July 8, 2014 (SSNA) — From the very outset, I want to lay a renunciation that the above title shouldn’t be construed to mean I am against the international community or the IGAD mediators in particular. As we recite along, you would realize that, my objective is to address the loopholes and incongruities that both the IGAD and the international community have committed since the crisis in south Sudan began.
IGAD and TRIOKA Countries (i.e. Norway, United Kingdom and the United States of America) are some of the important and long-time allies that have been with South Sudan since the years of freedom struggle and their pivotal role in the CPA was outstanding and that is why, up until today, south Sudanese appreciates them for the incredible contribution towards freedom and eventual independence that they have helped them gained. It is also on this basis that many south Sudanese sees the two organizations as their alternative avenues for resolving any socio-economic and political challenges that befallen their nascent state.
This is why, soon after the crisis broke out in south Sudan, subsequent attempts to arrest the situation and return the country to normalcy were suggested by the IGAD Head of states supported by the international community and especially the TRIOKA countries. The warring parties were too enthusiastic about the determination of these parties to bring an end to the crisis although there were reservations from SPLM/A in Opposition over the participation of Uganda in the mediations as the latter was being accused of supporting the government and therefore impartial.
Soon after the endorsement that the peace process is imminent, it was resolved that the regional body-IGAD would now lead the process with donor support from the international community and TRIOKA countries. It was almost unanimous that IGAD would do it best to bring peace and stability to south Sudan in the spirit of “African problems need African solutions”. Museveni factor was still contentious but at least, IGAD managed to persuade the parties to sign the cessation of hostilities agreement and allow humanitarian access to the affected areas. This was a positive phase although it was characterized by accusation of violations by both belligerents. In fact there wasn’t any implementation of the agreement as the incident of Bentiu and other occurrences across greater Upper Nile would confirm.
A month later, Kiir and Machar met in Addis and as they claim signed “under duress” another cessation of hostilities agreement but this time reiterating the need to absolutely cease hostilities, allow humanitarian access and most importantly signed a roadmap and framework for the next round of talks which would discuss among other reforms agenda, formation of transitional government of national unity. It is also here that the involvement of other stakeholders and across- section of the south Sudanese society would be required and the two leaders appended their signatures to it.
Whereas the government had continued to oppose any involvement of other stakeholders including the group of the SPLM former detainees. The opposition was of the contrary view and this fact persuaded the IGAD to convince the government to allow for the involvement of the stakeholders on consultative basis. The altercation that follows the nomination of delegates among the stakeholders apart from the group of the SPLM former detainees became too chaotic but I felt it is insignificant to discuss it in details here.
Despite the battle over the selection of the stakeholders from political parties to faith based groups, academia to civil society organizations, youth to women representatives, disables and other interested groups, a symposium that was scheduled to take place three days prior to the next round of talks failed for two days because of failure by the main warring factions to attend over one reason or another. The symposium eventually kicked-off and another arrangement was made by selecting representatives from these groups to participate in the negotiation. This procedure despite the hitches was a step towards peace. However, as the main discussions on the substantive aspects of the peace were expected to resume, the real troubles began and here comes the mistake and this gaffe is what I blame the IGAD and of course the international community of.
First, during the initial stages of the crisis, the government was at loggerhead with the UNMISS, an international body that is known for its impartiality with regard to the internal affairs of any country that it’s operates at. The grievances presented by the government were that the UNMISS is pro-rebels and their evidences ranges from the arguments with government minister in Bor to the pounding of arms caches in Lakes state. The explanation given by the UNMISS officials didn’t help the situation and this consequently resulted in the country-wide demonstrations undertaken by the pro-government supporters against Hilde F. Johnson, the head of UNMISS in South Sudan. The fact that Hilde is a citizen of Norway, one of the TRIOKA member states was also inseparable from her position and so was the locus of the international community.
Apart from UNMISS misgivings, the United States, United Kingdom, China have not said much to pressure the parties to reach at the convenient time, a solution to return peace to south Sudan. The best these countries did was advocated for the release of arrested politicians and call for speedy formation of transitional government of national unity. The circadian sufferings that the people of south Sudan goes through is not a priority for them talking about it being another thing perhaps because they have not been to the grassroots and experience the plight of the helpless women and children in the camps. This is not to say that international community has not done it best in supporting peace but there is still impartiality question that hangs in the balance about America in particular and its opinion with regard to the conflict as its and most of her allies cogitates that, the conflict in south Sudan is more about political reforms and democracy but less of any other issues.
Secondly, IGAD as a regional body that has positioned itself in epicenter of the problem with the intention of resolving the conflict is now getting confused with the many advisers that are behind the scene trying to advance private interests through it mediation position. These interest groups have instilled doubts and challenged the neutrality of IGAD and as such, the parties to the negotiation are gradually withdrawing their confidence over this body. A scenario that is not good for the ordinary citizens of south Sudan who are eagerly waiting for peace. The reasons behind this mistrust are, one, on the government side, the IGAD Executive Secretary called their President “STUPID” while to the rebels, the question of stupidity is taken lightly but complains about the selection of stakeholders become their priority. So, looking at these two sides of the same coin, it is apparent that, the credibility of the mediator (IGAD) is already in question and the parties’ maybe reluctance to listen to its proclaimed neutrality. The rebels leadership has already complained about IGAD trying to impose on the parties and trying to take decisions on their behalf which in other words, means, IGAD seemed to have the outcome of the problem that is going on in south Sudan but only disguised to negotiate in an attempt to portrays to the south Sudanese and the parties that, it has indeed done something. This preferred outcome is most likely suspected to have been cooked by the western or for that matter, TRIOKA countries. It also means that, IGAD has just been informed of the ingredients of the food that the TRIOKA has already cooked perhaps to help the former knows how to prepare it meal next time there is similar crisis in the Dark Continent, Africa.
I wouldn’t want to captivate so much into that imagination but look at it critically, the basic techniques of mediation as one of the main types of disputes resolution mechanisms that I was taught in school are that, the mediator should be a facilitator, a moderator, a peace-maker, a tempers calmer, a neutral person and all that translates to impartiality and honesty. IGAD as the parties tells us does not fit these features and therefore, its ability to bring peace to south Sudan is now showing signs of shrinking as recently observed when its indefinitely adjourned the talks without consulting the concerned parties. It has also emerged, through the reaction of the warring factions after the adjournment of talks that, the question of stakeholders inclusion was not a fundamental wish of the parties but a project that IGAD had conscripted to widen its activities in as far as the south Sudan conflict offered that opportunity.
Why do I certify these verdicts, simple, at the beginning of the negotiations, the government had made it abundantly clear that, there shall be a national dialogue conference that would bring on board all the stakeholders and here, the issues on state cum nation-building would be exhaustively discussed. This I hope was made on the vantage point that, the negotiations in Addis were to be restricted to the warring parties with specific issues to be discussed after which a roadmap would be put in place for the national dialogue which could be hold in the country. This was a great idea that the government failed to defend but it was worth fighting for.
Furthermore, the SPLM/A in Opposition that advocated for the inclusion of civil society now turned around and says that all the selection was one –sided and therefore wanted the civil society from outside to be involved in the talks thus complicating the resumption of the next round of talks and eventually led to the boycott and ultimate adjournment of the talks. This scenario shows too the nature of our civil society and other stakeholders. The concerns raised by the opposition tells us that, the civil society that we have in south Sudan together with their political parties colleagues are either pro-governments or pro-opposition leaving the page for neutrality completely blank. This means and as most citizens believes that these so-called civil society organizations and political parties are a group of self-proclaimed network of individuals who seek self-fulfillment instead of advocating for the general rights of the voiceless public and act as an oversight to both the government and the opposition. It is known that, some of the stakeholders that went to Addis had one or another MOU with either the government or the opposition for rewards with positions in the upcoming transitional government of National Unity. This guess is too fascinating to be rubbish aside as history has shown that those who disguised as civil society activists shut up as soon as they are appointed to either side of the divide.
It is because of this peculiarity of having your own political parties and civil society organizations to support your stand in the issues being discussed that has subjugated the oppositions as they thought the government has pocketed the support of the political parties and civil society that it had left in juba and therefore, it felt that, it would only rely on the civil society organizations and political parties that it has planted in the diaspora. Quite unfortunate endeavor to ponder about but my analysis of the war over the selection of stakeholders to join the peace talks in Addis begins and ends at this point but it’s still all goes down to IGAD idea of supporting the impression of including the stakeholders in the negotiation as some of these stakeholders were just fighting over nominations because one want to fly and see Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, allies itself to either party and at the end of the day, derives political benefits through appointments into political positions or other accommodative opportunities.
After it has been proven that, the whole idea of involving stakeholders was an exercise in futility; I now advise IGAD to:
1. Confine the talks to the conflicting parties i.e. the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and SPLM/A in Opposition.
2. Sticks to its 60 days ultimatum, recent adjournment notwithstanding.
3. Reclaim and reaffirm its neutrality and allows the parties to take charge of the negotiations while its role should be to act as a moderator/facilitator until the much needed peace is achieved in south Sudan.
4. Stop wasting time in the procedural aspects of the negotiations but should instead, go straight to the substantive aspects to bring peace to the people of south Sudan because more delays means more suffering for the citizens of south Sudan.
5. Make it clear that the involvement of stakeholders would be needed at the national dialogue conference and this should take place in Juba, South Sudan after the peace is signed. It should be one of the term of references for the transitional government of national unity and this is where a wide range of issues can be discussed.
6. Advice the opposition to drop their demands for the inclusion of stakeholders because as the experiences in the symposium have shown, these stakeholders are more confusion than being part of the solution.
7. Advice it officials particularly the Executive Secretary to mind their language and at least research on diplomatic issues before they release any words that would chase these parties away from the negotiations. As a mediator, you must know how to handle the parties because controlling the warring parties is as fragile as carrying an egg.
As I had earlier mentioned in my opening remarks, I am neither against IGAD nor the International community but I just felt that, it would be helpful to fix the gaps that the mediators might have knowingly or otherwise missed to incorporate in their pursuit to bring peace to the people of south Sudan. It is equally crucial for our leaders from both sides of the divide to let go of their pride and reach a compromise by owning the peace process and heed to the calls of bringing back peace to their country and their people. IGAD and TRIOKA cannot and shall never bring us peace if our leaders are unwilling to bring it themselves.
With this, allow me to say, do all have a happy 3rd independence anniversary by embracing the Theme: South Sudan, One Nation, One People!
Juma Mabor Marial is a Trainee Advocate based in Juba, South Sudan.