Need to adjust the Kiir’s National Dialogue for successful outcomes

BY: Lomuchie Nyaloro, JAN/20/2017, SSN;

The declaration of the National Dialogue process by President Kiir in December 2016 has drawn mixed feelings among South Sudanese and the international community. Some people welcome it while others dismiss it as just a bogus ruse for Mr. Kiir and his Jieng advisors (The Jieng Council of Elders, JCE) to consolidate power after they have violently ejected the armed opposition from Juba.

Those who are dismissive point to recent utterances by the members of the Kiir regime as evidence of lack of sincerity regarding the declaration: Members of government contradict each other whether or not the 4,000-strong protection force approved by the UN Security Council are welcome to deploy in Juba; a junior official makes serious allegations against key supporters (the Troika) of peace in South Sudan of seeking to topple the Juba regime; the President himself revealing his nostalgia for the death of his predecessor (Dr John Garang), which made it possible for him to take the mantle of leadership.

(Is this a secret wish of the President for the death of Dr Riek Machar, his opponent, so that Taban Deng Gai can effortlessly succeed the latter?). All these sayings undermine any positive reception of the National Dialogue.

Despite these worrying signs, the National Dialogue can succeed if certain adjustments are made to its form and procedures.

In its present form, where the membership of its steering committee is wholly chosen by President Kiir and its unstructured method of consultations with grassroots that excludes the armed and other opposition groups, the National Dialogue has very high chance of failing.

For some observers, the desire of the President to come up with the National Dialogue might have been prompted by the realization that the country is at a great and an unacceptable risk of disintegration as the war and the attendant bitterness escalate.

In other words, there is now a “hurting stalemate” in the civil war. When there is such a stalemate, then the protagonists opt for negotiations. This stalemate is not just hurting for the government, it is also hurting for the armed opposition, because the violent rupture of July 2016 has not only removed it from Juba but the rupture has also weakened the opposition militarily and diplomatically.

The only way for the opposition to be relevant in charting the future of the country is now through negotiations. If it hurts both ways, then the stalemate becomes “mutually hurting.”

To most watchers of the civil war, the extension of fighting to Equatoria region represents a dangerous escalation. The widely expressed apprehension about the impending genocide and the flight of hundreds of thousands of civilians into refuge give credence to this view.

Less obvious to external observers is the creeping radicalization of the Equatorians who now demand that their region be exited from the Jieng-dominated South Sudan.

This demand should be taken seriously, because it was in Equatoria that the war for liberation from the Arab-dominated Sudan was started in 1956 and sustained until 1972. So, the Equatorians determination and endurance in fighting for their rights should not be doubted.

The other source of concern about this demand is that a number of Equatorian ethnic groups (the Kakwa of Yei, the Madi and the Acholi of Magwi, the Azande of Yambio) have also their kith and kin in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).

If there were to be a political change in Uganda that replaced the present government, (which is perceived by some people to be indifferent to the sufferings of the Equatorians), with a more sympathetic one, then the war could take a more regional and international dimension.

Therefore, there is every incentive for the government to bring this war to a speedy end. A prolonged war in Equatoria, will eventually exact a higher price for peace, suck in the neighboring countries, and lead to adjustments to national borders among South Sudan, Uganda and DR Congo. There are justifications for holding this view.

Historically, Central Equatoria was called the “Lado Enclave” and had belonged to Belgian Congo (the present DR Congo). Furthermore, a significant portion of Eastern Equatoria was an integral part of the colonial Uganda Protectorate.

To date the border between the Equatoria region and Uganda has not been officially surveyed and ratified; thus, this unfinished colonial business makes the demand of the Equatorians for self-determination abundantly credible on historical grounds.

Here, a warning for those members of the Jieng community who routinely refer to the Equatorians as foreigners or Ugandans is in order: Beware; your prayers may be granted sooner or later.

A modified National Dialogue that will be inclusive and capable of bringing a satisfactory agreement can prevent such an existential threat as expressed above.

In this new version of the National Dialogue, the Steering Committee can be converted into a delegation representing those citizens who are still in the country and are in agreement with the government to some extent. The delegation can be called, for example, the “Home/Internal Front”.

Facing this front at a negotiating table will be a united opposition group, comprising those who, for political reasons, are in exile and are either armed or are just political opposition parties. The latter grouping can be dubbed the “Opposition Front”.

Joining the two delegations at the table will be a credible, dispassionate, well resourced, and diplomatically strong Mediator. Preferably, the mediator should come from among the Troika countries.

The two delegations should accept a mediation role for the Troika country this time round; South Sudanese have been greatly disappointed by the IGAD and the African Union roles in mediating this conflict so far.

Norway and the US have in the past mediated conflicts in the Middle East (e.g. Syria and the Palestinian-Israeli issue) despite the existence of regional organizations such as the Arab League; the same approach can be made for South Sudan to avoid reliance on the discredited IGAD.

In conclusion, irrespective of what motives that prompted the President to declare the National Dialogue, South Sudanese and the larger international community should seize this opportunity in order to bring about the sorely needed peace and respite to South Sudanese.

The National Dialogue has the potential to succeed if it becomes inclusive and is transparently implemented. The government should ensure complete unanimity among its members in support of the dialogue and its outcomes.

Equally, the opposition should be united in their aspiration for and participation in the dialogue. This opportunity must not be missed.

Lomuchie Nyaloro, a concerned South Sudanese.

5 Comments

  1. Defender says:

    Nyaloro,

    Your piece is well researched and articulated. The success or failure of the Kiir’s Monologue totally depends on his behavior on the issues of peace and war; dominance of one ethnic group and re-framing of the current narrative to solve the issues of nation building. It is abundantly clear from the way Kiir is acting, which you have clear reasoned, is exceedingly parochial and intended to break the country asunder.

    For a true national dialogue to be initiated, there must be inclusivity but also building a strong alternative to the presiding situation. The opposition needs to build consensus and from a single front against the evil consuming our nation in order to unseat the illegitimate regime currently in power.

    The regional countries have tainted their reputation in backing off from supporting the people of South Sudan, instead, chose to side with their interest, which is supporting another mini dictator in the making, looking inwardly to their own internal contradictions as the answer to our own problem.

    In order to find a credible mediator, which is acceptable to all the parties in this mess, one would only think of South African or Tanzania as a place to host the national dialogue. Troika may continue to be observers of the dialogue, or be the funder of such a process. Involving them directly may continue to compromise the integrity of the dialogue too. They have actively stood by while the government and the region effectively sought to selectively implement the ARCISS to their hearts desire, hoping that the three year civil war was a made up conflict instigated by Dr. Riek Machar in order to seek power by all means. Granted Dr. Riek is ambitious, however, this ambition is just channeling the anger the majority of South Sudan share.

    On the possibility of disintegration of the country, the writing is on the wall, if the Kiir is not seeing it, it will be clear very soon to him and is push to create a monolithic state in South Sudan. Kiir’s fear that if he relinquishes power his Dinka tribe will be disenfranchised from power, is all but a smokescreen to dig the country in tribal conflict, not understanding the requirements of building a modern state where identity politics is a two edged sword–it cuts both ways.

    If what is taking place in Equatoria is anything to go by, as was the case in Upper Nile, and soon to be Western Bahr El Ghazal, the situation is likely to be the collapse of the state and fragmentation of the whole country. This is would result as an outcome of seeing a country as diverse as South Sudan from a sectarian prism. Because the right to self determination, whether achieved through protracted armed conflict such as our case with Sudan, or peacefully, the end will come to pass because of the total rejection dominance by a single tribe.

  2. Bismark says:

    You have brought points home. But do we have leaders who puts the interests of citizens above their? They have eyes but can not look and see, they have ears but can not hear and understand!! They learn through the songs they sing to citizens that is now being sung to them.

  3. Lokosang says:

    Dear brother Nyaloro,
    Quoting from your article above “The National Dialogue can succeed if certain adjustments are made to its form and procedures” Let me remind you that there is nothing substantial that requires adjustment. The so call National Dialogue is nothing other than public relations initiative just to pretend to the international community that the government is for peace.
    Kiir and JCE are just copy cats of the regime in Khartoum. How many times president Bashir initiated National Dialogue? For some of you who are following political events in Khartoum, you can agree with me that Bashir has initiated National Dialogue many times. Did any of those initiatives yield any fruit? The answer is no because they are not serious.

    The question is with whom is the government of South Sudan intend to dialogue with? Is it with its supporters or retired old politicians or with the renegade Taban Deng and his group who become part and partial of the regime in Juba?

    The government signed the IGAD brokered peace accord in 2015 and in the process of its implementation it made a secret deal with one of the political prostitute with the intention of killing the very person it signed the agreement with in order to abrogate the agreement. And indeed they succeeded by putting the political prostitute to the position of the FV president who become part of the dictatorial regime.
    There is nothing tangible that Kiir regime can achieve to the people of SS except killings, kidnapping and elimination of opposition elements, hunger and diseases, backwardness, divisions and tribalism.
    As I mentioned several times and in many forums that SS will never progress as long the cow boy call Salfa Kiir is the president.

    If they are really serious about peace let them take immediate action to remove that evil call Taban Deng, apologise to the people of SS and reinstate the peace agreement they have signed with SPLM IO and include all the political opponents to the regime provided that it is guaranteed by a deterrent force so that what happened in July 2016 can not repeat itself.

    • The commentators are all Equatorians and therefore biased and unrealistic. The Equatorians are all talk and no action. The two wars of Liberation were not started by Jieng (Dinka). The first one was started by Equatorians and the second by Naath (Nuer). But in all of them the Dinka saved the two movements by providing the fighting men and political vision. The Jieng sacrificed their lives and the Equatorians and Nuers ripped the benefits in post peace scenario. Currently The government of President Kiir is controlled by the Nuer and Equatorians. The first Vice President is Taban Deng Gai, is a Nuer. The second Vice President James Wani Igga is an Equatorian. The Secretary General of the ruling party Jemma Nunu is an Equatorian. The Chief Minister (Prime Minister ) Martin Elia is an Equatorian. The fact is they were opposed to the movement or the presence of Equatorians or Nuers at the war front was insignificant at best and non-existant at worst. I think you are lucky to have a pious and God fearing leadership of Salva Kiir at the helm of power . Put another Dinka protagonist in his place there would have been no civil strife so early just two years after independence and this nonsense would be abruptly Put to an end.

      • info@southsudannation says:

        Monyjor Abiyok,
        I think you are just joking by stating that “the government of pres. Kiir is controlled by Equatorians and Nuers.”
        You know very well as other South Sudanese also know, it’s the jieng council of elders who are in fact and in practice, controlling the Kiir’s government and running or rather ruining the country.
        Who is Taban Gai….just a traitor, who’s Wani Igga…..just a clown or joker, and who’s Jemma No-No….but just a….. (make your guessing…)
        If you put another jieng like Paul Malong as president, then expect the country, which is slowly breaking apart, to break up much faster…..
        Editor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *