By Dr. Gatluak Ter Thach* USA, AUG/30/2016, SSN;
Sec. John Kerry of United States held a diplomatic meeting today with members of East African foreign ministers of five countries, including Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Uganda in his an exertion to push these countries to tackle challenges facing in their states. The agenda comprised of security issues among others affected South Sudan and Somalia, as well as the whole region.
Mr. Kerry also attended a press conference with the Kenyan President Kenyatta, where his rejoinder to a question asked in regard to the political exploitation made after the incident in Juba, South Sudan, which resulted into the decision that let FVP. Dr. Riek Machar of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army in opposition (IO) left the country caused significant debate on Social Media.
The question enquired has to do of whether or United States would want FVP, Dr. Riek Machar return to South Sudan capital before protection forces arrive in the country.
Though United States proposed the UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution 2304 to send to the protection troops to South Sudan for the protections of civilians and for the implementation of the peace agreement signed in August 2015, which Juba government had been unwilling to accept, Mr. Kerry likes to display a diplomatic card to avoid being seen hostile to Mr. Kirr regime in Juba.
This diplomatic response triggered discussions among South Sudanese who thought Mr. Kerry may have signaled a change in position when he said this: “With respect to Machar, it is not up to the United States, it’s upto the leaders of South Sudan and the people of South Sudan, the political parties and the neighbors to weigh in on what is best or what is not best with respect to Machar.
But I think it is quite clear that legally under the agreement, there is allowance for replacement and the transition of personnel and that has been effected with the appointment of a new First Vice President.”
In this regard, some debaters believed Mr. Kerry might have indirectly endorsed the controversial arrangement made by Pres. Kirr to replace Dr. Riek with Gen. Taban Deng Gai since he said it is upto South Sudanese and the region to figure out whether or not Gen. Taban can vacate the position for Dr. Riek to refill.
Unfortunately, this is not exactly what I think Sec. Kerry meant when he said, “it is upto the region, people of the South Sudan and political parties to weigh in on what is best or what is not best in respect to [Dr.] Machar” to imply that Mr. Kerry and United States has endorsed Gen. Taban Deng Gai.
What he really meant, I believe, is that people of South Sudan and the neighbors need a real peace signed by both Pres. Kirr and FVP, Dr. Riek Machar, and for the lasting harmony to emerge only when two leaders (Mr. Kirr and Dr. Macjhar) position interests of their people and the country first before their owns.
Everyone knows Dr. Riek commands over 90 percent of his supporters (military and sympathizers), who are eager to experience reforms made in the country. Pres. Kirr on the other hands has the equal support and the command of his branches.
For a survival of this signed peace in South Sudan, both leaders must work together to make it materialize and bring their divided fields into a single tukul. Sec. Kerry is not naïve on African affairs, especially the tribal politics of South Sudan.
He knows this culture. It is also true Gen. Taban can work well with Pres. Kirr since he might not bother about the reforms many of the South Sudanese wanted to be implemented for a country to subsist.
Reforms in a military and other sectors are significantly critical. For example, South Sudan does not have a trained and professional military. What it has currently is a sum of tribal militias trained to destroy and rape their country mothers and sisters. So sad indeed right!
A reform in the military is an essential aspect and a magnificent for the diverse young African nation. Gen. Taban, who already said he and Pres. Kirr agreed to merge both armies unconditionally by the end of May 2017, contrary to the security arrangement, is not a good signal to sustain this peace.
Articles 7.1 and 7.3 of ARCSS peace agreement signed in August 2015 illustrated instructions to integrate forces within 18 months, which do not support Gen. Taban’s talking points. This would be one of critical reasons that will make it difficult for Gen. Taban and the few friends to convince alerted majority of South Sudanese to buy in since they will not be seen for the implementation of the peace but as tools used to destroy the peace agreement.
According to the agreement, “the process of unification shall be overseen and monitored by the National Architecture. The Disarmament, Demobilization and Re-Integration of special needs cases shall be undertaken in parallel with the re-unification processes while the full process of DDR for ineligible candidates or residual forces as defined by the result of SDSR,” (ARCSS, 2015).
The key word is ineligible and the process to identify and accommodate them so they would not be left unserved. Is it possible to be achieved under Gen. Taban arrangement, and why would people think Sec. Kerry can pay a less care into this serious arrangement in the agreement when he knows the United States is overstretched with humanitarian a sector?
Mr. Kerry has also repledged again today 138m US dollars for the humanitarian assistance in South Sudan with signs that peace must be implemented. The United States has been the largest donor with a close to 2 billion dollars in the humanitarian assistance to South Sudanese people since an eruption of the current crisis in 2013.
As he said, the donation is not forever and leaders plus people in South Sudan must have to put their act together and say enough is enough, but this should not be done with a less care without acknowledging of a perpetual repercussion by allowing the interests of the few to continue endangering the lives of innocent citizens.
Presently, the choice for the additional force, which would be sent by neighboring countries after an eruption of fighting in July which claimed hundreds of thousand lives and resulted in rapes, including of Western aid workers, should be taken as an opportunity instead of how juba is taking it now.
Gen. Taban has advocated against the move which the United States government ferociously fought heavily for in order to restore armistice in the war-torn nation of South Sudan which Mr. Kerry reaffirmed today that the deployment of the 4,000 protection forces to South Sudan authorized earlier this month by the UNSC to be deployed as soon as possible for the protection of civilians, women and girls, as well as ensuring the implementation of the peace process.
“We need to move forward [to send protective forces],” Mr. Kerry. However, the government of South Sudan, from its Pres. Kirr, ” has resisted the planned deployment in Juba of a 4,000-soldier protection force” instead of agreement for the protection of their own people even though the country is unable to protect the citizens when the evidences can tell it all.
Current Displacement in South Sudan
· 2.5 million people (one in five) have been forced to flee their homes due to brutal war.
· Out of these, 1.6 million have been internally displaced in South Sudan
· More than 830,000 have sought safety in neighboring countries, mainly Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.
· 4.8 million people are in desperate need for food and clean water.
Current Economic Crisis in South Sudan
It is fact that most people in South Sudan rely on subsistence agriculture based on crop production and cattle for basic survival. Those who have been forced to flee their homes have lost their means of feeding their families because they were forced to abandon their farms and livestock. According to economic experts in the country and in the world, South Sudan has flown into an economic “free-fall” characterized by food and fuel prices which have skyrocketed and an ever-rising cost of living. The trade and local markets have been disrupted and food stock has depleted.
Human suffering in South Sudan
South Sudanese’s ability to manage with rising food insecurity is being stretched to a breaking point that it is difficult for the poor families to support their children. The political and security crises in South Sudan are really the one of the world’s worst food and humanitarian crises. It is worse than anything else in the world though international media has harder time to copy it. Here are saddened stats for the nation:
One in three people are severely food insecure.
5.3 million people of an estimated 11m (2015) are expected to face severe hunger this year.
More than 686,000 children (one in four) under five are estimated to be acutely malnourished.
6.1 million people will need some humanitarian assistance by the end of 2016.
87% of people have no access to improved sanitation and only 47% have access to safe water.
Dozens of cholera cases have been registered across the country in July 2016.
Sexual and gender-based violence is rampant, and it is estimated that 15,000 to 16,000 children are currently recruited by armed actors.
In looking into these painful stats, I agree Mr. Kerry and rests of us would like to see these sufferings reverse sooner. If the regime in Juba cannot provide conducive environments for these populations to support themselves, why would the regime refuse to allow those who could help them meet their citizens’ needs?
The card Pres. Kirr and folks in Juba are play is “sovereignty.” Without going deeper into the English definition of this term, is South Sudan a sovereign or independent state? The UNMISS forces were in South Sudan before 2011. Ugandan forces were allowed to South Sudan from 2013-2015. The country has been heavily depending on foreign aids before and after the crisis of 2013.
In addition to mentioned stats above, the country lack infrastructure developments, such as roads, hospitals, basic education, etc. Most children of those with means attend schools in neighboring countries or in the West. The real definition of sovereignty is not what is being seen in South Sudan since 2011 upto now.
The country is not sovereign yet because it is unable to protect, serve and/or deliver what it means to be a sovereign state, and everyone in the world knows this fact.
Dr. Gatluak Thach lives and works in the United States of America and he can be reached: firstname.lastname@example.org