BY: Rigoberto Modi, JUN/26/2015, SSN;
The drama of finding a peaceful resolution to the conflict in South Sudan has reached another stage when one reads the two documents. IGAD is for a simple solution to South Sudan’s problem. Probably, the respectable regional block has bought into the idea that the problem in South Sudan is simply power struggle aggravated by tribalism.
So give Dr. Riak recognition and make him the First Vice President with the added prerogative of creating and controlling the Nuer Economic and Political Block defined as the states of Upper Nile, Unity and Jongolei. The rest belongs to Salva Kiir and his Dinka tribe.
After all these two tribes are the majority as well as politically and militarily powerful; and this division, which appears to be based on a subtle political insight possessed by only a few like President Museveni, who has been advising everybody about the solution to Africa’s problem, appears to be fair.
So in effect, IGAD has bought into the tribal politics of Africa and is willing to become the promoter of the same.
Furthermore, IGAD has also bought into power politics and not politics of democracy and the rule of law. This kind of politics suggests if you flex your military muscles enough, you will get something of the big cake.
South Sudanese, in the face of this so-called proposed IGAD document to resolve the problem in South Sudan, turn their faces towards Dr. Riak who has all along moved in favour of system reform in South Sudan.
This must be a tough time for Dr. Riak himself, not because of having to choose between having the whole and the part, but because this proposal came at the time he was given a huge recognition by the African Union to attend the summit of heads of states.
Therefore the script between the lines is, ‘welcome to the club but be good and follow what we, your benefactors are prescribing for you and everything will be fine for you’.
On the ethical front, this was difficult too. Because it tested the honesty of Dr. Riak in saying he is fighting for the reform of the system, not just for power.
If it was an interview to determine whether he is suitable for the position or not, this test could have been brilliant.
So his response, writing to 41 heads of states and pointing out the weakness of this proposal was truly a mark of honesty and sincerity in his intention to lead the nation into reform.
If this was a game, Dr. Riak has won it and his response made IGAD to look tribal minded and bent on driving South Sudan into deeper conflict and violence.
But it is not a game, it is a real issue that affects the lives of South Sudanese people both now and in future. Hence South Sudanese people and those who support them need to pick it up from here.
Almost all political commentators who have shown honesty in discussing the issues in regards to the current conflict in South Sudan have pointed out that handling it in a way of business as usual will not be useful at all.
To the contrary, it will sink the country into a deeper crisis. Hilda Johnson, the UN Special Representative in South Sudan clearly stated, before her departure, South Sudan needs to be rebooted.
If this was taken as unfair and critical view, it is good to remind ourselves that the Men of God, the Catholic Bishops of South Sudan have issued a pastoral letter on 31st January 2014, stating unequivocally that South Sudan has to be on a New Covenant.
The message of these clergymen cannot be taken lightly, considering the number of people they represent, the institutional memory on South Sudan they access and their level of commitment which saw them reaching out to almost all those who have contributed to helping South Sudan to emerge.
South Sudan is not broken in just a small part, but at the very foundation stone and the whole superstructure is crumbling everywhere.
Just the corruption alone is enough to tell the story and branding South Sudan as the rule of kleptocracy in the light of resources that have been misappropriated in broad daylight is more than enough to prove the need for a new starting.
There is a clear justification that everything has to be re-examined and remade. Layman N. Princeton et al (2014), p 2, have a similar view that ‘a narrow bargain among elites which has been the standard practice in negotiation in Sudan and South Sudan only perpetuates the exclusionary and corrupt politics that are one cause of the crisis and will inevitably lead to future crisis.’
Which is quickly echoed by Dr. Riak in his letter that, ‘The IGAD proposal on power sharing is based on tribalism and it is a recipe for war not peace’.
And if anybody should say that the IGAD document recognizes this fundamental issue but it deferred it to be resolved in later constitutional development process, it is easy to see that such assumption is both weak and wrong at the same time.
First, it conveys a wrong message for those who are left out, like the people of Equatoria and Western Bahr El Ghazal and the Lakes State.
Secondly, anything that is not embedded in the document of agreement is relegated to second or third or no priority at all. If the experience of the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) is anything to go by, then it is a forgone conclusion.
A quick fix is not a solution and it has the danger of deepening the crisis by exhausting people’s goodwill and energy by coming back to solve the same over and over again.
South Sudan has already been going through this and there is no wonder that this current conflict appears to attract less attention because the world asks the question again and again.
Why is this region always in the state of crisis? Is it an atavistic tendency with the people in the region that they cannot live in peace?
But if IGAD is going for a quick fix there must be a justifiable reason.
Since this has not been communicated, it leaves people wondering whether what IGAD lacks is the technical resources to go down to the root causes of this problem and hence come up with proposal that has the capacity to bring a comprehensive solution to the crisis in South Sudan.
If this is not the case then it could be the lack of political will to bring about real change in South Sudan which is now driving the whole IGAD mediation. I am sure IGAD has the legal mandate to mediate to the length it takes to bring about real peace in South Sudan.
The light coming from the regional politics, however, suggests what is lacking is the political will to find a genuine solution to South Sudan’s crisis.
This brings about the uncomfortable view that there are spoilers right at the mediation table who are working to water down what may lead to a fair deal for all South Sudanese.
Apart from economic interest by member states, political consideration of power should be undermining IGAD’s mediation efforts. Therefore in IGAD’s proposal leaving Equatoria Region out has a pragmatic significance, considering what is happening on the ground.
The presence of a large Dinka population in Equatoria who moved in as IDPs during the previous conflict and were not repatriated, because the present government of Salva Kiir did not show any political will to implement that part of the CPA to repatriate IDPs, and now a similar wave of the same tribe coming into Equatoria at the scale that threatens to displace and dispossess the indigenous people, appears to be working on a shared political vision between the two leaders of South Sudan and Uganda.
People in Equatoria share the same culture with those of their brothers and sisters in northern Uganda. The politics in Uganda in the light of which the northerners have a lot to complain about, seems to be similar to that which shapes the policy of the government of South Sudan towards Equatoria.
That builds a good conspiracy theory of shared interest between Salva Kiir and Museveni to see Equatoria completely suppressed just as northern Uganda suffers a similar fate.
Is this far-fetched? No. It takes a very short time in Uganda to know that the northerners are called ‘Banyanya,’ a Luganda rendering of ‘Anyanya.’
Derogatorily, the ‘Banyanya’ were portrayed as South Sudanese who formed the backbone of Idi Amin’s army. These are: Kakwa, Lugbari, Aringa, Ma’di, Acholi, Langi, Alur, Karimajong, etc.
So Equatorians and northern Ugandans are painted using the same paint brush and in the same colour. So much to worry about!
So if Northern Ugandans are reasons for Museveni to be on his toe in case one day they rise, Equatorians are the same for Kiir who cited the story of ‘Kokora’ as during the celebration of Independence Day 2014.
So, as Museveni is not in favour of a strong Equatoria, so is Kiir for a strong Northern Uganda. The reasons are obvious. It is the practice of politics of exclusion and marginalisation that causes this fear.
Unfortunately, this type of politics is entrenched in the two systems currently running in these two countries. When there is a threat to overturn it, the erstwhile beneficiaries are seriously agitated and they try to do everything to stop the change.
At this point, the apparent reluctance of IGAD to dive deeper and find a more comprehensive solution to South Sudan’s problem is not unreasonable or the result of any weakness in the regional body.
This is the result of a pragmatic political consideration, one that has been the very problem of this region from of old. It also goes to illustrate how much influence President Museveni has in the IGAD processes.
So South Sudan’s problem has a strong regional connection. It is not indeed exclusively, South Sudan’s problem. It brings the regional political and economic dynamics into focus.
If indeed true peace should come to South Sudan based on justice, equality and respect for the rule of law, then what will happen to our Southern neighbour, with whom we share culture, history and a lot more in common? Most people are aware of this fact.
Therefore, there is no naivety in simply assigning messianic virtues to all those people who sit at IGAD mediation table under the rubrics of working for peace in South Sudan. Peace in south Sudan is weighted according to individual’s political and economic interests.
These interests, not being exactly the same, by applying the rule of statistical combination means you may end up getting very many and confusing outcomes.
Some of the outcomes are directly feeding into fueling the conflict. So there is a need for genuine, altruistic, intelligent and committed South Sudanese leaders to stand for South Sudanese people backed up by the nation itself.
In conclusions, Fellow compatriots, I call upon you to stand for a great future, behind the leaders who stands for peace founded on the respect of human rights and the equality of all South Sudanese people in their cultural diversity as well as individual persons.