BY: Joseph Oreste Odhok, AUG/30/2016, SSN;
At last there was a sigh of relief when the news of Dr. Riak‘s safe evacuation broke on August 17,2016. As the bona fide 1st Vice President, South Sudanese people and the world at large were eager to hear from him about his next move in relation to resurrecting the peace agreement.
Contrary to the people’s expectations, the US and IGAD surprisingly and to the disappointment of all, abruptly abandoned the AU’s summit previous position on SPLM/A – IO leadership which calls on reinstatement of Dr. Machar as the 1st Vice President to salvage peace agreement.
The US State Secretary John Kerry, uttered remarks in Nairobi on August 22,2016, in which he endorsed Machar’s replacement by Gai, saying there was a legal provision in the agreement that allows for such a replacement “in the interim.”
Kerry did not adequately explain his use of the phrase “in the interim” whether he meant Riek could be reinstated or not. His remarks were later reaffirmed by Elizabeth Trudeau, the US State Department Spokeswoman.
Following US position on the subject matter, IGAD through its Spokeswoman, Sharon Kaku, stated that “it was up to the South Sudan Government to decide who should be the Country’s 1st Vice President.” And “The decision would be accommodated.” She confirmed.
As a result of this abrupt shift in position of the Regional Group (IGAD) and its chief influential ally (US), President Kiir’s illusion of ruling the Country for life and subjecting its people under his tribal hegemony and oppression is now revived.
He is now strong enough to strike hard his opponents and march forward to consolidate his position. Last Week while being briefed by his security Aides, President Kiir warned against the call for Dr. Riek’s reinstatement by foreign diplomats.
In another development, Festus Mogae, the chairman of Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission –JMEC- has succumbed to President Kiir and promised to work with him and his deputy Taban Deng. “I will give advice and also listen and seek government advice for peace building in the country”. Mage said in a press statement after meeting with President Kiir and his new deputy Taban Deng.
This new development of events comes at the same time Dr. Riak was discharged from hospital and they seem well coordinated. However, what seems unusual this time around is the US acting in a unilateral fashion without its other two allies of TROIKA— UK and Norway.
The Question that poses itself is: Why the Dramatic Shift in US and IGAD Position, and What are the Implications?
When the Security Council Resolution 2304(2016) was adopted, authorizing peacekeeping force for protection of civilians, it was envisaged that South Sudan would cooperate and allow in the protection force. Threats of imminent arms embargo against the country, and imposing selected economic sanctions against the regime hardliners could have acted as a warning sign to the regime.
This strategy seemed not to work as the regime refuses to comply but instead puts forward its own terms. Demanding the UN renegotiate the provisions of the resolution before it accepts the force.
Their defiance was further bolstered by positions of Uganda and Sudan backing away from contributing troops to the force. The regime would have welcomed participation of its mentor and ally, Uganda thereby paving the way to accept the force.
It appears Uganda tactically knew what it was doing and Sudan distant itself to avoid accusations.
Reading from the mindset of Kiir and his military elite which is evidenced by their past and recent brutal actions against civilians and aid workers, the US fears the regime would proceed to commit most heinous crimes of unimaginable magnitude if the UN insists on sending in the protection force without the consent of its despot leaders.
Might be the US being the Country which drafted the proposal for the protection force bears the greatest responsibility and had to act according to what it deems suitable and necessary. Provided its action(s) is neutral and intended for realization of peace and stability of South Sudan. This, the US has done already through its continued support to IGAD and provision of humanitarian aid assistance.
It should have sought ways and means to augment its efforts and force the government to accept the protection force without preconditions.
It remains unclear as to why the US should come out loud and clear in support of Juba brutal and dictatorial regime, which until recently, combed the country’s bushes, in pursuit of his peace partner to eliminate him and eventually kill the peace agreement.
Could it be that the super powers are scrambling for the country’s untapped resources and that Syria’ scenario is likely to be replicated in South Sudan?
What is the need of presence of President Festus Magae and his JMEC when the peace agreement has already been nullified by President Kiir and Taban? And is it not ironic to talk of a protection force while you have endorsed the new government set-up which claims it has one army and one commander in chief that needs no foreign forces?
Answers to these question lie with the US and its allies but the coming weeks will surely tell us the true nature of things in the country.
The US and IGAD should have taken President Kenyatta‘s warning very seriously. He said “trying to isolate Riak Machar will not be in the best interest of peace”. He was speaking out of accurate knowledge of the realities on the ground.
The armed opposition force under Dr. Machar is intact and still loyal to him in their various locations. If the new 1st VP claims to have troops why doesn’t he visit them in their locations and attend to their needs? His recent attempts to sell his traitorous ideas to some armed opposition generals were a fiasco and were made public.
It is very unfortunate that some countries in the region still continue to support the regime either out of ignorance about the regime unwillingness to implement the peace agreement and its brutal actions against its citizens, or they so deliberately chose to work with it for their shared interests.
To succinctly state the fact, South Sudanese have been abandoned by the world and that it is for them to settle their own disputes using their home grown solutions. Call it a civil mobilization method as Mogae recently put it.
The Government is already on the offensive in many areas and its preparations are underway around Malakal, Renk and Maban counties.
Now with the hopes of peace now once again evaporated and the causes of the conflict remaining unresolved, while the people of South Sudan are left alone to settle their dispute, fierce and all-out war is imminent.
The SPLM/A–IO and the newly formed democratic revolutionary alliance are likely to team up against Kiir tribal militia and its mercenaries. I do not think the regime has got the capacity to fight a sustained war given its economic woes and the shaky nature of its political system. Especially when it is fighting against all the other ethnicities of the country.