IGAD Countries Imposed their hidden Interest in South Sudan Crisis

By John Chuol Kuek, PhD

October 24, 2014 (SSNA) — IGAD stands for Intergovernmental Authority on Development. This organization was founded in 1986 by the following countries: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, with a focus on development and environmental control. Its mission was revised and upgraded in 1996 to address issues of severe drought and development in the region. In addition, IGAD’s mission expanded to coordinate and balancepolicies in the areas of socio-economic, agricultural development, environmental protection, and political and humanitarian affairs. The creation of IGAD was viewed positively in the region. Eritrea became independent and joined the group in 1993 and South Sudan joined the union and became the eighth member of IGAD in 2011, after celebrating its independence. Initially, IGAD was viewed as an emerging leader by both the African Union, which represents the continent of Africa, and the United Nations.

As IGAD started to implement its programs with good will, the African Union Peace and Security Council approved an IGAD proposal to deploy a Peace Support Mission in Somalia in September of 2006. IGAD played a role of a policeman in the region, trying to keep peace and support developments in Somalia and the surrounding region. On February 21, 2007, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 1744, which authorized the deployment of a new African Union Mission to Somalia, relieving theIGAD support mission troops. Reflecting back on the role of IGAD, this coalition of countries was intended to keep peace and bring economic development to the region and not to establish dictatorial empires in the region. IGAD was supposed to assist in the peace-keeping mission by being non-partisan in their politics and not in their support of criminals to stay in power, especially those who killed their own citizens.

IGAD’s Role in South Sudan

At this time, with the current political crisis ravaging South Sudan, this writer, who is South Sudanese and a member of various past UN-sponsored groups that have attempted to bring peace to this country, an important question needs to be asked of IGAD and its member nations: What is the role of IGAD in East Africa and South Sudan at this time? Are IGAD’s intentions honest and genuine, which are to bring peace, or is it to support chaos, anarchy, and political oppression? These questions and many more need to be quickly answered as the crisis in South Sudan continues to escalate beyond a solution. Let us now look at some of the individuals who are intimately involved with IGAD in the region.  

Who is Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, to begin with? Museveni has a long and negative presence in the region. He was involved in rebellions that toppled Ugandan leaders Idi Amin (1971–79) and Milton Obote (1980–85). After the disappearance of these “icons”, the presidents of Burundi and Rwanda and Dr. John Garang of South Sudan all perished in airplane crashes, and Meles Zenawi, of Ethiopia, died of suspected poisoning, I have given Mr. Museveni a new moniker, “the cock among the hens in the region”. This man has a lot of blood in his hands. For example, he is responsible for the death of the two presidents that sparked one of the worst genocides in human race after the holocaust of 80,000 Tutsi in Rwanda. Also, Museveni was suspected in playing a key role in the first Congo war (1996-1997). He has also long been suspected of John Garang’s death, which remains an unsolved mystery today. He has been manipulating three inexperienced leaders, Paul Kagame, Uhuru Kenyatta, Hailemariam Desalegn, and are cronies as is his bodyguard, Salva Kiir.All are simply his puppets. Another example is the implementation of Ugandan troops who are to be found everywhere in the region, and which he is using in an act of demagoguery.  

Moreover, let us examine what has been going on in Somalia recently. Is the conflict in Somalia any different from what is currently taking place in South Sudan? In this conflict, like the one in South Sudan, international “actors”, must either be naïve or simply burying their heads in the sand and denying that a holocaust is taking place. Both international and regional actors have been providing interest-based support, through weaponry or money, to different warring parties in the same country, in a manner suggestive of not really caring who the winner is. In many ways, this is no different than what European empires, such as the British, did in Africa in the past. 

This has made Somalia a chaotic country with anarchy and where killing is simply the rule of the day. As a result, this damage will now take years if not decades to resolve. The international actors, such the Arab and Western states, have been drawn into Somalia’s conflict for various reasons including the prevention of terrorists from establishing foothold in the region to acquiring new battlegrounds and exploiting natural resources. This type of strategy, to conquer and divide, by IGAD members, has made it very difficult for the adoption of a common and unifying position by the Somalians. In this writer’s opinion, there is no doubt that IGAD is in cahoots with a new generation of dictators whose sole purpose in East Africa is to exploit their respective countries. As a result, neighboring countries who falsely label themselves as stable and democraticcountries are benefiting financially from this chaos.   

In the South Sudanese conflict, which really prompts this commentary, Museveni, along with his cronies and the rest of the IGAD leaders came out with a bold statement condemning Dr. Riek Machar, who is considered a legitimate leader amongst many of the populace in South Sudan, and blamed him as the instigator of the Juba Nuer massacre. Museveni swore to capture Machar within in a few days if he refused to give up fighting. Their statement is a clue to their hidden interest in South Sudan. Museveni is the primary driving force behind the conflict in South Sudan. The country at the same time continues to be blind to the fact that Museveni does not like or respect Salva Kiir as the current leader in South Sudan. He portrayed Kiir as a fool. Why has Museveni despised Machar? He views Machar as an emerging leader in the region with a strong and genuine approach toward the governance of South Sudan and similar to Garang. Moreover, Machar has the same type of charisma as Garang did and with the ultimate goal of one day uniting the entire continent of Africa and includingeastern Africa.

Museveni is a confused and unwise leader. He prefers to manipulate and control others for his own self-interests. Given his underlying motives, Museveni now has two missions in the South Sudanese war- to get rid of Machar by any means possible and as well as Salva, and thus opening the door to force his own agenda. A good example is a new military cooperation pact recently signed between Uganda and South Sudan, which paves the way for the South Sudanese government to smuggle guns and ammunitions despite an embargo. This military cooperation is an unnecessary evil at this crucial time of peace negotiations for the people of South Sudan. One of the main reasons that the peace talks became stalled in Addis Ababa is because of the undesired presence of the Ugandan military in South Sudan. The contradiction spelled out by this action is that international parties and IGAD have not opposed such a foreign presence, suggesting that in fact they support this political and military move. This author poses this question: Why should any efforts be made to have a peace agreement in South Sudan when in fact these political bodies have not recognized the blatant violations by Uganda. Has Kiir simply fooled himself into thinking that by agreeing to have the Ugandan military present in South Sudan that Museveni will support him in the end?

Also, why IGAD not serious about this peace process? Here another reason. The peace process in Addis Ababa has been deliberately slowed down due to numerous regional and international interests. Though IGAD is the designated broker of this peace, the international players, including Museveni, hold the key whole process. Troika members also include United States, but unfortunately, seems to be ambivalent or give mixed messages in its relationship to IGAD. The lack of assertiveness on the part of the United States only helps Museveni solidify his position and grip on the political future of South Sudan.  In addition, the organization lacks leaders whose true interests are righteous, genuine, and humane, and who are really motivated to bring true peace and stability in the region. Of the IGAD countries, one must admire and acknowledge Ethiopia for maintaining neutrality in peace process for South Sudan. Unfortunately, this country lacks the financial clout to broker a workable peace initiative.

The Contradictions of IGAD

While IGAD seems to be corrupted by Museveni and others in relation to South Sudan, it has been quite helpful in bringing peace and tranquility to other countries including Somalia. This contradiction is very troubling in light of the human rights struggles that are of parallel concern in both South Sudan and Ethiopia. Are there underlying and hidden payoffs and agendas for IGAD nations in not supporting the peace process in South Sudan?

Within the mission statement of IGAD, great emphasis was placed on this organization serving as the conduit of peaceful resolutions among countries that disagreed on a variety of sociopolitical issues, which in turn would help boost the sustainable development of all member countries in the region. IGAD member states agreed to invest time and money to take effective collective measures to eliminate threats to regional cooperation, to establish effective mechanisms of consultation and cooperation for the peaceful settlement of differences and disputes, and to agree to offer all levels of technical and diplomatic assistance in the resolution of disputes between member states before being referred to other regional or international bodies including the United Nations (IGAD 1996). Within this purpose, three key areas were identified: a.) conflict prevention, management and humanitarian affairs; b.) infrastructure development and food security; and c.) environmental safety control. A good example of where IGAD triumphed was in the peace process that was garnered between Sudan and the new country of South Sudan, which was facilitated by the United States under President George W. Bush.

Thus, IGAD had earned an outstanding grade on that particular mission, and truly holds the position of being a neutral organization whose primary should simply be to help countries resolve both internal and external problems, with no other motives in mind. In the cases of both Somalia and Sudan, IGAD displayed no sense of being corrupted and in fact was extremely fair and equitable in all aspects of the peace processes in both countries. To keep the region safe, IGAD members agreed to not support any party that would attempt to bring down a democratically defined country, and instead would do everything possible to safeguard stability and freedom. This initiative was hijacked by Museveni and Kiir to commence the current conflict on December 15, 2014 and to assassinate to kill Machar and his political colleagues.  Perhaps in the end, only God knew of Museveni and Salva’s plans to harm the nation. At the same time, thank God that Riek and all the political detainees survived. Now that Riek and his political allies survived and spoken the truth, IGAD leaders have no legitimate reason to gang up against the SPLM/A in Opposition. In detailing the truth about IGAD’s interest, I am afraid that some prominent member states will withdraw their membership in recognizing that IGAD has not been fair, but instead partial to certain personalities.

The Ending of IGAD Legitimacy in the Region

South Sudan has been strained recently as other countries in the region have also experienced instability. This could probably be the worst turning point in the region if IGAD member states do not pay attention to the damage they have created and are also supporting. The region needs to look back to what had happened to both Ethiopia and Somalia during the Cold War which led to the end of dictatorial regimes in Ethiopia and Somalia. The newly “emerging leaders” in the post-Cold War era wanted to promote policies of peaceful relations and a new era of cooperation and co-existence. This was one of the ways to unite the East African countries, such as the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region as a one giant continental business hub for entire Africa.

This promise is now slipping away as the member states started pursuing their individual and perhaps even selfish-interests. Instead of uniting the region, and handling issues with care and dignity, Museveni, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame have appeared to expand their territories and operate in a trilateral “coalition” in a rather zealous manner with Tanzania and Burundi.

Tanzania has warned that any efforts to sideline it while fast-tracking the East African Federation could cause failure for the whole regional integration project. Dr. Ladislaus Komba, Tanzania’s High Commissioner to Uganda, predicted “doom” for the East Africa Community if alienation between the countries continued. How about between Uganda and Sudan, LRA, and the SPLM/A North? South Sudan invited the SPLM/A North and Darfur groups into the war, fighting alongside the government. The Ugandan military has armed these rebels, hoping they get rid of Machar’s forces and continue through Sudanese territory to help change the regime in Khartoum.  The two countries will start fighting a proxy war, which could lead to a serious confrontation between the two countries. When this happens, what will other IGAD countries like Ethiopia and Kenya do? Will they remain neutral or pick sides? How about other interests around the world, such as the Islamic fundamentalists in West and North Africa? I am going to leave it to those regional analysts to ponder.

Pitfalls on the Current Peace Proposal

Upon studying the IGAD’s current peace proposal for South Sudan, the plan has not really deviated from the idea of having lasting peace in South Sudan.   However, this IGAD proposal fell short of addressing what brought this “senseless war” to this young country in the first place. This proposal infers that IGAD’s plan is not to eliminate the conflict, but rather to help manage it in a productive way. Though IGAD countries have been tirelessly working on emerging regional wars, there have been three major competing interests that have hindered the peace process and which remain unaddressed. These are interests that are based on power, rights, and interests. The three key players in this peace process, IGAD, the government of South Sudan and the SPLM/A in Opposition, have attempted to line up behind these three issues. IGAD should have been the one to identify these issues, but instead has lagged behind suggesting little motivation to resolve problems in the region. 

Power is often expressed through the use of authority, oppression, and the forced separation of people and groups. IGAD member countries have one thing in common which is to remain in power as long as possible, and at any cost. Any resolutions proposed toward the removal of a president in power are viewed by this organization as going against the interests of, or contrary to, IGAD and not in aiding the situation in South Sudan. IGAD member countries were originally expected to use their formal and informal authority to broker a resolution to this country’s problems, but it is heartbreaking to see that they have neglected this fundamental premise stipulated in their guidelines.

In the case of the Juba Nuer massacre, which occurred in December 2013 in South Sudan, the SPLM/A in opposition did not need to conduct any form of research to convene a meeting with IGAD members to prove to them that indeed the massacre took place. This massacre has been documented by various humanitarian groups and the United Nation that it is clearly considered an obvious form of genocide. Why did IGAD mediators not act based on the facts? Now, IGAD is rewarding the very government that just committed this despicable crime with more power to kill more innocent people again and again. The rights-based approach is the card played by the SPLM/A in Opposition to tell the world that the president lost his legitimate position on December 15, and therefore, he could no longer serve as the president. The key players or brokers in this process did not want to hear this fact because they knew that it is real.   

A real and genuine interests-based approach is oriented toward problem-solving based on the needs of those involved, and not based on subjective feelings and politics. The party at fault and even the perpetrator often tries to move forward with the explicit goal of forgetting what happened and move on to a new chapter. The South Sudanese government is playing this card, saying a legitimate government cannot be asked to step aside before its term ends. The IGAD member countries seem to be favoring this claim rather than addressing the root causes of the conflict. That is, they are siding with the current government. This begs a crucial question: Why have the IGAD countries not moved in the direction of pushing for the current leadership to abandon South Sudan since the hallmark of the current government is pure corruption, hatred, and totalitarianism? The answer to this question is rather simple, the IGAD mediators are equally part of the corruption and have no interest in seeing to it that South Sudan become a peaceful and democratic country. In Kenya’s conflict between the Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga tribes, Uganda created this very system IGAD is now attempting to impose on the South Sudanese rebels.

Can all three approaches be combined for the benefits of solving this very conflict? The answer of course is YES. All these methods-authority-based, right-based, and interest-based- can be useful and are deemed necessary in this current political situation. As a mediator, you have to acknowledge that such a thing had occurred, but you have to take a tough stand to resolve it. Meeting with warring parties, other parties and civil society to discuss the needs of everyone involved also can be instrumental in moving toward an interest-based solution, which the SPLM/A in Opposition longs for. The IGAD mediators can assist the warring parties to move from their complaints to understanding their own interests. Their complaints are often based on their position or perceived unfairness. They are often all-or-nothing statements and in the end only one person’s solution to the problem. Interests, on the other hand, are the motivations that are often unspoken and based on personal values and experiences. They are the reasons behind the complaint that IGAD favored one side or the other.

The IGAD proposal to ending the war in South Sudan notes 28 items to be implemented by the warring parties and other stakeholders. Below are the five items which I consider to be the most problematic in the peace process.   First, there shall be no third vice president in this federal transitional government if this is what IGAD want to introduce to the South Sudanese people. Second, like Rwanda and Ethiopia in the region, the prime minister in South Sudan should be the one entrusted to implement national policies and leading the government to negotiate what is best for the country as defined by the stakeholders, the citizens of the country. The prime minister shall also be entrusted with the function of formulating the government programs of action in consultation with council of ministers. Third, the prime minister of the TGONU shall be eligible to stand for any public office in the national elections at the end of the transitional period. What in the world the IGAD is doing, proposing a useless prime minister position for the Opposition? I am wondering if this makes sense to IGAD members themselves. This document is an invitation of more conflicts, nothing less. Anybody would disown this cheap and shallow proposal to end this intensive war. It does not address a solution to this war in any way.

Fourth, it would make sense if the IGAD proposes that the executive of the transitional government shall comprise the president, the prime minister and council of ministers. I am not in favor of this model at all any way. Why not using the same system that is already in use? We need a president and a vice president system. Regardless of any of these methods, now, the debate would lie in WHO is going to lead this transitional government of national unity and complete all the steps discussed and approved in the peace talk? Will Salva lead this transitional government until election and be able to follow all the steps to ensure war does not happen again? If this is what IGAD believes and wants, it is not going to solve the problem. It’s indeed better to keep searching for a better scenario until a solution is sorted than reaching a cheap deal now only to return to war in a few months after. Salva would not want to change the status quo at all in South Sudan. He has forgotten the very reason he fought the Khartoum government for and the people who fought with him that he fought to change the status quo. He gestures this already in his circumstantial speeches that he does not want federal system and no Machar again in his government.

Finally, I agree to the fact that a permanent constitution be reconstructed and used by the transitional government, and shall be based on federalism, being mindful of diversity with more power to states. This process will only be achieved under a different leader than Kiir. Once this proposed structure is put in place and lead by a true nationalist, whose interest is to promote peaceful co-existent of all different ethnicities and believes, the country will be peaceful forever.

In closing this author believes that to bring a lasting peace to South Sudan this peace process needs to be forward to the African Union as the second step. IGAD leaders have been playing around with it and got stuck already. They are dancing between the truth and favoritism to their colleague more than solving the war. The South Sudanese people worldwide want to see this war comes to an end soon. They also need to have a model in place that will guarantee their co-existing forever. Salva Kiir made Nuer and Dinka believe that they are enemies to each other’s. This is not true. It was not an intention of the Dinka of South Sudan to kill the Nuer. It was Salva Kiir who wants to remain in power, and was intimidated by the present of Nuer figures who could claim the same right as anybody in South Sudan to run for the president, should an opportunity presents itself.

The author holds a PhD in psychology. He is a South Sudanese living in the United States. He can be reached at [email protected]

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