‘’Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it, proverbs 3: 27’’
February 10, 2014 (SSNA) — This opinion piece centers around the draft document South Sudan political parties planned to present at the next round of peace talks in Addis before IGADD mediators, troika partner countries comprising of Norway, Great Britain and United States of America. More other invited observers to benefit from this opinion piece include interested independent states and international individual actors and institutions at the IGADD – sponsored peace talks. Though it is still draft to be fine tuned later, such a state doesn’t exonerate it from public scrutiny since it is unlikely future amendments therein won’t change the crux of the main points already deliberated.
While it is to be born in mind similar opinion doesn’t in any way deny the fact that what began as SPLM in house storm has spilled over and encapsulated the whole country. And therefore, as local citizens, political analysts and peace mediators mutually agreed, calls for the involvement of all political forces in the country to craft all an inclusive solution. Equally not to be gainsaid is the bare fact that all parties outside SPLM have the foresight needed to pinpoint the wrongs and rights, commissions and omissions as committed by both parties to the conflict. A conflict already defined by either side to the conflict as real or fabricated coup if their [political parties] participation has to be deemed as constructive and helpful to the country’s quest for peaceful, fair and everlasting resolution of the on-going crisis.
Unfortunately, however, the aforementioned legitimate reasons which require political parties to participate are hitherto jeopardized by three essential factors. One being an aura of fear necessitated earlier by the release of joint statement on 31st December 2013 in Presidential Palace Hall [J- 1] vehemently denouncing the December 15th shootout within Presidential guards unit as the aborted coup de tat. Such a one sided statement by political parties including SPLM devoid of justification is not cognizant of vital witnesses’ role in any crisis. A role which requires witnesses whether individuals or entities need not be at liberty to say anything they deem fit just to please certain benefactors. Instead, should have the moral obligation to present a credible burden of proof or else they may be subjected to a severe legal reprimand. Added to such a piece of advice is that politics like any other games have rules and regulations governing it as opposed to what several expert actors and lay spectators perceived to be the norm. For the rule of the thumb dictates politics ought to be in the pursuit of people – centered goals and interests than purely selfish ones lest politicians loss public faith, confidence and much needed credibility. That is the only insurance cover against the mega loss of the politicians’ hard earned political careers through endless electoral defeats.
Two more elements added to fear are in the blurriness and confusion that have erroneously defined political parties current position paper christened as ‘’Road Map of the Political Parties on the Resolution of the Conflict’’ whichdrives them from the high moral ground to constructively mediate in the crisis and possibly envisage a better future South Sudanese people have been longing for not seen before by the SPLM rival factions into a lowly position of an irrelevance. Such a pompously dubbed document as their position in the IGADD – sponsored talks, in the first place, cited nothing new to add more value to the efforts towards restoring the lost peace than re-affirming IGADD position. The said position outlined three important issues to bring to an immediate end to the violence which has engulfed South Sudan. These are cessation of hostilities, addressing root causes of the conflict which include among others the inbuilt governance deficiencies that either greatly or in small way contributed to the current sorry state of affairs as well as repairing the damage done to the state – society and inter-community relations the internecine conflict has caused so far.
One more perplexing thing is the gist of the two – page position paper best and holistically captured by the below illustrated excerpts. Which begins with paragraph three of the position document quoted and highlighted as follows: ‘’The end result of this process should be a new political structure that re-affirms commitment to constitutionality, democracy and human rights and capable of restoring some confidence in the country’s political process’’ is made redundant by number one bullet point on page two under ‘’Frame work for Transitional Arrangements sub-title’’ which says and I quote: ‘’Recognition of the constitutional order in the country, but important changes are unavoidable. The elected President and elected institutions have to continue till the time for the elections, but anything else should be negotiable, it continues”.
To critique the above mentioned quoted excerpts, if the elected President and institutions have to continue till time of the elections, that means people still harbor full trust and confidence in them and therefore any purposed transitional arrangements are not necessary. The same hypothesis pours new wine into the old bottle which undoubtedly spoils the newness of the former. As it is not tenable to mandate same old, tired dual system to implement ideas it thinks threaten its very existence let alone championing them as a trash it loves to hate.
Secondly, the continuity of the Presidency and its affiliates it helped form depends by and large on the outcome of who in between President Kiir and rebel Leader Dr. Machar fabricated or staged the attempted coup respectively. Should the coup become a reality as staged by Machar, not only will he loss most political support locally, international trust and face the fate of a coup instigator in court of law, but also there will be no anybody to blame and punish Kiir for the fault that is not his. With such a verdict, then democracy as accepted system of governance in South Sudan in particular and worldwide in general together with its embodied institutional instruments under the legitimately elected President shall remain in full force unperturbed till the mandatory period of 2015 elections. Unless the President in his discretion of goodwill recognizes the reality of the conflict as having indeed occurred and resultantly eroded the little trust and social harmony previously existed between the affected communities and hence, the need to over haul state institutions to heal the wounds and take care of all doubts as well as instill misgivings in the hearts of the would be vanquished renegades and victorious incumbents.
While on the contrary, if the President is found to have instigated the coup attempt as the ploy to politically eliminate rivals in the SPLM and to more extent the ethnic group from which the so called ring leader originates, being Riek Machar, then there will be mounting questions and recriminations on Kiir’s legitimacy as democratically elected leader by and for all and sundry.
In pursuit of justice in that direction one scenario is something to do with the person who instigated a non-existent military coup that contributes to the death of countless number of people and destruction of property worth billions of South Sudanese Pounds. Such a person [Kiir] is no different from the one who mounted the actual coup de tat in all jurisprudential terms. For both before court of law can face equal charges of treason punishable with death if proven to be true leave alone the President remaining in power.
Second scenario is to do with the country where democracy is respected in letter and spirit as is the case in the Western world since any leader that makes foul play, like for an instance, undermining the democratic principles that helped his/her rise to pinnacles of power and subverting the course of justice which traditionally ensures the rule of law and stability simply to attain narrow personal ends of maintaining power at public and some individuals’ expense can voluntarily admit quilt, tender resignation and call it quits or else risks being removed through an impeachment in the competent August house. The same Western experience recently found credence and responsible for bringing down former President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency Thabo Mbeki in 2009. The land mark ruling happened just six months to the formal end of his Presidential term; when the Appeal court found it otherwise in the earlier proceedings of the alleged corruption charges in the Supreme court that he manipulated justice against his former Deputy President, Jacob Zuma so that he Mbeki got rid of Zuma in a highly charged secession politics never seen before in South African society from both the government and governing African National Congress, ANC.
For the South Sudan political parties to keep themselves afloat and relevant in the unfolding political situation in the country with an aim of seizing the opportunity they could not have attained had there been no blood stained political fallout in the SPLM party, need to keep some distance away from opportunistically fishing in the SPLM’s troubled political waters while constructively contribute their inputs that help the country get out of this quagmire. This in the future could earn them much needed credibility in the eyes of electorate since the formal end to this crisis, which is being presided over currently in the South Sudanese court of public opinion, IGADD – sponsored peace talks in Addis and possibly The Hague – based ICC, shall eventually be amicably resolved at the ballot box. By toeing a middle line in the crisis, either side that wines shall invite them to participate in a more foreseeable future unity government than taking sides and probably what will be the wrong side later in the situation still so fluid such as this shall be a blunder of an unimaginable proportion to continue tightening the lid on their present isolation from the main stream politics. Additional advice worth listening to is to further engage in agitating for all an inclusive deliberation on issues of governance where SPLM as the whole has been failing the general public in their demands and aspirations. These issues are political processes that will shape their elections campaign manifestos and improve on the chances of winning future democratic elections best tailored to the needs of the public already frustrated by SPLM poor governance in the areas of National Reconciliation and Healing, all an inclusive drafting of the permanent constitution subject to nationwide referendum, population and housing census with subsequent demarcation and delimitation of the boundaries of the would be newly established geo-political constituencies, unbiased registration of political parties a fresh as well as free and fair monitoring of the yet to be general elections.
Deng Vanang is a journalist and member of Executive Committee of the South Sudan leading opposition party, SPLM-DC and can be reached at: [email protected]