June 4, 2014 (SSNA) — When the IGAD took the role of mediator in the wake of the ethnic cleansing orchestrated by Ogreish President Salvatore Kiir at the beginning of the year, it came in naively not knowing exactly what to do. It counted on the media to bolster its image. It initially did everything through trial and error. For example, the embryonic plan to use the CPA model of 2005 to solve the current crisis. This is further exacerbated by the fact they tried to patch up the SPLM so that it could continue its tyrannical rule of South Sudan. Please see ‘IGAD’s inadequate strategy in South Sudan’. http://allafrica.com/stories/201404140864.html
This was a complete waste of time and an indication that IGAD did not really know what to do. It was beating around the bush hoping it’s over hyped role would miraculously yield a peace deal. Kiir’s SPLM detected the weakness and lo and behold they capitalised on it directing IGAD left and right down the alley way of failure. Even people like Luke Biong who contributed massively to the failure of the system popped up as an authority figure on the problem facing the country drumming the revival of the SPLM as a solution.
Gradually like an infant learning to walk, it stood up and fell and then stood up again and stumbled until it started to walk few steps with the aid of USA Secretary of State John Kerry. After having gotten the confidence to walk through the agreement of 9th May 2014, it is now beginning to regress. This regression is exhibited in the criteria they have applied on deciding the composition of the stakeholders and which civil society organisations are to be invited for the talks.
The consultation process to identify the stakeholders and determine the composition of the participants leaves a lot to be desired. The IGAD team tasked with this process which landed in Juba on 28th May 2014 to say the least was clumsy and shambolic. It did not show any professionalism in the consultation process. One thing is certain at this point, IGAD is committing mistakes because it appears to be in panic triggered by shortage of time which it squandered. As the talks are scheduled in the first week of June 2014, it wants to bring the stakeholders on time without having done any preparatory work of consultation right after the 9th May 2014 agreement was signed. They left it too late only to realise that the task is enormous, hence the running around and the avoidable blunders.
IGAD has committed two serious errors which are very crucial in the whole process of the talks. First, it has made decision about the size of the participating teams without any discussions with the stakeholders to take into account the needs of each group or team of stakeholders in terms of expertise and support work. Secondly, it has chosen civil society organisations without even speaking to the most active ones in the country.
From the invite letters that IGAD has sent out to some political parties, it only asked for two-person teams to come for the talks. Surely, this is a token representation when compared to Kiir’s SPLM which has a team of over 24 participants, SPLM-in-Opposition which has 11 participants and the SPLM G12 which has 12 participants. The first casualty here is the principle of equity and fairness. So IGAD falls on the first hurdle on the basics of democracy. Serious talks about the fate of South Sudan intended to lay structures of democracy to curtail tribalism, and to promote peace with healthy representation of communities in the society can not be struck with the very culprits given huge advantage over the people’s (victims) representatives in the form of opposition parties and civil societies. Moreover these talks cover a wide subject area which requires participation of experts in the various teams of the stakeholders. For instance, each team of stakeholders would need an expert in federalism, an expert in healing and reconciliation processes, an expert in international and criminal law given the crimes obtaining in the country due to tribal political decisions in the country. In addition these teams would require support workers. How then could a two-person team really be effective in the talks? Is IGAD here not undermining its own objective and chances of success by placing obstacles on the needed resources in the talks?
The SPLM of Kiir uses government resources and thus has the luxury to master the resources it needs for these talks to fight for the status quo or something similar. The other SPLM groups equally have their own backers and resources they made when they were in the government to pursue their interest. The only people who actually have lost and continue to lose out are the people of South Sudan because of the oppression they suffered from the SPLM and now being disadvantaged yet again by the mediating body which ought to understand the plight of the people. The people are now left high and dry with token representation of two-person teams. All the factions of SPLM which are responsible for the chaos in the country now yet again are being rewarded with a massive advantage in all areas of the talks by none other than IGAD’s criteria of participation. Why is IGAD biased against the stakeholders?
The most reasonable and acceptable composition of a team should consist at least of five persons to enable a positive contribution. I move on to the issue of the choice of participants.
The choice of the participants to the talks raises some serious problems. Although IGAD appears to have got it right with the choice of the political parties because this seemed to be based on those parties registered in then Sudan and they have since operated in South Sudan. Here, IGAD should be commended of its stance to inclusivity. SPLM as usual with its vulture-like behaviour tried to undermine the principle of inclusivity by attempting to present a list of its satellite parties as the only stakeholders in the country. The IGAD representatives in this encounter stood their ground. While this is a commendable job, IGAD faltered in its choice of civil society organisations. Please see, ‘IGAD’S envoy wants ‘inclusive’ civil society talks’ https://radiotamazuj.org/en/article/igad-envoy-wants-%E2%80%98inclusive%E2%80%99-civil-society-talks
The most prominent organisations operating in South Sudan like South Sudan Civil Societies Alliance and ‘South Sudanese Women for Peace’ among others have been excluded. In addition the Diaspora and the group of professionals who submitted a document to IGAD have also been omitted. This omission is likely to deprive the talks in Addis Ababa of the invaluable resource needed, namely: the intellectual, experiential and the unique perspective of the South Sudanese people.
Surely, with this huge exclusion of key stakeholders, where is the inclusivity that General Sumbeiywo defended? General Sumbeiywo in standing up to SPLM’s selectivity by invoking the principle of inclusivity affirms the importance of implementing the agreement. Why then is IGAD violating the very principle General Sumbeiywo invoked to silence the SPLM.
This error emanates from the fact that the whole process of consultation was not given a careful thought. It was rushed through due to shortage of time and poor planning. It should be noted here that because of IGAD’s laid back behaviour and lack of pro-activity they have created a situation of two competing demands which has unfortunately crippled the process. First, there is the need to achieve peace within a short period; and secondly there is the need to get the operational element of the process right. Each demand is very important for a sustainable peace in South Sudan.
Therefore, it would be prudent for IGAD to continue consulting with the stakeholders even at this late stage to address all the shortcomings raised here. This does not mean that the talks should be suspended. The consultation process can continue along side the talks with the necessary amendments injected into the talks.
The current token representation of the opposition political parties and the exclusion of some of the key players like the women, the Diaspora and the intellectuals does not bode well for the talks and the reputation of IGAD as a fair and professional organisation.
Now that the talks will resume on 5th June 2014, it should not matter. Still as argued above, IGAD can correct its mistakes by urgently:
Finally, IGAD should see this current situation as an early stage in the whole process of the talks. It is better to correct the mistakes now than to let it lead into an unfair outcome because of skewed representations which will not bring a lasting solution to the problems of South Sudan.[Truth hurts but it is also liberation]
The author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected].