. The South Sudanese President Kiir Mayardit and his former Vice President Dr Riek Machar were given ample opportunity by Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediators to negotiate and arrive at a compromise to bring peace to the war-battered country, but they failed that opportunity time and again – it is as if these leaders learned nothing from the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which was by and large a compromise deal that in 2005 brought an end to over 20 years of war between the SPLM/A and Sudan government.
IGAD mediators afforded President Kiir and SPLM-IO leader Machar every chance, including to go it face to face, yet each time they failed to agree on almost everything.
Even as IGAD walked an extra mile in order to give the warring parties extra time to find a solution, even as the mediators granted the 2 principal negotiating sides their wish to exclude other South Sudanese stakeholders, like civil society organizations and political parties, from taking part in the peace talks, they are still nowhere near a compromise way forward.
The question is for how long this unproductive stalemate is supposed to continue? Don’t these leaders realize the magnitude of trauma, destruction and desperation this crisis has inflicted on South Sudan? Don’t the leaders feel the urgent need to bring an end to this war?
As prospects for a peaceful settlement to this crisis under IGAD mediation appears painstakingly remote, it is time to try an alternative approach.
My contention here is that IGAD mediation has failed to get the warring South Sudanese parties to find a stop to this unnecessary war and that this failure has to do less with interests of some IGAD members in South Sudan and more to do with a fundamental flaw in the IGAD mediation model itself.
IGAD, as a mediation model, has failed miserably not only in its on-going efforts to bridge the gap between the South Sudanese government and the SPLM-IO forces led by Dr Riek Machar but also in its earlier attempts at CPA negotiations.
I know some people will find this view a bit controversial, but the truth remains that the CPA could never have come to light had it not been sustained, determined US pressure which in the late phase of CPA talks literally forced the SPLM/SPLA leader, late Dr John Garang, to stay stationed in Kenya while his counterpart, Vice President El-Uztaz Ali Tah shuttled back and forth between Kenya and Khartoum to obtain further authorization from President Bashier.
Do I still remember those days? Yes I do, although I was obviously nowhere close to those negotiations. So, let us refrain from pretending that IGAD mediation was a success story at CPA negotiations and want now to replicate that experience this time around.
It was not and, again, my point here is that there is something fundamentally wrong with IGAD as a mediation model.
The theory that a crisis somewhere in East, West, North or South Africa is somehow best mediated by a group of countries in that region of Africa needs to be revisited, for it has so far produced mixed results at best.
It might have been fruitful in a few cases, as in the case of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in West African region, but it has certainly not been met with success in the case of IGAD, as explained above.
There is, therefore, a danger that a region-based model of conflict mediation (at least in the African context), like the IGAD mediation model, is piecemeal, patchy, inconsistent and inherently prone to bias, not least because of obvious interests of the group of regional countries involved.
The European Union, for example, does not employ such an approach in mediating conflicts arising within the European Union or even in crises in non-EU countries within Europe. The EU is always represented as a block.
In 2000, for example, the EU moved swiftly to save former Yugoslav Republic of Serbia & Montenegro from collapsing into chaos following violent demonstrations that erupted as a result of dispute over alleged elections fraud between supporters of former President Milosevic and his political opponents.
I don’t know why a failed regional conflict mediation model such as IGAD is being insisted upon by the Troika (Norway, United Kingdom and United States). Perhaps it is an experiment being tested in Africa? Or simply a manifestation of mediation fatigue on the part of the Troika stemming from their involvement in mediation efforts in an increasing number of hot spots in other volatile parts of the world!!!
I don’t subscribe, though, to the notion that the Troika (or IGAD) is to blame for helping establish “a politically unchallenged armed power in South Sudan”, as stated in the leaked draft report of the AU’s Commission of Inquiry.
Actually, all the Troika did was help South Sudanese get what they always wanted since the start of their first liberation struggle in 1955 –independence from Sudan –through their (Troika) help in making the CPA a reality.
South Sudan is not the first country in the world to attain independence and the Troika was not supposed to baby-sit the new nation. Therefore blaming the Troika for a catastrophe created by the SPLM, and the SPLM alone, is absurd, scapegoating and utterly pointless.
The AU should instead reevaluate the IGAD mediation model and embrace a more credible mediation strategy to help find a solution to South Sudanese war.
In the search to find a practical solution to this war, the most effective mediation model seems to me to be the AU or an AU/UN hybrid arrangement now stepping in. After all, AU/UN hybrid conflict mediation is not a new concept, as it has, indeed, already been in operation in Darfur (a region of Sudan just next to South Sudan), albeit in a human rights monitoring role.
To help South Sudanese people regain trust in themselves as a nation, if this alternative model succeeds, an AU/UN hybrid mission should lead a transitional government of national unity in South Sudan, as already suggested in the leaked draft AU’s Commission of Inquiry’s Report.
In short, an AU/UN–led transitional government will, among other desirable things:
o Stop land grabbing, a time bomb capable in its own right to send South Sudan into chaos.
o Combat corruption and theft of public monies, thereby saving much-needed resources to rebuild South Sudan.
o Give South Sudanese a break in terms of security, stability and real peace and allow return of internally displaced persons and refugees to their areas and villages.
o Neutralize tribal agenda which, by the way, is the centerpiece and the real monster behind this whole thing.
o Build the foundation and set example for a sound, transparent public service and create the right environment for a leveled playing field for a vibrant private sector in the young nation.
o Transform the current suffocating political and security climate inside South Sudan to a positive hope for an inclusive future for all South Sudanese communities.
o Pave the way for establishment of a people-centered representative governance system that will realize the principle of government of the people by the people for the people.
The AU/UN-led transitional government should make it one of its core objectives to help South Sudanese vote on such a governance system which they will follow to govern themselves at the end of the transitional period.
There is a danger, despite good intentions of the AU, UN and the Troika, of South Sudan sliding back to square one if such a system is not defined before the end of the AU/UN-led transitional period.
Of course, in every conflict, such as the present South Sudanese crisis, there are the culprits.
In the interest of healing, reconciliation and unity of South Sudanese and to send a powerful message to everyone that the prevailing culture of impunity cannot and will not be tolerated, anyone found to have been responsible for the killings of innocent civilians and violations of other human rights should be made accountable for their crimes, regardless of which side of the fence they stood during this war.