IGAD is unfit to mediate in the South Sudan’s conflict

By Elhag Paul

September 12, 2014 (SSNA) — Since the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) assembly of heads of states and governments held in Nairobi on 27th December 2013 arrogated to itself the mediation role in the conflict in South Sudan it was clear that it would be difficult for it to perform this self ascribed role with impartially. Collins English Dictionary defines the word impartial as “not favouring one or the other”. In other words it means being neutral; that is not taking sides with any of those in dispute. The literature on the concept of mediation places impartiality at its heart and makes it abundantly clear that mediators must be impartial if any success is to be achieved.

The glaring and overwhelming reasons for disqualifying IGAD’s mediation were surprisingly overlooked by Mr Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nation who lent his support to IGAD as suitable body for the task. This was then followed by the Troika and others.  

Contradictingly, the Troika has a firm policy not to deal with indictees of the International Criminal Court (ICC) like President Omer Bashir of the Sudan. With this policy the Troika should have known that they would indirectly be endorsing President Bashir, contrary to their policy, in his role as an IGAD head of state through their support of the regional body. They seem to have forgotten about this policy by lending open support to IGAD as a mediator where President Bashir plays an influential role.

With the blessing of the international community IGAD was set to fail in its task and thus the people of South Sudan. Had the international community paused to scrutinize IGAD’S self appointment to the mediation role, they might have realised that due to several conflicts of interest IGAD would not be fit for the job and hence a different option might have been sought out.

However, at the time the international community appeared anxious and wanted a quick fix or an immediate solution. This oversight was likely due to the international community’s lack of in-depth knowledge about IGAD itself.

A number of reasons disqualify IGAD from the role of mediation it arrogated to itself as a regional body. The first is the history of IGAD’s involvement as a mediator in the Sudan conflict which erupted in 1983 and ended in 2005 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). For over a decade and half IGAD was completely ineffective in coming forward with a solution. The talks drifted from one year to the other endlessly until President George W.  Bush of the United Stated intervened in 2002, when the CPA was brokered. So it was clear that IGAD’s record of mediation and peace making is decimally poor. 

Secondly, when IGAD arrogated to itself the right to mediate in the conflict in South Sudan, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda already had intervened in the conflict in support of President Salva Kiir‘s genocidal operations against the Nuer people. Ugandan forces at the time were already heavily involved in military operations in Jonglei state with President Museveni threatening Dr Riek Machar with defeat within 4 days. President Museveni had declared during his visit to Juba that all of them (IGAD member states) would go after Dr Machar and his group: http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article49385 

This was unfortunate because President Museveni made this statement out of ignorance of South Sudanese culture. He should have known that South Sudanese do not take kindly to threats. The Khartoum establishment tried it and backed it up with violence ceaselessly in vain during their occupation of South Sudan from 1955 to 2005. Threatening South Sudanese is an invitation for trouble. 

Uganda’s involvement was deep. Not only did it provide political and moral support, but it rained banned cluster bombs on South Sudanese civilians as well as the resistance fighters. With such a level of intervention, Uganda had already ruled itself out as a neutral country to qualify as a mediator for the conflict.

Thirdly, there was the issue of the relationship between the member states of IGAD. The Sudan and Uganda are not in good terms. Sudan is alleged to support Lord Resistance Army (LRA) while Uganda similarly is alleged to support some of the Darfuri liberation movements. The intervention of Uganda in support of President Kiir was thus seen suspiciously by some of the IGAD member states raising alarms. This opened up the ugly possibility of South Sudan being turned into a battle field. This may already be happening subtly if one thinks about the regional dynamics and the poor relationships among the member states of IGAD. For example, Ethiopia and Eritrea do not see eye to eye, Uganda and Sudan do not see eye to eye, and Eritrea and Sudan are allies and so on. The poor ties between the member’s states of IGAD thus show IGAD is unsuitable for the task of mediation in South Sudan.

Fourthly, there was the issue of interest of the individual members of IGAD in South Sudan. Please see, ‘IGAD’s inadequate strategy in South Sudan’. http://allafrica.com/stories/201404140864.html

Fifthly, the role of President Salva Kiir himself creates a serious conflict of interest. Kiir wears three hats at the same time:

1) By virtue of being President of South Sudan and South Sudan being a member of IGAD, he automatically sits with the Heads of States (of IGAD). Therefore, as a result this puts Dr Machar and other stakeholders at a huge disadvantage because President Kiir would have already formed favourable relationships with many of IGAD’s heads of state; 

2) By President Kiir’s ongoing position, by default he automatically wears a hat of a mediator invisibly. This accords him huge advantage to influence things in his favour against his adversary/rival and; 

3) Abominably President Kiir wears the hat of the accused head of state who has taken genocidal actions which triggered the crisis. He is a major party to the conflict.

Sixthly and finally, there was the problem of varied political cultures in the region. Uganda, Eritrea, South Sudan and the Sudan are dictatorships with Ethiopia and Kenya to a certain extent being subtly repressive. Some leaders of the IGAD countries have open cases where they are accused of grave crimes against humanity at the ICC which they are vigorously attempting to dismiss by all sorts of obstructions and intrigues.

These vital factors should have raised alarm bells sufficiently enough at the beginning to rule out IGAD’S self appointment as a mediator. After all, the business of mediation is a voluntary one where the warring or disputing parties agree to be helped in reaching a settlement. SPLM-IO should have been the party to distance itself from the IGAD sham because it is the aggrieved party. How did it sleep walk into this morass is anybody’s guess. Its lapse in foresight and thinking has now allowed it to be portrayed wrongly and unfairly as an intransigent party. But for anybody who knows the lacklustre style of Dr Machar’s leadership this is not a surprise. It is expected since he is not known as a man of diligence and a thorough thinker. His performance on the crucial case of Abyei and Panthou in yesteryears at The Hague speaks for itself. Nevertheless, this still can be corrected if only they can take the right decision now with full explanation to the people of South Sudan.

IGAD’S role as a mediator can not stand and it will not resolve the conflict in South Sudan due to its overt prejudice emanating from the factors mentioned above. If IGAD were truly neutral and an impartial body then it would have been able to facilitate the resolution of the conflict satisfactorily. The proof that IGAD is totally unsuitable can be seen from its latest protocol which has correctly been described as “biased” by Dr Machar with the SPLM-G10 calling it “unfair, biased, and unjust”. Please see, ‘Rebels accuse IGAD mediators of bias as talks adjourned.’ http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article52263 and ‘Former South Sudan detainees say IGAD proposal “unjust”.’ http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article52263

The rules of mediation make it abundantly clear that a mediator must be neutral and their language too must be neutral, both spoken and written. Mediators as neutral can not impose their decision on the parties. The decisions must flow from the positions and wishes of the disputing or warring parties. This makes the recently signed protocol by the heads of states of governments of IGAD a total nonsense (Protocol on Agreed Principles on Transitional Arrangement Towards Resolution of the Crisis in South Sudan 25th August 2014. file:///C:/Users/Rosemary/Downloads/Protocol_signed_25_Aug.pdf). 

IGAD in this protocol is not helpful at all. It does not work to bring peace. It prescribes and imposes President Kiir (an ethnic cleanser) to continue as the president of the interim period. In a nut shell IGAD is trying to impose more of the same: Dinkocracy, promotion of corruption, ethnic cleansing, and lawlessness. No wonder the editor of African Arguments has been scathing in his commentary about the IGAD mediated peace talks: http://www.gurtong.net/ECM/Editorial/tabid/124/ID/15613/Default.aspx

Because IGAD is not neutral it ignores all the rules of mediation. It does not listen to the people of South Sudan; it does not use material agreed in the course of mediation; it does not play an impartial role; it does not use neutral language; it threatens; dictates and imposes its will contrary to its role. This should not astonish because essentially IGAD is a club of dictators and what dictators know best is to threaten, bully and impose their will regardless of the views of the aggrieved or rather the warring parties. 

In other words, the sham mediation now indirectly exposes the corrupt and oppressive nature of IGAD itself and the type of leaders it has rather than truly solving the problem of South Sudan. The real problem in South Sudan is SPLM’s dysfunction and the genocidal actions of President Kiir that fades away in the mediation process of IGAD.  With the seriousness of South Sudan’s situation being reduced to a quarrel over positions in government.   How can the killing of over twenty thousand people in Juba alone in December 2013, the imprisonment of over a hundred and fifty thousand people in the UN Protection camps, and the displacement of over one million seven hundred thousand people internally within South Sudan, and externally to the neighbouring countries be down played is beyond any reasonable person’s understanding.   Where is the justice for those criminally killed en masse in Juba? Even the controversial governor of Lakes state General Matur Chut Dhoul acknowledged President Kiir’s crimes. Please see, ‘Lakes governor hits back at over no confidence vote.’ https://radiotamazuj.org/en/article/politics-lakes-governor-hits-back-parliament-over-no-confidence-vote

What gives the SPLM factions the right to cause such an upheaval and yet IGAD sees patching them up and handing them power on a golden platter as a solution for the country. Let us not forget that this has since the beginning of the mediation been the plan of IGAD. Please see, ‘IGAD’s inadequate strategy in South Sudan’. The link to this piece is already provided above. If the international community truly are desirous of peace in South Sudan then IGAD must throw away their hopeless objectives and plans, better still if the mediation is transferred to one or more of the eminent persons like Archbishop Desmond Tutu. SPLM is the problem in South Sudan and it needs to be confronted on the table and held to account.

The Netherlands has taken the right step to distance itself from associating with human rights abusers. Ms Lillianne Plouman, the Dutch minister for foreign trade and development announced on 4th September 2014 in Juba, “We have decided to stop cooperation with the government (SPLM) at this point.” “One of the reasons that (we) have been very worried about is about what happened on December and after that. For example in Malakal in April has to do with violation of human rights. There is no reason at all why innocent women who were in a hospital had to suffer the way that the(y) suffered.” This is an honourable and ethical stance that must be praised and commended. It is hoped that many other countries especially the Troika will follow suit. Please see, ‘Netherland cuts aid to South Sudan.’ http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article52282

IGAD has whole heartedly bought President Salva Kiir’s nonsense of “democratically elected president” “elected institutions” capped with “red line(s)” as credible. These are shouts of shameless liars. President Kiir and the SPLM usurped power from the people on the eve of independence. Their election in April 2010 lost validity on 9th July 2011 with the break of South Sudan away from the Sudan. But even if President Kiir and the SPLM were elected by the people in the right way, he and they have forfeited their right to rule by committing grave crimes against the very people who allegedly voted him and the SPLM into power. This serious crime overrides their empty songs of “democratically elected”. South Sudan can not afford to have a person who conclusively is a danger to himself, the people of South Sudan and the region to continue as the interim president.

The club of dictators is trying to save one of their own through their dirty protocol at the expense of the people of South Sudan. Neither President Kiir, nor Dr Machar, nor any of the infamous SPLM-G10 should be president of the interim period. They have disqualified themselves by the sordid criminal behaviours of the last 9 years. Therefore given the above, IGAD’s partiality and its biased strategies should spur the Secretary General of the UN and the United Nations Security Council to transfer the peace talks to one or some of the eminent persons. IGAD has on its own discredited itself. After all it’s self-appointment was to protect one of its own, whose hands are dripping with the blood of innocent South Sudanese

[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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