BY: DANIEL JUOL NHOMNGEK, KAMPALA, UGANDA, MAY/27/2017, SSN;
The swearing in of a 94-member steering committee to head the national dialogue should not be a source of joy for all of us but rather we should be prepared for more crisis or even future war.
It is the missed opportunity as the President has again failed this time to do what is required for the national dialogue to be successful and to bring a permanent peace in a country facing war like South Sudan.
It is sad to blatantly state that the current national dialogue of President Kiir is not national dialogue when tested on common sense principle but rather it is something which is like a “national monologue,” which in my opinion is but a mockery.
This Dialogue established by President Kiir is a recipe for future war in South Sudan. This is because it will not bring permanent peace in the country. Though, the war may stop now, that does not mean that it is the current national dialogue that has brought peace but the war has just been postponed for future generation.
For that reason, it is sad to see the country being bogged down in vicious cycle of violence and to also see the liberator turned president losing sight of the long cherished principles of justice, liberty and prosperity in South Sudan.
In fact, for South Sudan to realize these principles, there must be someone who is solely concerned with the protection of the lives and welfare of South Sudanese but not power and wealth.
These are what are understood to be the ultimate aims of politics in South Sudan, which is contrary to the leaders that South Sudan wants.
Leaders that South Sudan wants as already stated in the above paragraph are selfless individuals whose goals and objectives are that of the country guided by the principles of justice, liberty and prosperity for all South Sudanese.
Failure to get the leaders of the type as described in this paragraph to run the country will keep the country on prolonged war and indefinite crisis.
Once the crises have been the order of the day in any country it will be hard to end them quickly. South Sudan has reached that state of unending crises and once the armed stage has been reached in any conflict, it is always difficult to stop it and the longer an armed struggle continues, the more difficult this becomes.
In the unending crises like the case of an internal armed conflict like what we see in the context of South Sudan, the only viable option to such crises is to engage in a process of negotiations, which is an essential step in finding a solution.
This article, therefore, is the last word on the President Kiir’s dialogue which is a mockery of national dialogue in its real sense.
The president in fact disguised his plan to frustrate all attempts to solve the conflict which may affect his personal interest to remain in power by coming up with this substandard national dialogue.
For the National Dialogue to be described as such, it must be unconditional, which lacks in the present national dialogue of President Kiir.
It was therefore a mistake for the President to establish the National dialogue and then restricted it in respect as to who should participate in it and who should not. Restricting it as such as witnessed in the case of Dr. Riek Machar who the President refused to participate was the beginning of the failure of the said national dialogue and we are wasting time and national resources on what is not going to be successful in the end.
As I have already stated above, this article is my last word in this regard is that the current President Kiir’s National Dialogue, which is not a national dialogue nor is it a national monologue as many call, but it’s a mockery of national dialogue.
I have stated here that it is not national dialogue because of the following reasons—
First all, for the national dialogue to bring permanent peace it must be inclusive. This means that all key interest groups such as women, youth, opponents or rebels in the case of South Sudan and other hated groups should be invited to take part in negotiation.
Because of a need to create trust and deeper understanding among all the participants, the process of national dialogue must begin as a political process. For the process to be deemed as political process it must be accepted by all parties that must be inclusive, transparent, and consultative in the preparatory phase that sets the foundation for a genuine national dialogue after that.
In relation to the above, the decision on how a national dialogue should be made by all the parties to the conflict as was the case in South Africa in 1990s. For example, before the National Dialogue was conducted in South Africa, the opposition parties were all invited and in response to invitation, they formed the “Convention for a Democratic South Africa” or CODESA, whose aim was to form part of a political negotiating process.
The CODESA, as a whole was divided into various working groups that worked on the preparation for national reconciliation, which took a period of two years i.e. 1991-2. These Working Groups met and negotiated frequently and after that they eventually delivered their reports on their agreements and recommendations.
This example from South Africa clearly illustrates the fact that the national dialogue is almost like the real political process that results into ordinary peace agreements as was seen in the case of Compromised Peace Agreement (the CPA), 2015.
Nonetheless, the only difference between the ordinary peace agreements and the national dialogues or national reconciliations is that whereas on one hand the former is negotiated between the warring parties only as seen in the case of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), 2005, the national dialogue on the other hand, involves the whole nation.
Otherwise, the two are the same in a way that peace process involves intense political process as the dialogue itself.
To sum up on this point, for the national dialogue to be successful, there must be preparations, which are undertaken carefully and transparently by a preparatory committee that must be inclusive of all major parties to the conflict.
In respect to South Sudan in relation to this point, what the President ought to have done was to give independence and neutral party to the conflict responsibility to invite unconditionally all parties to the conflict including Dr. Riek Machar in South Sudan to negotiating table where they would agree on comprehensive and permanent cease-fire which will be followed by agreement on how national dialogue should be conducted.
Failure to do this confirms my last word on President Kiir’s Dialogue that it is neither a national dialogue nor a national monologue but it is a mockery of national dialogue.
The second reason I deem the present process in South Sudan not to be regarded as national dialogue is that it is not transparent since it lacks public participation.
The present so-called national dialogue is only composed all friends to the president who are not neutral and because of that it is in risks of or has lost legitimacy at the start. This is because there is a serious restriction on the public participation and also no way to keep the public informed about the process of national dialogue given the rampant insecurity in the country.
For the national dialogue to be successful, it must go beyond the delegates who are in the room. Hence, a national dialogue, should therefore, have mechanisms to include the broader population so that the public is able to understand the whole process and further able to contribute to the process of national dialogue.
Thus, the broad participation can only be achieved by linking local dialogue processes to the national dialogue, as well as through public consultations, regular outreach, and coverage in the media.
Failure to involve the greater public by the present proposed national dialogue makes not to be transparent which shows that it is very weak and consequently it will never achieve its purpose. This explains the fact that it is not a national dialogue as some people have perceived it.
Thirdly, a national dialogue must be led by a credible convener. The credible convener means the one who heads the dialogue. This is important as it helps to secure the participation of a wide variety of stakeholder groups since the process can be fair as it avoids the perceptions of biasness. Hence, a credible convener is very utmost important.
The convener may take the form of a single person, a group of people, an organization, or a coalition of organizations. Besides that, the convener must be a respected individual or group of persons or the convener should be respected by the majority of citizens and should not have any political aspirations or goals that would present an obvious conflict of interest.
The recent processes in Tunisia and Senegal for example, owe much of their success to the credibility of the conveners.
Relating this point to the present South Sudanese National dialogue, it is my contention that the convener appointed by President Kiir though may be neutral it is not credible as he is old and also his appointment is not sanctioned by all the parties to the conflict.
This may make him or two of them not credible conveners in the real sense and hence the said national dialogue is not national dialogue in the actual sense.
Fourthly, for the process to be termed as national dialogue, it must be topped by the agenda that addresses the root causes of conflict. This is because a national dialogue seeks to reach agreement on key issues facing a country.
It is for that reason, months or even years of pre-negotiation or consultation is needed purposely to allow the parties to identify and agree upon the fundamental issues that constitute the basis of the conflict.
The issues such as national identity, political rights, basic freedoms, institutional reforms or constitutional reform, equitable sharing of resources, election procedures, and the structure of government, which are central to the conflicts in South Sudan must be considered in the national dialogue negotiation or process.
Hence, a national dialogue’s agenda should provide for substantive conversation around the major grievances of all key interest groups in the country.
As seen in the above explanation the national dialogue must be started with the identification of the root causes of the conflict. This is important because once such root causes are identified and addressed, the permanent peace can be secured and the brighter future of citizens assured.
It is because of this fact the present proposed Kiir’s national dialogue is not a national dialogue in the real sense.
Fifthly, for a national dialogue to be called national dialogue and to achieve its purpose there must be clear mandate, structure, rules and procedures. This is because National dialogues often take place outside the existing institutions of government.
The reason for conducting it outside the government is that the sitting government and existing institutions are unable to resolve the major issues at hand, either because they are seen as neither legitimate nor credible, or because they are unwilling to challenge the status quo.
It is for the above reason a national dialogue is supposed to have its own set of procedures and rules for making decisions, which should be transparent and carefully geared towards the goal of achieving its purpose which is permanent peace.
There must be procedures that should include mechanisms to break deadlocks if an agreement cannot be reached. Furthermore, there must be a clear mandate that gives authority to a national dialogue committee. This must be established either through a peace agreement, law, presidential decree, or some other manner.
For example, the clear mandate of Tunisia’s national dialogue allowed delegates to make steady progress toward four goals: selecting a caretaker government, approving a new constitution, establishing an electoral management body, and setting a timetable for elections.
In relation to South Sudan, the National Dialogue Committee should have been given clear mandate to achieve four clear goals as stated in the above paragraph. This is important because there is a need to establish a new system which will involve dismantling the current system.
Failure give the national dialogue committee mandate to carry out the activities as explained here makes the present national dialogue not a national dialogue in actual sense.
Sixth, for a national dialogue to achieve its purpose there must be agreed mechanism for implementation of outcomes. Hence, national dialogue should clearly lay out the plan that will ensure that the resulting recommendations from the pre- and national dialogue negations are implemented.
As already pointed out above, the plan mechanism should involve the enactment of a new constitution, law, policy, or other programs and it must also take into considerations the issues of transitional justice, constitution making, and elections.
It must be noted that without a clear implementation plan, a national dialogue is at risks of consuming extensive time and resources without producing any tangible results.
This is because the political transition achieved through wrong procedure, which is produced by hastily organized national dialogue is a failure.
For that reason, for a national dialogue to be successful in South Sudan, it must have clear agreed mechanisms that will guide the transitional government in implementation of the outcomes of the national dialogue, which importantly include a political transition.
Lastly but not least, what makes the present national dialogue not a dialogue in the real sense is because the President does not have powers to institute the National Dialogue Committee.
The committee and the convener that should be selected to constitute national dialogue needed in South Sudan must be agreed by all the parties to the conflict, which is not the case in our purported national dialogue.
In conclusion, my last word on national dialogue of Kiir as based on all the reasons given above is that it is not a national dialogue in the real sense. Thus, for it to be national dialogue it must meet the principles explained above which in brief are inclusiveness; transparency, credible convener; it must be able to address the root causes of conflict in South Sudan; it must have a clear mandate, structure, rules, and procedures and agreed mechanism for implementation of the outcomes.
Without meeting these principles, I am afraid the constituted national dialogue has failed from the start. This is my last word!
NB//: the author is the human rights law and can be reached through: email@example.com