BY: Dr Lako Jada Kwajok, DEC/16/2016, SSN;
The commemoration of the December 2013 Juba massacre of the Nuer civilians arrived while peace remains elusive in our troubled country. In fact, since those terrible days, the country has slid deeper into violence involving communities that were not part of the initial conflict.
The regime has since committed atrocities against the Chollo people, the Western Bahr Ghazalians and now the Equatorians. The war has spread to all parts of South Sudan.
The international community has been warned by Human Rights organisations and the UN Special Advisor on Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, that genocide is indeed looming in Equatoria unless effective measures are undertaken to avert it.
The South Sudan Democratic Front (SSDF) remains supportive of the regional and international efforts to realise a lasting peace in South Sudan. However, those endeavours thus far lacked consistency or direction and appeared chaotic.
The IGAD group of countries have been sending conflicting messages – on the one hand, they suggested that the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS) could not be implemented without one of the principal signatories.
On the other, they indicated the contrary. Former President of Botswana, Festus Mogae tenure as the Chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) failed to make an impression on the course of events. Apart from infrequent statements that were merely for public consumption, the JMEC was largely an outsider to conflict resolution.
The Troika group is no better either. To explain this, let’s shed some light on the US position or positions. It appears Secretary of State, John Kerry, and the US Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth, are in one league. They are advocating continuing with the damaged ARCSS.
Princeton Lyman, Senior Advisor to the President of the United States Institute of Peace and Kate Almquist Knopf, Director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Department of Defense – seem to be in a league of their own. In a joint article, published in the Financial Times on July 20, 2016 – they came up with the idea of a UN/AU transitional administration for South Sudan for a period ranging from 10 to 15 years.
For the records, a UN Trusteeship is not a new idea. This author first suggested it in two articles on this website [ (UN Trusteeship is the best option to resolve the crisis in South Sudan on July 16, 2016) and (The Root Causes of Political Violence in South Sudan – What’re the solutions? on July 31, 2016 )]. They also suggested that Kiir and Machar should be offered immunity from prosecution and safe haven abroad!
It makes us wonder whether the US has backtracked on its stance regarding accountability. If the US on several occasions has emphasised the need for accountability, then who will be the individuals to face justice if the persons who issued the orders are to be left alone?
More confusing is that the views of the two officials are at odds with what their boss previously indicated. I quote what President Obama said while addressing the AU in Addis Ababa in July 2015, “The world awaits the African Union Commission (AUC) report because accountability for atrocities must be part of any lasting peace.”
At the UN, we saw Samantha Power, the US Ambassador to the UN abandoning a plan to submit a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) imposing arms embargo on South Sudan. It’s understandable that it wouldn’t have passed because of the Russian and Chinese Vetos.
But the US and its allies could have gotten the job done anyway. South Sudan is a landlocked country making arms embargo a lot easier.
The problem is that there appears to be some complacency and lack of political will to deal with the issue at hand once and for all. The US is the ultimate superpower until further notice, and we believe it could do more if it wants to.
In 2003, President George W Bush, formed the “Coalition of the willing” to circumvent the Russian and Chinese Vetos against the invasion of Iraq and removal of Saddam Hussein. It’s arguable that such a coalition though for a different purpose, does exist between the Troika countries, the IGAD group of countries and the regional powers.
The way Dr Riek Machar has been shut out from the neighbouring countries tells us that something of that kind is already underway. The question that begs for an answer is that – if an “embargo” has been successfully imposed on Dr Riek Machar, why can’t an arms embargo against the regime in Juba be imposed using similar means?
Are we witnessing a case of double standards?
The calls for an arms embargo from the numerous Human Rights organisations, the relief agencies and the UN relevant institutions were regrettably ignored. A dictatorial regime led by an illegitimate President is allowed to buy and increase its stockpile of weapons. The result would certainly be more atrocities against the innocent civilians in Equatoria and other parts of South Sudan.
The Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS) is damaged beyond repair. Pretending that it’s still workable is deceptive and a counter-productive exercise. It was inherently flawed because of exclusion of major players from the Peace Agreement.
The first mistake committed by the brokers of ARCSS was to think that striking a deal between those who possessed arms would solve the problem. They overlooked the overwhelming majority of the South Sudanese people who were indeed opposing the regime peacefully.
The second mistake was that they were not bold enough to exclude the two rival leaders from leading the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU).
Again, it was the view of this author in an article published on this website (No Deal is better than a Bad Deal on July 31, 2015) that a neutral national figure, preferably a member of the clergy, should be made to lead the Transition.
That would have brought some confidence in the system as a starting point and hastened the implementation of the Peace Agreement.
The brokers have now learned it the hard way – you cannot exclude a significant constituency, in fact, the cornerstone of the country from power-sharing and expect the Peace Agreement to succeed. At best it would be a piecemeal Peace Process and never comprehensive.
Re-negotiating ARCSS by all the stakeholders won’t work because the government already has reservations and regarded it as an imposed Peace Agreement. Also, the newcomers to the negotiating table would certainly have issues with what was agreed upon by the two sides.
Furthermore, the brokers themselves have shown a lack of neutrality on numerous occasions. The two options that have better chances of success are the following:
(a) Broad-based Peace negotiations inclusive of all the stakeholders under the auspices of the UN and the AU. Choosing the right system of governance for South Sudan would be at the centre of the negotiations. Exclusion of Kiir and Machar from presiding over the Transition would be a pre-requisite. A government of technocrats led by a neutral figure preferably a clergyman would be the right option to lead the country in a Transition of 3 to 5 years.
A general election shall then be held at the end of the Transition with the participation of all the political parties.
(b) A UN Trusteeship in collaboration with AU for at least five years would set the country on track and bring about a lasting peace.
Similarly, as in option (a), general elections would be carried out at the end of the Trusteeship.
As things stand right now, the so-called international community (depends on which group of countries you refer to) appears complacent, and some countries are displaying sheer opportunism. Those who have been lecturing us about democracy and the rule of law, ought to redeem themselves as their credibility is on the line.
Dr Lako Jada Kwajok
Chairman and C-in-C of the SSDF