BY: Dr Lako Jada Kwajok, AUG/02/2018, SSN;
Some would find the title of this piece controversial. The reason is that it implies the ARCSS was very much alive before it could be put on life-support.
To them, it had died long ago following the J1 shooting in July 2016 and the subsequent manhunt to capture or kill Dr Riek Machar all the way to the borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
However, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) had formally maintained the view that the ARCSS was on course and peace can still be achieved through it.
But to be precise, the IGAD itself had been sending mixed messages with some supporting the view that the ARCSS was indeed dead.
The launching of the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) for the ARCSS on 18/12/2017 was seen by many as the last chance to salvage it and ensure its implementation in spirit and letter.
It was hoped that it would lead to sustainable peace in the Republic of South Sudan. What transpired from the Khartoum round of peace talks made many observers conclude that the peace process is in deep trouble or maybe “gasping” before its final demise.
When the current peace process is recorded in history books, it will turn out to be one of a kind. It’s the first time in history that peace talks were moved between 3 capitals in a very short space of time.
There’s such a thing in peace talks called shuttle diplomacy whereby Peace Mediator(s) travel between different locations several times to talk to the warring parties.
It was first put to use to describe the efforts of the US Secretary of State Dr Henry Kissinger to forge a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
But shuttle diplomacy does not involve moving the parties on short notice between different locations like what we saw in the IGAD-led peace negotiations. It was evident to everyone that the hosts were clearly after their interests and the whole process appeared chaotic and crude.
But let’s examine the HLRF from its start to where it is now.
In spite of a reasonable chance of a breakthrough towards resolving the conflict, the IGAD handling of the peace process was faulty from the start.
It was marred by biased approaches that worked against the very purpose of the endeavour which is the attainment of a just peace in the Republic of South Sudan.
Peace talks are not random processes but guided by international norms. There is a wealth of knowledge accessible even to the layperson on how they are conducted.
Examples could be drawn, and a lot could be learned from previous peace agreements like what took place in Liberia. It’s even pleasant to us as Africans that African peace mediators were the ones who achieved the success in Liberia on August 18, 2003.
In any peace process, there’re issues to be addressed during the pre-negotiation period to ensure a successful outcome. The parties have to agree on all the points before the beginning of the peace negotiations.
The following are some of them:
1. The location for the peace talks
2. The logistics
3. The security of each party
4. The participants
5. Mediators and their roles and responsibilities
7. Setting realistic goals
8. Building trust
9. Parties’ agreement on the agenda.
The IGAD-led peace mediation is regarded by many as indecisive and easily influenced by the regional powers. Some would argue that it was as such because of a scheme being adhered to by the mediators to realise a specific result.
Others may go as far as saying that some of the influential players don’t want any change to the status quo in South Sudan. The current regime serves their interests best.
We have seen no discussions regarding the issues mentioned above in the pre-negotiation period. There were numerous instances where the mediation team overstepped the boundaries of contemporary peace mediation.
Khartoum and Nairobi were not in the plan to host the peace talks at the launching of the HLRF. The IGAD mediation team selected them following the deadlock at the peace talks in Addis Ababa. The parties were never consulted, and the move was nothing but kicking the can down the road.
Sudan entirely crafted the Kampala trip in what appeared to be a collaboration with Uganda. Again, some of the opposition groups only knew about it less than 24 hours before departure to Kampala.
It was doubtful that the opposition would have agreed to a round of peace talks in Kampala, had they been consulted beforehand.
The issue of which Organisation/Movement participates and which one doesn’t was contentious. A selection criterion was wanting.
Some Organisations/Movements were admitted to the HLRF, while others were ignored on undisclosed grounds. If individuals could be invited to the HLRF in their rights, then why not any Organisation/Movement regardless of its size?!
Furthermore, limiting the number of the opposition delegates to only 3 was a striking feature of the IGAD-led peace mediation.
Firstly, the number of delegates was not discussed with the opposition in the pre-negotiation period.
Secondly, how possible that three delegates from each party would be sufficient to tackle the enormous political, military, humanitarian, and social issues relating to the future of the country?!
Even the three delegates limit was not adhered to as preferential treatment was accorded to the government and the SPLM IO. They were allowed more delegates with the government of South Sudan ending up with a bloated delegation of over 50 members.
Some Movements offered to cover the costs of bringing more delegates to the HLRF using their private resources, but the mediation team wouldn’t agree. No explanation was given whatsoever.
But what raised eyebrows was the admission of the so-called eminent personalities into the peace talks. What was the criterion used for selection?! And how comes that they were drawn from one ethnicity?!
Furthermore, which entity recommended them for participation in the HLRF?
These questions have been in the minds of many people and yet remain unanswered. But what is certain is that they have relentlessly eroded the credibility of the IGAD peace mediation team as an impartial peace broker.
The security of the opposition delegates was never a concern during the entire rounds of peace talks in Addis Ababa. However, the Khartoum round of negotiations was a different story.
For the first time in the history of peace talks in South Sudan and Sudan, people heard of coercion, intimidation, and delegates being made to sign an agreement under duress.
The whole drama started with the signing of the Khartoum Oil Agreement (KoilA 2018) and the Khartoum Declaration of Agreement (KDA) on the 27th of June 2018.
It was stunning to many of the delegates as they thought they were in Khartoum to finish what was started in Addis Ababa only to find themselves appending their signatures to an Oil Agreement.
Oil was never part of the negotiations in ARCSS in August 2015 nor the HLRF in 2018.
The negotiation style undertaken by the Sudanese peace mediation team was unprecedented. There were no programs or agendas for the meetings contrary to what the delegates were used to in Addis Ababa.
A delegate told me that the mediators kept coming at random times informing them about what they would like them to do. The delegates mostly never knew what would happen next during their entire stay at the Police Academy in Khartoum.
The mediation team was led initially by the Minister of Defense of Sudan Lt. General Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Aouf and the Chief of Intelligence Salah Abdallah Gosh.
Subsequently, the negotiations’ file was handed over to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, El Dirdeiri Mohamed Ahmed. In fact, the negotiations’ file was back and forth between the team of the Ministry of Defense and the one belonging to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Some delegates gave two scenarios whereby diplomacy and niceties took the upper hand when the negotiations’ file was moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while intimidation and coercion replaced the former when the file was brought back to the Ministry of Defense.
It’s customary and indeed a requirement that the agenda of the meeting is agreed upon by the parties to the conflict. There has to be a consensus on the issues that are deemed negotiable.
But what we saw was the IGAD mediation team usurping that right from the warring parties. In doing so, it assumed a dictatorial role to ensure the implementation of what it approves of rather than what the people of South Sudan want.
Providing logistical support for delegates was quite messy. It was not clear whether IGAD tendency to do things at short notice was deliberate or indeed it was a sign of organisational weakness.
In the Khartoum round of talks, some delegates received invitations and were directed to obtain visas from the Sudanese Embassy in a matter of few hours.
They were further instructed to travel the same day to attend a meeting the next day. The mediators never thought of their short notice and the inconvenience and difficulties the delegates had to endure.
The IGAD seems to have a problem with planning things before time. It’s just unbelievable! The world has never witnessed peace negotiations carried out in such a manner.
But before the Khartoum round of peace talks, it became increasingly evident that the IGAD mediation team had run out of ideas.
The first indication was when it temporarily relinquished its mediation to the South Sudanese faith-based organisations.
The second indication was when it came up with the Khartoum round of talks that would be followed by another in Nairobi. Despite the initialling of the (Outstanding Issues on Governance) by the regime in Juba and the SPLM IO, the truth remains that it lacks the support of the majority of the people of South Sudan.
The IGAD mediation team did two things that could be seen as an admission that the ARCSS no longer exists.
Firstly, Dr Ismail Wais, the IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan initialled the Agreement on the Outstanding Issues of Governance which stipulates the maintenance of the 32 states that was created by President Kiir’s government.
The act is in contravention of the ARCSS which was based on the original 10 States.
Secondly, the IGAD didn’t join the Troika in condemning the recent illegal extension of the term of office for the Presidency and the legislature.
If IGAD is mediating in an endeavour to help the parties establish a Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU), then it cannot keep quiet to the extension of the term of a government that illegally calls itself a TGoNU as well.
As it stands, the IGAD seems to be all over the place. President Festus Mogae did admit following the renewal of fighting in July 2016, that the ARCSS was severely “wounded” but not dead. But all the indicators, however, point in the direction that the “wound” was indeed mortal.
Admitting failure is not a bad thing. In fact, it shows how brave and responsible is a leader or a politician. By doing so, other peace brokers preferably from countries that do not border South Sudan would be most welcome to render their much-needed services.
The South Sudanese people don’t deserve to be held hostage to a peace process that seems to go nowhere.
Therefore, the decent step by the IGAD to take is to issue a “death certificate” for ARCSS on the 25th of August 2018 (the official end date).
Dr Lako Jada Kwajok