BY: Malith Kur, Student at McGill University, Canada, OCT/04/2018, SSN;
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development, IGAD, has proven to the world that Africans can solve African political problems. The role that IGAD has played in South Sudan beginning with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Naivasha in 2005, which resulted in the emergence of South Sudan in 2011 as a sovereign nation, stands tall in this regard.
Again, when naïve political violence erupted in South Sudan in late 2013, IGAD, with the blessing of the African Union (AU), resolved to lead the initiative to restore peace in the country.
Such efforts culminated in the signing in 2015 of the Agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS).
Despite IGAD’s rigorous diplomatic engagement with the conflicting parties, the ARCSS failed to cement peace in South Sudan because of its design, which established two parallel governments in the country.
South Sudanese cannot blame IGAD for the design of the ARCSS but Troika nations (the US, UK, and Norway). The Troika nations funded the peace process and so, had a greater say on its design.
They supported the existence of two hostile armies in the country—one commanded by Salva Kiir and the other by Riek Machar.
Their hostility to each other led to the failure of the peace process in July 2016 when the clashes occurred at the statehouse in Juba.
The ARCSS failed, but IGAD has continued to encourage the rebels and the government to pursue a peaceful end to the conflict through the revitalization and revision of the ARCSS.
South Sudanese commend IGAD for its consistent attempts to deal with South Sudan’s complex political issues.
Indeed, the government and most members of the South Sudan Opposition alliance (SSOA) represented at the IGAD sponsored peace process have signed in Addis Ababa in September 2018 the revised agreement to end the violence in the country.
However, some groups within the SSOA have rejected the revitalized peace agreement.
They claim that the deal has not addressed the issues related to the number of states, communal or tribal boundaries, and federalism. They are also demanding a lean government.
They want IGAD to solve those issues; however, it is unrealistic for South Sudanese to expect that all solutions to their problems will often come from IGAD.
In principle, South Sudanese do not necessarily oppose the demands that some opposition groups have voiced. They oppose any attempt that makes achieving peace in the country contingent on those demands.
The question of ethnic boundaries or number of states in the country cannot be resolved through political resolutions coming from political parties alone much less IGAD’s decision.
They are issues of local concern that require the local solutions.
Hence, a comprehensive peace must first prevail in the country so that all South Sudanese could have the opportunity to address those issues.
Number of States and Ethnic Boundaries:
The number of states in South Sudan is a temporary matter. It is not that important to stop some opposition groups from signing the revitalized peace agreement.
We know why people ask for more states in the country. They do not ask for the creation of new states to expand tribal borders.
What drives the demand for more states is the false assumption that the establishment of a new administrative unit allows the federal government in Juba to channel more funds to that region.
Hence, the problem is neither the number of states in the country nor the boundaries of ethnic communities.
The problem is a wrong perception that the creation of a new state brings more opportunities for communities in that location to receive more support from the central government.
Politicians including the opponents of the government know that creating more states in South Sudan does not facilitate development but expands the government.
They understand that the country does not have enough resources to sustain paying an increasing number of government officials. That is the problem associated with the creation of more states in South Sudan.
We know it, but it does not warrant the continuation of violence. It requires public awareness.
Once South Sudanese understand that the more states they have, the less development they get out of them, they will be the ones to choose the right formula for establishing the number of states in the country.
Thus, the opposition groups that have rejected the revised accord because of the creation of 32 states do not have any argument to make to keep the country in the state of war.
Therefore, IGAD made the right decision by supporting the proposed referendum during the interim period to determine the number of states in the country.
The IGAD sponsored peace process is not the right forum where South Sudanese would judge whether the current system they have in the country is good or bad.
The configuration of the current national system is an integral part of the development of the permanent constitution.
South Sudanese should embark on the process of developing a permanent constitution in a peaceful environment.
It depends on how one understands a federal system; otherwise, South Sudan is in principle a federal state.
However, South Sudanese can peacefully review the current system if whether it meets their needs or not.
The first step is to end the war for the current violent situation in the country cannot allow for the proper process of constitutional development that defines clear boundaries between the federal government and state governments.
South Sudanese need peace to participate in the constitutional making process. That is the better way for them to be the authors of a federal system they want.
The impulse behind the demand for a so-called strong federal system by Thomas Chirilo— the leader of National Salvation Front (NAS) and his constituents based in the USA, UK, and Australia— is Kokora (a system that aims at drawing hard borders between ethnic communities in the country).
Jaafar Numeri, the former president of Sudan, introduced Kokora in the 1980s when he divided the then Southern Sudan into three regions at the demand of his political allies in Equatoria region.
It was a political strategy to weaken the unity of Southern Sudanese.
At this time, however, South Sudanese do not need to be coerced into establishing a system of governance that will curtail their freedom to move, live, and work anywhere they want in their homeland.
All they need is to be allowed to use the fruits of IGAD mediation to strengthen peace and freedom in the country. End
Malith Kur is a South Sudanese peace activist and student at McGill University, Montreal. He can be reached @ firstname.lastname@example.org.