By: John Bith Aliap – Australia, APR/13/2016, SSN;
The Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan also referred to as ARCISS, agreed in August 2015 in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa is hoped by its architects to end the conflict in the Republic of South Sudan. Military showdown between Kiir and Machar who are they key principles in the war raged for nearly two years with devastating outcomes.
The conflict remains one of the most brutal conflict in the continent of Africa. Recent UN figures show that more than 730,000 people have fled into neighbouring countries, 1.5 million people are internally displaced and 50, 000 people are believed to have perished.
The peace talks in Ethiopia were the last attempt to bring Kiir and Machar on the dining table to share the national cake. All previous diplomatic efforts had failed, but the U.S. government which is also accused of having a deadly hand in the conflict pressed Kiir and Machar against the wall until they unwillingly signed the peace agreement for the interest of their people.
The final agreement, dubbed as “ARCISS” or “Imposed Peace Agreement” is seen by many as a result of skillful diplomacy and political trade-offs exerted on the main warring parties. However, while the agreement appears to be a path-breaking, war-ending and peace-keeping tool, it does not seem to be an effective framework to end the vicious cycles of violence in the baby nation of South Sudan.
Although ARCISS is crucial in giving the new country a set of principles, rules and institutions; it doesn’t appear to be providing a universally backed direction capable of guiding the war-wrecked South Sudan through the unchartered waters of democratisation and liberalisation – the two principles of peace-building.
However, given ACRISS’ uncertainty, it is important to assess its intention for the interest of my readers and the policy-makers in the areas of peace and state-building. With a war raging in Syria, Iraq, Congo, Somalia, Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Sudan and Yemen such discussions are clearly timely and worthwhile to look into. The idea that Kiir – Machar upcoming “Transitional Government of National Unity” will silence the guns and lay the foundation of South Sudanese’ unity isn’t borne out of experience.
In December 2013 after Machar attempted to grab the power from his would-be boss, Salva Kiir, clashes occurred between their camps of supporters and the civil war quickly appeared on the cards. The international community backed by regional blocks such as IGAD and AU tried to end the bloodshed by setting up a Transitional Government of National Unity with Kiir behind the wheels and Machar as the passenger.
But while Machar and Kiir are forcefully made to swallow their pride and share the much contested power, the conflict on the ground between their tribal-based militias and sections of the security apparatus linked to them will likely continue unabated.
With Kiir–Machar known political rivalry, each side will be yearning to exploit the other in an attempt to seize control of J1 presidential palace; and the so called Transitional Government of National Unity will be a thing of the past.
South Sudan is not the only country in the world where bitter enemies like Kiir and Machar sit together in the government while their forces carry on the conflict. In Iraq for example, the government of national unity, mainly made up of Shia, Sunni and Kurdish was established, but the forces under their direct control continued with, not one, but a number of inter -ethnic conflicts.
In the case of Cyprus, the withdrawal of British and the gaining of Independence in 1960 was accompanied by a handful of uneasy power sharing deals, but these deals collapsed in no time.
So, Kiir-Machar power sharing government doesn’t appear as the step to the elimination of tribal division, but it’s rather an accommodation between the forces that are the architects and expression of these divisions as to how they can carve things up between them.
Kiir and Machar could share the cabinet in J1, while their forces continue to aggressively flex their military muscles on the ground in Jebel Kujur and Luri. Kiir-Machar upcoming Transitional Government of National Unity is a recipe for maintaining tribal status quo, it’s not for achieving reconciliation, or bringing together the tribally- divided communities across South Sudan.
Whether it quickly flies apart or maintained in a relatively stable form for a time will be determined by the intensity of the conflict on the ground, and not fundamentally political miracles performed by those who take their seats in the would-be Transitional Government of National Unity TGONU. Even if Kiir-Machar’s government survives for a lengthy period of time, this doesn’t necessarily indicate the end of tribal feud in South Sudan.
Kiir-Machar power sharing government will only institutionalise sectarianism and perpetuate the conflict in some form. The power sharing government that involves a sectarian politician like Riek Machar isn’t a solution, nor is it a step to a solution. ARCISS has only made Kiir & Machar, who had held opposing positions in a bloody war, sign a document which they may not have agreed with, but which will nevertheless stop them from bashing each other.
John Bith Aliap is an Australia-based political commentator and can be reached at Johnaliap2011@hotmail.com.