By: Samuel Atabi, JUL/24/2017, SSN;
South Sudanese will forever be grateful to the Americans, particularly the neo-conservatives in the younger Bush regime, for conjuring up their political independence from the Sudan. Unlike the liberals, who view ‘neo-conservatisms’ as a war-mongering tag, South Sudanese view it as batch of honor.
Even then, the neo-conservatives took note of the war of independence in Sudan only after that country became a hotbed for terrorists, including Osama bin Laden; terrorism being the number one priority of the US foreign policy.
However, the actual birth of the new nation of South Sudan, in 2011, was midwifed by another batch of Americans under the Democratic President, Barrack Obama. It is now clear that the Obama administration was not prepared for the war that convulsed that new country barely two years into its nationhood; the president admitted as much.
Following the outbreak of a civil war in South Sudan in 2013, the Americans, together with the British and the Norwegians (all the three collectively known as the Troika), worked tirelessly to get a peace agreement to end the war. They did get the agreement in August 2015.
But again barely six months into the implementation of the agreement, President Salva Kiir of South Sudan, a party to the agreement, literally bombed the pact out of Juba in July 2016. Using a superior military fire power, Kiir attacked the home of and with the aim of killing Dr Riek Machar, his partner in the peace agreement.
What followed this brazen violation of the agreement have been the missteps by the US and its Troika partners. Instead of coming hard on President Kiir for his unacceptable behavior, they largely kept quiet. This silence emboldened Kiir to launch unbridled violence against the Equatoria, a region which had hitherto been spared by the civil war.
From media reports, the Troika did not just keep quiet in the face of Kiir’s defiance but they also took three other additional steps which have aggravated the calamity in the country:
— i) They instructed regional governments bordering South Sudan (known as IGAD) to deny Machar entry into their countries;
— ii) They asked South Africa to hold Dr Riek Machar under house arrest, thus denying him access to his followers; and
— iii) They offered Sudan, a country that was known to be the main weapon supplier to Machar’s forces, the possibility of US lifting sanction that had been in place for decades as a quid pro quo for stopping the arms supply.
The overall effects of these moves not only left Kiir in a stronger and an advantageous military position, but it also further encouraged him to kill more South Sudanese with impunity.
The genocidal rampage by Kiir’s tribal army and militia against South Sudanese continued for 11 months while the Troika and the international community continued, in the main, to sit on their hands and refused to take action against Kiir.
At last, after desperate reports by UN agencies and other international organizations on the devastation of war in South Sudan, the Troika appears to stir as recently as the third week of July 2017.
Now, the Troika and the European Union (EU) are threatening to stop funding the parasitic institutions, such as the JEMEC, which are alleged to be implementing the bombed and dead August 2015 agreement. Late as this threat might be, it is very much welcomed by many concerned organizations, and certainly by millions of South Sudanese who are in the IDP’s and refugee camps.
The Troika and the EU have also demanded the revitalization of the dead agreement as a condition for further support to the peace process. If these threats were to elicit the expected outcome, then the Oppositions will have achieved a small victory: they have always called for the re-examination of the moribund peace agreement, some of whose clauses have become obsolete.
But, the Oppositions must not be complacent about the future course of events. There are still obstacles to the attainment of a lasting peace in our country. Below, I enumerate some of them.
Safety and New Agreement.
I am convinced that the attack on Machar in July, 2016, though not approved, but had a tacit approval of some of the guarantors of the August 2015 peace agreement. A number of circumstantial evidence has been adduced to support this: silence by these countries on that attack; acquiescence in the appointment of Taban Deng Gai to replace Machar as the Vice President; intimidation of the IGAD countries to deny Machar visa and residency; his exiling to South Africa; etc.
In my opinion, the countries involved appear to have reached a conclusion that, the Dinka, as a single largest tribe in South Sudan, cannot be wished away and therefore, they should be given time to moderate their approaches in the governance of the country. Thereafter, they (the Dinka) will be able to co-opt other tribal leaders in governments that will be dominated by them.
In Afghanistan, the American encouraged the Taliban, a Pashtun outfit to rule that country simply because the Pashtun are the majority. This is what the State Department said, in a secret UN Security Council, about the Taliban at the time when the latter was a virtual pariah in the world:
“For the sake of peace, all nations should engage with the Taliban. They control more than two-thirds of the country; they are Afghan; they are indigenous; and they have demonstrated their staying power…Providing covert military aid to Massoud (an opposition leader to Taliban and from a minority Panjiri ethnic group) would only lead to more Afghan civilian deaths, while prolonging the country’s military stalemate.” [Coll, S. (2004). Ghost Wars. Penguin Books].
This attitude from the State Department persisted even when others, (the CIA, politicians), were urging the Clinton administration to arm the northern Panjiri ‘minority’ opponents of the Taliban under Massoud. The Taliban took advantage of this policy and harbored Osama bin Laden. The policy was radically reversed, though, after September 11 when the Americans now agreed to invade Afghanistan and topple the Taliban at a very high cost.
It is, therefore, not difficult to imagine that similar views are being expressed in private about the South Sudan situation. Now, if this is the attitude of the guarantors, then implementation of the August agreement in the original format, with Machar going back as the First Vice-President, is a dangerous undertaking: there is no guarantee that the July 2016 incident cannot be repeated.
Policy Suggestion: The IO and other opposition groups should go back to the drawing board to plan an agreement that will safeguard the lives of leaders and their soldiers during its implementation.
In practice, the IO and the Opposition should be less insistence on the wholesale reinstatement of the original ACRSS.
Deployment of the Protection Force:
Based on the utterances of officials like JMEC Chairman and some diplomats, the main purpose of the UN protection force appears not to protect the leaders and soldiers of the opposition groups in Juba.
The real purpose at inception, it appears, was to protect Juba against the expected assault by the White Army and the wider IO forces on the city following the July, 2016 incident.
This assault was expected to take place during the dry season of 2016. When the invasion did not materialize, these officials gave a sigh of relief and the urgency for the deployment of the force waned.
Previously, some members of the mediation, IGAD et al, were very concerned about the capture of Juba by the White Army and the IO forces following the pogrom of December, 2013.
Why? It was because the invading army, if allowed to enter Juba, would have destroyed all the emerging institutions of government in the city and also killed most of city’s inhabitants.
In order to prevent this, they had to okay the Ugandan’s involvement in the defense of Juba that entailed the use of cluster bombs against the IO forces.
In my view, as the Ugandans have officially withdrawn now (I may be talking too soon), Juba can only be protected by the UN deployment of a protection force.
Policy Suggestion: The IO and other Opposition groups should not be assured by the deployment of the protection force. They should be less enthusiastic, if not unconcerned, in pushing for the deployment.
Instead, the opposition should push for a country-wide UN protection force that would secure civilians in places like, Yei, Magwi, Keji-keji, Wau, and towns and centers in Greater Upper Nile.
A successful deployment of protection force with the current mandate will actually frustrate a successful capture of Juba if this is what the Oppositions wish.
In addition, the protection force might unwittingly facilitate the escape of the government culprits and potential war criminals in Juba through the protected airport.
The proposed Trusteeship by experts and some diplomats is problematic. For example, it might be very difficult in future to end it as has happened in other countries like Namibia.
Politically, those advocating for it might be accused by the regime in Juba of being unpatriotic and traitors to the independence of our country. It is thus understandable to read policy documents of both IO and NAS rejecting the proposal.
In my opinion, the outright rejection of the proposal is counterproductive. The July 2016 incident and its aftermaths have militarily weakened the IO, and therefore, the entire opposition; Sudan, which has been a source of armament, is no longer in play.
A protracted armed struggle will last for up to 50 years if our previous wars are anything to go by.
Politicians take up arms because they want power to bring change and leaders of the opposition groups are not immune to that. Who among the leaders can wait for the next 50 years to gain power?
The answer is none. The estimated time for the trusteeship is ten years; this is more realistic waiting time that the five decades of civil war. In any case, the Oppositions might also gain from the disarmament of all forces that must necessarily precede the start of the trusteeship.
Policy suggestion: The Oppositions should not reject the Trusteeship proposal outright but should ask for more clarifications about its nature, including structure, mandate and time limit.
This will encourage dialogue. Therefore, in practice, the Oppositions should indicate that they have open mind and remain to be persuaded about the proposal.
Finally, the war in our country cannot be ended without the involvement of the one and the only world’s Superpower, the United States of America. And yet this assertion is undermined by the scope and practice of the US foreign policy.
As Henry Kissinger once said, “America’s desire to project power into myriads of small scale conflict−Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, South Sudan−is a key conceptual challenge for American foreign policy”. We can only hope.
Samuel Atabi is a concerned South Sudanese; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org