By Taban Abel Aguek, MP Lakes State Parliament, 28/JUL/2015, SSN;
The efforts for peace in South Sudan and the international community shall always never skip a mention. Even as people criticize IGAD, TROIKA or the negotiating teams, it’s good to appreciate their commitment to bringing peace in South Sudan. That makes stronger our belief in being members of the family of nations of Africa and the world.
But despite the efforts by IGAD and the International Community to bring to an end the war in South Sudan, it is a feeling of large masses that their mediators are not honest in drawing solutions to the conflict.
Each time the warring parties refused to sign an agreement, IGAD has always gone back to the drawing board but only to reappear with no significant improvements on the issues of the agreement that touch on the lives of common citizens.
Secondly, the IGAD mediators seem to care too much about what rebels want than anything else since the negotiations started in January 2014.
It’s why negotiations have stuck at the point of Dr Riek’s demands, referred to as ‘contentious issues,’ and not at the Government side.
These contentious issues are power sharing, system of governance, the issue of two armies, the compensation and reparation of the victims of the conflict.
Out of all these that were presented by the rebels and rejected by the Government through IGAD One, only federalism has been left out by IGAD Plus in their latest peace proposal.
And from here the word ‘compromised’ was forged. But is that enough to be called a compromise?
Instead of telling Dr Riek off, IGAD and the International Community have only had their legs spread all over the warring camps.
They have only been dividing threats and punishment in equal halves. Perhaps, IGAD and partners have not diagnosed what the problem of South Sudan is.
If not, then we are justified to a claim that there are ploys in South Sudan peace talks by major players guiding the talks.
When one looks at the IGAD Plus proposal there can be every reason to be suspicious.
Why does the Compromised Peace Agreement seem to carry some components of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (with Arab North)?
What relevance does this conflict have to the two decade long South–North war so as to import almost the same mechanisms of the CPA to solve the current crisis?
This proposal ought to brand Dr. Riek as the owner of Upper Nile and the negotiators seem to give him Upper Nile region in exchange for peace.
Giving 53% share of power to rebels almost look like granting Upper Nile a way to break away.
Yet, Upper Nile is home to many tribes.
The rebellion in South Sudan has been stronger in Upper Nile region not because Dr Riek is popular there but because it lies along the supply route from Khartoum.
South Sudan’s borders with Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia are open and porous. It has kept the logistics and supply of the rebels to flow, hence allowing them to achieve some victories in the region.
However, those victories have always short-lived.
Otherwise, there is no need to give a higher percentage to rebels who have not garnered the support of the Nuer tribe wholly, let alone the other tribes.
When Riek gets Upper Nile, what will Kiir give his Nuer supporters and other tribes in the same region?
Doing that presents a recipe for going back to war by those that will be left out in power sharing.
The issue of keeping two armies in the same country has not also been properly addressed in the current peace proposal by IGAD Plus.
Here there are two things involved: the duration of integration of the two armies and who are legible to be integrated into the national army.
The period of 18 months is too long because other hiccups on the way may result into another complete all-out war again before reintegration.
The White Army forms a bulk of the fighters used by Dr Riek Machar. It must be noted that gelwong (pres. Kiir own militia-Ed.), the equivalent of white army, is abundant across the Dinkaland.
To avoid inflating the army, only those that defected from their various divisions should be integrated into the national army but not everyone who carries a gun.
There are defectors that left from police, prisons, wildlife and fire brigade. They should go back unconditionally to their departments.
Too large untrained army drawn from the local youths may present a recipe number two for going back to war in less than 18 months.
Compensation and reparation, if accepted, is not a bad idea but it must go back to the period in 1991 when Riek Machar killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese people in Upper Nile and Bor in particular.
Every victim of this war is a victim of Riek’s quest for power and they should be compensated in his name.
The problem is that there are so many people to be compensated. I lost my close relatives in Bor, Malakal and Bentiu. I buried one of the rape victims myself. She was rescued but she died in my hands in Mapuordit hospital.
If Riek will get us that money to pay all these victims of Nuer, Dinka, shilluk, Uduk, Equatorians etc…, then we have no problem.
Those who will fail to get the compensation might take up arms and fight for their rights. That will be recipe number three for going back to war.
The call for dissolution of the National Assembly is not correct. The National Assembly and Council of States have their membership drawn geographically and proportionally from all South Sudan.
To dissolve and reconstitute another assembly of 400 members is not only unrealistic but it equally begs the same question of where do we get the money to pay them.
Isn’t it laughable to have such a parliament of 400 members against a population below ten million?
What should be ideal is allowing back all MPs that had defected at all levels of parliaments to their positions.
The SPLM is still one since the Arusha Agreement has reinstated Riek Machar back as D/Chairman of the party.
Moreover, the process may affect members who have not rebelled. Should these MPs pay a price for not having rebelled?
There should be nothing like that or else they do the necessary: go back to war, recipe for war number four.
The proposal also seems to test the resolve of South Sudanese people by suggesting the demilitarization of the national capital, Juba.
The dignity of our President and sovereignty of our country are very vital to the very existence of the country.
There is no one that owns our constitution to set a number of guards for our President.
There can be no way UNMISS or AU forces can do what our national constitutional is paid to do. That proposal is insulting and it must be scraped.
IGAD One was wrong in its peace proposals to end the conflict in South Sudan. IGAD two (IGAD Plus) is equally wrong in what they called a compromised peace agreement on south Sudan.
Two wrongs do not make a right!
If the mediators do not adjust the wrongs in this proposal and the parties fail to sign the agreement then there will be no need for IGAD or TROIKA (IGAD Three).
Since the beginning of talks, the Government of South Sudan has compromised a lot of issues. Some vital concessions have been made by government against the will of the people.
The government has implemented the Arusha Agreement in full and has heeded the call to suppress anything that was viewed as a blockage to peace.
It is our strongest feeling that IGAD this time urges the rebels to come to a complete compromise so as to pave way for peace in South Sudan.
It is a known fact that some nations, now coined in South Sudan as godfathers of rebellion, still have their hands in the dimensions of the Addis Ababa talks.
It is high time that these nations and individuals also consider to compromise of their own interests in South Sudan.
South Sudan is awake. It’s not time to seduce our country sign up to another bad war.
There is no thought that shall ever go without being interrogated by South Sudanese how much powerful the proposers of such opinion is.
South Sudanese are disillusioned in the quest for peace, but they cannot be arm-twisted to accept a peace agreement based on compromises that will come to haunt them just in a very near future.
A compromised peace agreement is one that asks Dr Riek Machar to relinquish all the impossible demands. His demands do not only hinder peace process; they may also plant future wars in the country if peace is signed under duress.
Taban Abel Aguek is a member of Lakes State Legislative Assembly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org