IGAD Complicity Towards South Sudan Peace Negotiations in Addis Ababa-Ethiopia

By: Chuol R. Kompuok, PhD

November 13, 2014 (SSNA) — The South Sudan’s 11—month old conflict pitting the Nuer dominated opposition forces aligned with Dr. Riek Machar, the former vice president, against the Dinka dominated forces under Salva Kiir Mayardit, the president of South Sudan, has its historical roots dating back to May 2008, especially when the South Sudan was at the brink of war during the 2nd SPLM National Liberation Convention held in Juba.  The National Liberation Council members, including delegates from the ten states, were bribed to the teeth by the president and his cronies, inter alia, the late Dr. Justin Yac Arop and Lt. Gen. Dominic Dim Deng, to oust Dr. Riek Machar. As a matter of fact there was no single stone left unturned to ensure meticulous elimination of Dr. Riek Machar. Pagan Amum, the then Secretary General of the SPLM was brain washed to the core, admitting to oust his comrade Machar without knowing he was also part of the plan to be exited out, together with Dr. Riek Machar. Pagan uncovered the plan at the last minute when people were in the middle of the convention and became so mad at his principal, Salva Kiir. Miraculously without human interference God worked in opposite direction. The two architects boarded the same plane to Warrap, in order to mobilize the National Liberation Council members from the Region, against Dr. Riek Machar but technically, the architects perished on May 3, 2008 on their way back to Juba before the National Convention kicked off.

Given all the odds surrounding the plane crash the rhetoric of the long-term plan of elbowing out the former vice chairman of the SPLM in the National Liberation Convention never changed course. The president of the South Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit, has always been relentlessly busy digging grave to burry alive his vice chairman, Dr. Riek Machar, who was by then busy negotiating CPA outstanding issues, between Khartoum and Juba. Although the plans to oust Dr. Riek Machar were dormant for a while, Kiir’s group never abandoned it all together but was picked up by those of Paul Malong Awan. This is how the mobilization began in the two states (Aweil and Warrap) by none other than Paul Malong. However, Kiir’s plans never come to realization until December 15, 2013 dubbed as the Nuer Massacre in Juba. The intention was to accomplish the failed project of Dr. Justin Yac, the main architect, who at one point in time said before his demise “the prophetic Ngundeng Thak made of clay, we the Dinka shall stumble on crashing it to the ashes if the Nuer tended to believe what the prophet Ngundeng said long time ago to get the leftover from Ngundeng Thak”. According to the notorious Dr. Justin Yac all of us shall benefit nothing out of it, leading to the so-called zero sum game.

Now that the war long planned to wipe out the Nuer, who are supporters of Dr. Riek changed its ugly face, and is currently consuming the whole nation of South Sudan—a circumstance that was not foreseen by the architects of Juba Massacre. It seems that Kiir’s group is surprising about the dimension the war has taken as it has taken an unprecedented turn. Since the project seems to be long overdue, the mobilization of resources and manpower from within and across the region took a couple of years to make it a reality in December 2013. The participation of the UPDF, JEM and SPLM-N in fighting the war of South Sudan against the Nuer and other South Sudanese sympathetic to the cause is the clear indication that Salva Kiir planned the Massacre of Nuer and the invasion of their land for the last 9 years or so. Enough preparation were made to rally behind his government the regional leaders from East and the Horn of Africa making the undergoing negotiations difficult for the IGAD coupled with the packages each countries involved receiving.

The current peace negotiation that is taking place in Ethiopia capital Addis Ababa from January 23, 2014 until now brokered by the IGAD between the government of South Sudan and the SPLA/M—IO appears to be a direct insult to the Nuer and South Sudanese intelligentsia. There is no clear distinction between Salva Kiir and the IGAD, but only invisible a line separating the two who are negotiating the peace deal. In this line of argument Salva Kiir and IGAD heads of state are one and the same. How credible is the outcome of the peace deal entrusted in IGAD and the heads of state by the UN, the Troika and other world bodies?  In all accounts, there are no negotiations of winner takes it all but fair game of win-win circumstance of the contemporary world practice. In the fair game of contemporary negotiations, a middle ground is reached based on the number of concessions given up by the parties involved in the actual confrontations. The East Africa regional bloc (IGAD) and heads of state complicity towards achieving negotiated settlement to South Sudan conflict is a clear signaling of heavy baggage each country faces. For IGAD’s heads of state to tell the truth about the Juba incident and the crime committed against the people of South Sudan is signing arrest warrant for oneself and declaring war against his/her own government.

The war that killed tens of thousands Nuer in particular and South Sudanese in general has so many dimensions and each dimensions will be treated accordingly;

Military dimension

As a matter of fact the military strength president Salva Kiir Mayardit tended to believe in emanates from support receiving from neighboring countries including UPDF of Uganda, Sudanese rebels groups (SPLM-N, JEM etc..), Ethiopia through contribution of ammunitions and other hardware, and Kenya. But until how long will Salva Kiir put all his eggs in one basket for the regional support militarily? Are all these countries benevolent enough to support Salva Kiir government without any future returns? Uganda as prime supporter of government of South Sudan to maintain the status quo was to advance its proxy war with the Sudan considered to have harbored the dissidents of Uganda using South Sudan soil as a launching pad. According to Uganda government once South Sudanese rebels are flashed out, the other armed forces of Gen. Konyi are out of equation and the problem of Uganda directly or indirectly is solved. Published by NEW VISION Kampala on October 15, 2014, South Sudanese government has signed a long-term military cooperation with Uganda to purchase weapons and military hardware on behalf of South Sudan government in event that arms embargo is imposed on South Sudan government. The world body should watch out with open eye of the dirty game played by two countries Uganda and South Sudan. In case the war continuous as it stands now and when arms embargo is imposed on South Sudan, Uganda should not be exempted. All the treaties and the forced agreements entered into between South Sudan and Uganda implied threat to the national sovereignty of South Sudan that in a sense undermine the co-existence and the peace of the people. Uganda has done irreparable damage, derailing the integrity of the people of South Sudan a major blast forever.

Ethiopia on one hand support Salva Kiir government due to fear of other armed groups against the EPRDF government expected to have used the South Sudan soil for their operations. However, Salva Kiir government appear to be playing double standards of harboring Ethiopian peoples’ enemies mainly the Egyptians who are against the Ethiopia Grand Renaissance Dam (EGRD) construction, some of them were caught in the Gadiang operation in Ayod county. Ethiopia has long been friend to South Sudanese people in all the liberation movements where most of the Ethiopian generals currently advising the SPLA and its leadership running from the signing of the CPA in 2005. Not to forget mentioning the important element, the Derg Regime of Mengistu Hailemariam supported the SPLA/M in fighting the Arab based northern regime in Khartoum rooted to the brotherhood the Ethiopians and South Sudanese particularly the Nuer since humankind creation. The natural laws state that “blood is thicker than the water” is totally violated in the South Sudan current civil war forcing the Ethiopian government to Support the Dinka dominated government neglecting their own brothers (the Nuer) due to wealth creation. Similar violation of the laws took place in the early formation of the SPLA/M in 1983 when the separatists led by Samuel Gai Tut and Kuot de Atem were dislodged in Bilpam by team of Dr. Garang de Mabior with the Marxist—Leninist ideology. The unionists who wanted the Sudan remain united were backed by the defunct Regime of Mengistu to fight the Anyanya II forces opposed to socialist ideology. Despite all the concessions, both Uganda and Ethiopia exploit the weaknesses of South Sudan military leadership to maintaining the status quo without further studying the strength and the benefits they would have gained if the rebel movement took over from the incumbent government.

The rebel groups (SPLM-N and JEM) fighting the South Sudanese rebel movement alongside South Sudan government intention was to gain ground for their operations against the Sudanese government. This is to help the rebel groups to have constant supply roots intact without disruption. To some analysts the rebel groups seem to have no agenda for the cause of the people whom they are fighting for to liberate and maintain their existence on the soil of the Republic of Sudan. The moves of rebel groups (SPLM-N and JEM) were wrongly calculated without considering cost—benefit analysis of waging war against South Sudanese rebel movement. If the intention was to win the war against the Nuer for Salva Kiir first, in order to help fight the Sudan government, then the project cost is too huge for the movement to maintain since Nuer and other South Sudanese will not easily give in to allow the president to manipulate the people whom he killed. Moreover, previous integrations including those of Gen. Tanginya were never respected where Tanginya ended up in the concentration camp for more than one year.  Tanginya got released shortly and only when Salva Kiir fully prepared for December 15, 2013 civil war with the hope that Tanginya would join his camp. The attempt did not work best for Kiir since Gen. Tanginya later on switched side to Dr. Riek Machar, the former vice president camp against the killing of the innocent Nuer.  

Economic dimensions

One would wonder why different countries with their sovereign states involved into the affair of South Sudanese if not for economic interests. Businesses flourish in South Sudan and individual entrepreneurs who set their feet on the South Sudanese soil either through genuine or corrupt ways managed to secure money transferred to their respective countries of origin. To investigate whether the initial capital was brought in for the start up purpose, one would wonder of South Sudan without investment laws that guide the establishment of the domestic and international businesses. There is no surprise when UPDF of Uganda, the Kenya and the Ethiopia got involved in the affairs of South Sudanese without so many questions from the public justifying why they are fighting alongside South Sudan government. In the first place Uganda look at itself as a country safeguarding the strategic installations and infrastructures of South Sudan government as if it’s the main custodian for sovereignty of South Sudan, which is not the case.

The economic interest pushes those countries in question seriously dictating the circumstances surrounding South Sudan’s conflict. One aspect of Uganda involvement into the affair of South Sudan is the quest for the resources among which the encroachment of the Didinga and Toposa land along Ilemi Triangle is the case in point. The Ilemi Triangle is an area of disputed land in East Africa coupled with the oil discovery and grazing land for the pastoralist communities, the area became a recipe for internecine conflict zone for the inhabitant. Arbitrarily defined, it measures between 10,320 and 14,000 square kilometers. Named after the Anyuak chief Ilemi Akwon, the territory is claimed by South Sudan and Kenya as Turkana land and borders Ethiopia considered as land of Nyangatom and also the Karimojong of Uganda. Despite use and raids by tribes within Ethiopia, the Ethiopian government has never made an official claim on any of the Ilemi and in fact agreed that the land was all Sudanese in 1902, 1907, and 1972 treaties.  It is to be noted that Kenya now has de facto control of the area and the concessions are getting bigger and bigger after the discovery of petroleum. The dispute arose from unclear wording of the 1914 treaty, which attempted to allow for the movements of the Turkana people—nomadic herders who traditionally grazed the area. The perceived economic marginality of the land as well as decades of Sudanese conflicts considered as the factors that have delayed the resolution of the dispute. In a nutshell Uganda would have distanced itself from resources competitions along Ilemi Triangle if one studied the previous treaties of 1902, 1907 and 1972 under the auspice of British.

South Sudan has emerged in the recent years as the breadbasket and main importer of Uganda goods and services. Statistics shows that on average about 150,000 Ugandan traders operate across the border, generating an estimated income of about $900 million in petty businesses of sub standards goods and services per year. South Sudan relies heavily on its neighbors to provide goods such as construction materials and services such as semi-skilled and unskilled labor. Approximately 1,500 Ugandans work in South Sudan in the construction industry, and 1,200 Ugandan professionals are employed there with non-governmental organizations, ministries and other industries. The governments of Uganda and South Sudan have taken steps to strengthen economics ties, including a joint project to construct a state-of-the-art market in Juba, estimated to cost around US $850,000.

South Sudan after its birth in 2011 became the dumping ground for all the expired goods and services not necessary for human consumption. The trade between Uganda and South Sudan is more of absolute advantage to the Uganda government since the term of trade for South Sudan is deteriorating or worsening from day to day. Most transnational crime committed by Uganda business people are let loose without South Sudan government taking serious measures against the culprits and hold Uganda government responsible for the crime against humanity. The petty businesses run in Juba and elsewhere in South Sudan are not legally registered and whatever money collected repatriated to Uganda, Kenya, Somali, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and beyond. The stakes in this current conflict are very huge and Uganda never hesitates to take war to South Sudan since it’s the main lifeline for the Ugandan people. Kenya and Ethiopia’s interest in exporting oil through their seaports (Lamu Port and Djibouti port) and roots became another area of contestation and whoever supports Salva Kiir government’s survival be rewarded with pipeline passage through her country and all the proceeds shall be given to in return. The economic integration of South Sudan into East Africa Community (EAC) became the catalyst for South Sudan civil war so that Museveni would have free hand in amassing the wealth into Uganda. A good example is the packages for the UPDF fighting alongside South Sudan government and in returns bolster economic growth of Uganda, which has been steadily stagnating before the birth of South Sudan.

The birth of South Sudan as state of its own, widen the market shares of East Africa Community (EAC) and the Horn of Africa and Uganda stands first in the economic gains. Ostensibly, Uganda has made important progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Uganda has experienced two decades of strong economic growth and poverty has decreased significantly in recent years (from 31% in 2005-06 to 22% by 2012-13), thus surpassing the 2015 MDGs target of halving the 56% poverty rate recorded in 1992-93. However, with a Gross National Income (GNI) per capital of $510 per annum, Uganda remains a very poor country and far from the middle-income status it aspires to achieve. Despite declining poverty rates, the absolute number of poor has decreased relatively little due to high population growth with Uganda’s population doubling since 1990. Inequality is also high by international standards (0.438) with the application of Gini Coefficient (GC), which could undermine the achievements in growth and poverty reduction. Such a trend would more than likely push Uganda meddling into the affairs of South Sudan in particular and some other countries to escape the criticism from within the domestic arena.  

Political dimension

The political relationship between South Sudan and Uganda has been in existence for several decades, different from Kampala’s relationships with Khartoum government, which has often been strained. The main reason for the deteriorated relationship is that Sudan’s president, Omer El Bashir is alleged to have provided support to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which terrorized northern Uganda for many years and Sudan believed that Uganda supported the SPLA, which also terrorized the peace and stability of South Sudan. Uganda’s longtime president, Yoweri Museveni, was a personal friend of South Sudan rebel leader John Garang de Mabior and supported the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), which fought for the region’s independence. Before the conduct of the 2011 Referendum Yoweri Museveni made a remarks vocally for separation, saying, “…unity should be principled unity; not unity based on suppression and inequality.”

Yoweri K. Museveni of Uganda champion the leadership of EAC for many decades opposed all the time by the Republic of Tanzania desperately in dire need of allies and South Sudan fresh in politics would be seen as the potential ally to vote vehemently for Uganda’s president. The Nile water politics is another paradigm shift in the current geopolitics and South Sudan as a nascent state plays a key role in determining the future of water politics. The struggle for the ally in view of the Nile water politics bring together Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan as a bloc to revisit the treaties in the past between the British expeditions and ancient Egypt excluding the upper stream countries. In the vein of this argument Egypt sees any country tempering with the Nile Water as the real threat to its national security. Ethiopia with the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam, which the Egyptian government failed to acknowledge, thus sees South Sudan as the potential ally. Egypt on the other hand went ahead and signed a military agreement with South Sudan to supply military hardware to fight the rebel movement as an important binding constraint for the reconstruction of the Jonglei canal to allow the regular passage of swampy waters from the South Sudan to Egypt without disruption in the event that the water level runs down due to Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (EGRD) from the upper stream.

In conclusion, addressing problem of South Sudan, the geopolitics of the Nile water shouldn’t be underestimated while negotiating everlasting solution for South Sudan since most of the countries involved in the negotiation have stakes in what transpired to be peaceful South Sudan given the new political dispensation. The murderous government of Salva Kiir requires tougher action against its inconsistence.  Even if all IGAD’s leaders appear complicit in tackling South Sudan crisis with the intent of conniving with Salva Kiir, they will not be able to quell the rebellion through the presence of their heavy hands in South Sudanese politics. One would expect only genuine negotiations without IGAD’s leaders siding with Salva Kiir government is what will bring peace to South Sudan. Therefore, the policy of hands-off IGAD’s heads of state in South Sudan crisis should be considered as priority. The UN, the Troika and other world body should not sit idle watching the dying South Sudanese in the hands of merciless government of Salva Kiir Mayardit. Believing in military might of other countries as a way of safeguarding the sovereign state and protection of the regime as what has been the case in South Sudan after the outbreak of civil war in its proper term is the liability and total insanity. The competitions over scarce resources along the Ilemi Triangle create more tensions and the governments of Kenya and Uganda fuel ethnic animosities. In effect, demarcating the borders using the previous British treaties from 1902, 1907 and 1972 would solve existential problem.

In view of these treaties, Nuer have good reasons to assert their territorial rights as per earlier agreements, before the matter become so muddled that people perceive the issue of land rights to be secondary, when it is, in fact, the basis of the political and economic dimensions of the conflict. Should the IGAD and heads of state negotiating on behalf of Salva Kiir Mayardit not be faithful to the settlement of South Sudan conflict, the Nuer would be forced to opt for an autonomous state, thus ensuring Sudanese, Eritrean support, and forcing Ethiopia and Egypt to side cum Nuer (or in the case of Egypt, at least split their attention between the Nuer state and the South Sudanese). Ethiopia will have to side with the Nuer since they mainly deal in Nuer territory anyway, and would get an indirect win-fall from the Nuer oil revenues. The Egyptians would have to deal with the Nuer regarding the construction of Jonglei bypass. An independent (or at least confederate) Nuer state would effectively isolate Uganda, Kenya and the Dinka of Bahr El Ghazal. Again, the Nuer are the game changer here.

Thus, maintaining the Ugandan army at the expense of the people of South Sudan is unacceptable; this has led to squandering of billion taxpayer’s money that could have been used for productive activity to the benefit of the people in question but not for the protection of regime that turned against its people. For IGAD to achieve lasting peace in South Sudan withdrawing all the allied forces, including UPDF of Uganda, the SPLM-N and the JEM is number one demand for the rebel movement to accept the poor concession though not enough for the peace to reign in South Sudan. Last but not least to give peace a chance, Salva Kiir must go so that new political dispensations can kick off to avoid backlash. The Transitional government of National Unity MUST be formed without Salva Kiir together with some of his cronies that are currently perpetuating the crisis in South Sudan, and above all an overhaul of the entire systems needs to be thoroughly conducted. The current political system imbedded in the governance in South Sudan is too deformed and needs to be reformed.

Dr. Chuol R. Kompuok holds a PhD in Economics, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He can  be reached at [email protected]

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