IGAD’s Inadequate Strategy in South Sudan

By Elhag Paul

April 13, 2014 (SSNA) — In a recent article published in various websites titled, “Solutions to South Sudan political problems lies in new blood”, I hinted that IGAD seems to be ignorant of South Sudan’s political problems. More and more this appears to be the case. IGAD’s approach to solve the problems of South Sudan in the last few days reveals a shocking lack of a clear thought out strategy to address the problems of South Sudan. In fact IGAD does not have any credible strategy and what it is doing is a copy and paste job using the template of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the SPLM and the Sudan government of 2005. It should be noted here that the context of the CPA was different from the present situation in South Sudan and therefore it is inappropriate to extrapolate. Please see, “Former SPLM detainees excluded from South Sudan peace talks.”  http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article50573

This surely does not bode well for peace given the fact that the outcome of the comprehensive peace agreement has left a sour taste in the mouths of the various parties in both the Sudan and South Sudan. In the Sudan, the issues of Blue Nile state, South Kordufan state and Abyei remain largely unresolved with continuing immeasurable loss of lives. In South Sudan, the people of Panthou, Kafia Kingi and other disputed border areas are left confused with undefined status.

In both countries, the agreement entrenched vested interest at the expense of the people. The National Congress Party in the Sudan became stronger giving president Omar Bashir an extended lease of rule and the Sudan People Liberation Movement in South Sudan monopolised power.

Applying the CPA strategy in the current case of South Sudan suggests the people of South Sudan are yet again being sacrificed to appease the warring factions of the SPLM only. This means the men of violence are being rewarded and they will obviously once more be the only beneficiaries and not the people of South Sudan. This can not be right morally and in principle. What the IGAD leaders do not see is that they are directly encouraging South Sudanese law abiding citizens to take the route of violence to solve the problems of the country as this is the only method that is recognised, incentivised and can yield visible results.

The over 20,000 innocent lives lost in the ethnic cleansing, over 80,000 potential government targets in protection camps of UN within the country, over 250,000 South Sudanese who crossed the borders as refugees and the nearly a million internally displaced citizens created by president Kiir and the SPLM’s direct mismanagement of the country seem to mean nothing at all to IGAD. To them, it is the SPLM, the very culprit that matters and not its victims.   How sad and heart breaking to see an African body that is supposedly to improve the region stoop so low as to lend credence to racist views that Africans are savages because they do not value life and justice. Take for example, in Bosnia only the Serbs initially killed less than five hundred people and the Western powers rightly intervened to stop more loss of lives. In the case of South Sudan, President Kiir’s tribal militia killed over twenty thousand innocent lives (children, women, elderly, disabled and the sick in hospitals), yet IGAD as an African body which should value African lives is ignoring these mass killings in favour of reviving the monstrous SPLM.

One can not help but think that IGAD representing its member countries is more interested in short term stability of South Sudan to enable its member states to fortify their economies from the only engine that fuels growth in the region. It is not a secret that since 2005, the IGAD countries that border South Sudan have grown their economies astronomically because of South Sudan’s oil and open market. 

In South Sudan, Kenya controls the entire banking sector and also a large share of the market in essential processed commodities. Ethiopia controls the catering, hotels and hospitality industry. Uganda controls the transport industry, essential food industry including processed goods. The Sudan, the former colonial power is extorting billions of dollars as payment for transportation of the oil to Port Sudan for export. The amount of charges the Sudan levies on South Sudan is about 8 folds of the normal internationals charges per barrel. Somalis control the fuel and forex bureaux industries.   In the social field, all these countries almost equally share the sex industry which is worth millions of dollars annually.  In this massive booming trade, South Sudan gains nothing as most of the foreign companies barely pay any taxes to the authorities and yet its indigenous labour force remain unemployed with sexual transmitted diseases spreading like wild fire throughout the country. Technically, South Sudan is haemorrhaging money daily with no benefit to its people.

It is understandable that these countries would like to protect their economies and political stability but this should not be at the expense of the people of the very country that makes them prosper. South Sudan needs these countries as much as they need South Sudan. So, it does not matter who is in power in Juba. There will always be business due to interdependency in this region.

The prudent thing for IGAD to do is to work for a lasting solution so that the entire region develops and grows peacefully. For a lasting peace to happen IGAD needs to bin its current twin track plan which involves the CPA strategy and the rebuilding of the SPLM. The CPA strategy as shown above will only rejuvenate the monstrous SPLM to tighten its grip on power while painfully oppressing, pauperising and marginalising the people without ensuring a durable peace in South Sudan and the region. The second track according to H.E. Desalegn, the Ethiopian prime minister, is to resurrect the imploded SPLM. Desalgn says in Sudan Tribune of 8th April 2014, “I am convinced that once the SPLM party dispute is resolved, the national problems by and large will be resolved.” http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article50573

This is lamentable. Rebuilding the SPLM as a solution shows how the IGAD is totally out of touch and ignorant of the realities of South Sudan. The SPLM is the real cancer eating up South Sudan. Reviving it is tantamount to reconstituting the menacing machine that greatly posed danger to South Sudan and the region pre 15th December 2013. Why does anybody want to revive a tribally based organisation that has plunged South Sudan and the entire region into turmoil? Does this make sense? Has IGAD not learnt a lesson yet from the current crisis? The present mess going on in the region right now is because of an SPLM that was united. An SPLM that we warned the world about. Please see, ‘To achieve peace in South Sudan SPLM/A must be scrapped’ http://allafrica.com/stories/201312300037.html and ‘South Sudan needs intensive care.’ http://allafrica.com/stories/201311200876.html

Paradoxically though, the best thing that has happened to South Sudan is the implosion of the SPLM because it presents a unique opportunity for the political problems of South Sudan to be resolved once and for all. SPLM’s current fragmented form should be accepted and let its various factions on their own without IGAD’s tinkering find their own political niche in the country. Let those factions which can survive make it and let those which cannot survive perish. The law of nature should be allowed to take its own course on this issue of SPLM. After all it is already an organisation on the wane.

Which brings us to the question: what should the solution be? As argued elsewhere and unanimously welcomed by citizens, South Sudan needs an interim government and such a government should be realised by bringing all the stakeholders to Addis Ababa to democratically work out who should lead the country to prepare it for peaceful elections.

South Sudanese know their problems far better than those bureaucrats of IGAD and its leaders. This is an important point that IGAD must value and register. The prescription made by H.E. Desalegn to revive the SPLM as a solution to the problems of the country is not born out of sound knowledge and reality of South Sudan. It is a belief formulated out of hearsay and certainly it will not work nor bring peace as he claims. It is the worst thing any well meaning person can do and all South Sudanese know it. This would not be the first time that the SPLM would have been revived. It revived itself numerous times with support of the church during the liberation war in the Sudan and also prior to the signing of the CPA to no avail. It faltered and imploded yet again on 15th December 2013. The reason for SPLM’s constant troubles is simple. The foundation is wrong. The culture of the organisation is laced with tribalism, intolerance, violence, corruption and sexism. So, no matter how much IGAD tries to patch it with plasters, the wounds are gangrenous and will not heal. The only solution, as doctors do in such cases is to amputate. So why does IGAD want to patch a hopeless wound? 

While we say we know our problems, this does not mean we do not have blind spots for outsiders like IGAD to see and point out. Yes, we do and where our weakness is seen by others we appreciate it. The mediation by IGAD is supposed to point out our blind spots and not to prescribe previously tried ineffective approaches. With this said, we the people of South Sudan unanimously are saying again that we want an interim government and we do not want the current feuding groups because they are members of the same SPLM gangrenous organisation that brought us to where the country is now. It could not be said louder than this.

President Kiir‘s SPLM must not dictate the terms.  Its back is already broken. The reality is that if President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda did not come to his aid, his government by now would be history. Uganda now holds the balance of power in South Sudan and therefore it has the ability to decide the course of history in South Sudan. Since Uganda is a member of IGAD, the African Union and the Troika countries should pressurise it to lean on president Kiir to step down to allow an interim government to take over. If Uganda refuses then the pressure must be brought on her to withdraw her forces immediately from South Sudan to be replaced by an international impartial force and not the PDF (protection and deterrence force) recommended by IGAD for obvious reasons.   If President Kiir continues to refuse to step down from power, then the targeted sanctions issued by President Barack Obama of United States should be beefed up together with indictments of President Kiir’s entire cabinet for the crimes against humanity they are committing daily as we speak on the people of South Sudan. 

In light of the above, IGAD has a powerful bargain chip to force president Kiir’s hand to step down peacefully else he faces the wrath of the world. Given this scenario, there is no need for IGAD to pursue its twin track strategy, but rather it should concentrate on bringing all the stakeholders including the various factions of the SPLM on the table in Addis Ababa to discuss the issue of interim government in good faith. For this to be fruitful, all the stakeholders (publicly known parties and all known civil society groups) in the country and the Diaspora should be allowed to:

1) freely travel between Addis Ababa and Juba without hindrance
2)  speak freely without fear in order to contribute effectively to the process of peace making.
3) be appropriately funded and facilitated with accommodation by the IGAD

As recommended by the African Union in its latest communiqués on South Sudan, IGAD has a duty to facilitate the talks by funding the stakeholders adequately and using democratic principles to ensure the outcome is acceptable to the people of South Sudan.

To recap, the present twin track strategy of IGAD in operation is not suitable for South Sudan. That is why the talks in Addis Ababa is dragging on unnecessarily prolonging the suffering of the people of South Sudan, especially those in the United Nations protection camps internally and those in refugee camps abroad. Reviving the SPLM for business as usual is not a solution but regression. South Sudan cannot afford to be taken back to the oppressive rule of SPLM which has created the ethnic cleansing of the Nuer. Apparently, President Kiir and his SPLM have indicated their intent to target the Equatorians next starting with their leaders. This is an open secret in the country now. Therefore, reviving the SPLM is tantamount to giving it the permission to carry out this threat.   By this article I am making this point clear to the world and there should be no excuses when this does happen. What is needed now is for IGAD to ditch its preferred plan in favour of a realistic approach which is to move the talks straight to the theme of interim government. Here, it should use whatever experience it has in dealing with negotiations to facilitate the dialogue among all the South Sudanese stakeholders out of which the new leader ship shall emerge.

[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]

The author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected].

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