From The East African, SEPT/13/2015, SSN;
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation tells Fred Oluoch about the challenges of implementing the peace agreement.
1-QUESTION: President Salva Kiir signed the agreement but still had reservations on 16 points. Was the government signalling that it will not implement the deal?
The problems started when US President Barack Obama convened a regional leaders’ meeting in Addis Ababa to discuss South Sudan and yet President Kiir was not invited.
How can regional allies talk about our country without our participation? We were very disappointed with what happened and we thought that if this is the way things are done at the regional and the African Union level, then we must reassert our independence and dignity, while appreciating the assistance we have been getting from our friendly countries.
2-QUESTION: How then does South Sudan plan to reassert its independence?
The reservations we raised must be addressed or else implementation is going to be very difficult. Some of the things we pointed out had not been discussed and even areas that we had agreed on earlier were not included. There is no country in Africa that can accept an agreement in that form.
When the deal was signed on August 17 in Addis Ababa, we made it clear that the international community was pushing us to sign the deal. We said that we needed to take the document back to our people and consult with our constituents.
Igad and AU gave us 15 days to consult, but seven days later, the US and the UN Security Council started circulating a document for sanctions and arms embargo. So we were wondering who is in charge, is it Igad, AU or the Security Council?
3-QUESTION: Does South Sudan feel let down by Igad?
Yes, we feel let down because of the attitude of the mediators, who had gone beyond their mandate. The mediators were supposed to bring out issues to the two warring sides and then assist them in areas where they disagree.
But instead, they took over the whole process, drafted the agreement behind the backs of stakeholders and then brought the document saying, take it or leave it.
What type of mediation is this? Igad should have waited until the most important partner, which is the government, signs the document first and then witnesses sign later in order to make the document authentic. This is one area where mediators failed. They were not mediating but were just imposing an agreement.
4-QUESTION: After signing the document, how does the government want it corrected?
Well, we have already signed the document and we are going to the stage of implementation but with reservations. That is why we raised concern over several difficulties that were not discussed by the two parties.
Those who want to help South Sudan must know the reality on the ground and address our reservations as the chief implementer of the document.
5-QUESTION: Will the reservations interfere with the time lines that were set in the document?
Yes, in some cases. For example, President Kiir is named the commander-in-chief of the National Defence Forces of South Sudan, which does not exist in our Constitution, instead of the commander of SPLA.
The rebel leader is also referred to as the commander of the SPLA in Opposition and sometimes as the commander of South Sudan Armed Opposition. Which exactly is his title? It is just confusing and makes people doubt the authenticity of the document.
6-QUESTION: Some government officials have suggested that the African Union set up a Somali-type peacekeeping mission to help implement the document instead of leaving it in the hands of the Troika. Comment?
You can now see how deficient the document is if there are people still suggesting ways of implementation. This is because there are loopholes in the document, which leaves it open to different interpretations. Those are the reservations we were talking about. It is important for the world to understand that South Sudan is a young state still trying to establish democratic institutions.
In fact, we are more democratic than some of our partners in the region and yet the world keeps on putting pressure on us using threats of sanctions. Yes, we have a crisis we need help with from the international community but we were elected and we have the mandate of our people. We need help instead of being bullied.
7-QUESTION: Given the issues that are now emerging, what is the way forward for the South Sudan peace process from the government’s perspective?
Our position is that when we are implementing the document, which we have committed ourselves to by signing, our reservations should not be ignored.
Even Dr Machar said that he has 20 reservations and yet he did not talk about them before signing. This shows that the document was not adequately discussed by the two parties. END