May 6, 2015 (SSNA) — By virtue of my membership of an Equatoria internet forum I came across an article authored by Mr Eriasa Mukiibi Sserunjogi titled ‘South Sudan needs fresh start without Kiir, Machar – Dr Miamingi’ published by the Ugandan newspaper, Daily Monitor on 26th April 2015. This article features a photo of Dr Remember Miamingi wearing the famous Nelson Mandela shirt. http://www.monitor.co.ug/Magazines/PeoplePower/South-Sudan-fresh-start-Kiir-Machar-Dr-Miamingi/-/689844/2697290/-/ecinnuz/-/index.html In addition to this article Dr Miamingi also appeared in an NTV debate discussing the same topic. Please watch the video: ‘Fourth estate: South Sudan, a conflict with no end in sight’ on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiRx1hb7bII
On reading the article, I found it very stimulating. The timing of this piece obviously suggests Dr Miamingi may have doubts about the ability of the newly revamped IGAD-Plus mediating team in bringing peace to South Sudan unless it abandons its flawed strategy of wanting to concentrate power to the two principals of the conflict by diversifying the peace talks to reflect the entire social groups in the country. Who can blame Dr Miamingi for thinking like that?
IGAD since appointing itself to the role of mediator in South Sudan has done nothing to demonstrate its impartiality. Throughout it has been biased in favour of the regime in Juba and so its failure on 6th March 2015 was not a surprise to South Sudanese. Please see, ‘To achieve in South Sudan, IGAD talks must be diversified.’ http://www.southsudannation.com/to-achieve-peace-in-south-sudan-igad-talks-must-be-diversified/
Dr Miamingi brightly highlighted the obstacles to peace in South Sudan. It must be emphasised, his arguments are not new. Many writers have articulated these views in the last 16 months of the conflict and IGAD for reasons best known to it ignored them. For example, the South Sudanese professionals produced a document titled ‘South Sudanese professionals in Diaspora’ capturing the issue. https://paanluelwel2011.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/negotiating-peace-through-federalism.pdf
There can be no doubt that the arguments raised are useful in the current atmosphere of hopelessness created by the failure of IGAD in mediating peace. If only IGAD could unplug its ears, the key to peace in South Sudan lie in some of the arguments Dr Miamingi is promoting which will be slightly modified in this piece.
Having given this brief background, let us look at the point of view expressed by Dr Miamingi as reported by Mr Sserunjogi. In the article, Dr Miamingi under the sub title ‘Who are the “We”?’ describes himself as a member of diverse group at home (South Sudan). He asserts ‘the ”We” represent South Sudanese who are in the Diaspora, who are in refugee camps and have been basically uprooted from their home, who are united in the desire for peace in the country.’ What is intriguing is that this “we” has no name given its wide membership. Dr Miamingi claims this identity less organisation is ‘organised around what we call the “Four point campaign for a just peace in South Sudan”.’ He goes on to outline them as: 1) Just peace through inclusivity. 2) The architects of the war should be excluded from the process of peace making. 3) Peace talks and establishment of an interim government, and 4) Military intervention by African Union (AU) backed by United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Article 7.
These points Dr Miamingi encapsulated and promotes are useful in helping those involved in the mediation. Since there are only 4 points let us briefly talk about all of them in their current order and they can then be re-arranged in order of priority suitable for resolving the problem in South Sudan.
It goes without saying that for peace to return to South Sudan the peace talks must produce a “just peace” through an inclusive process that values all the people of South Sudan. What this translates to is that all the stakeholders and civil societies of South Sudan must have a say so that the process and outcome is owned by the “people”. It becomes a “people peace” and not an “SPLM/A peace” in which the “people” are excluded. The question asked is: Why is IGAD naively conniving with the abusive SPLM/A to deny the people of South Sudan their right in deciding their own future? Is the sovereignty of South Sudan not vested in its people? If it is, then the right thing is to let the people participate in the peace talks as of right. If it is not, why not? Why are criminals allowed to run the show? Please see, ‘President Kiir, Riek and the SPLM are the problems of RSS.’ http://allafrica.com/stories/201405070248.html
If IGAD truly is seeking a lasting “Just Peace” it must abandon its short sighted strategy of pursuing grand empowerment of the destructive SPLM/A, the very party responsible for the chaos as a solution. Otherwise, whatever outcome from its mediation will be short lived and the region will once again sooner or later find itself in the same position like now. This takes us to the second point for barring of the culprits responsible for the chaos from the peace talks.
This point is plainly clear and no reasonable person will disagree with it. All over the world people involved in crimes are apprehended and arraigned in court of law. They are not tolerated and treated as if they were decent people. The mistake the world has done with South Sudan’s case is to tolerate ethnic cleansers and listen to them as if they have not committed grave crimes against humanity.
The world unfortunately seems to have not learnt a lesson from the history of the Second World War. The major powers of the time appeased Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany and treated him initially as a decent person possibly in the false hope that he might change. But what did the world get from this unethical act? Holocaust! with a sharp shock to the global system. In terms of saving lives, the late intervention of the world to save the Jews was too little too late. The lesson from this horrific and heinous crime of Hitler tells us not to entertain dictators and totalitarian rulers who have tendencies of extreme hate of rival social groups especially if such leaders have already started ethnic cleansing on small scale.
The late President of Iraq Sadam Hussein gassed the Kurds of Halabja and the world paid a blind eye. Sadam got emboldened and he went on to further his military adventures in Iran and later on Kuwait. As a result the whole region eventually got thrown into turmoil. President Salva Kiir with his false image as a peaceful person indisputably belongs to Sadam Hussein-like class of dictators. The world should deal with him appropriately now to account for his crimes before he plunges the region into turmoil. He should therefore not be allowed to call the shots in Addis Ababa. Does this make sense? Yes, certainly it does, he should be barred from the talks. Please watch this video, ‘President Salva Kiir of South Sudan on BBC Hardtalk’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_-WncqcZ5o
As I write now, the economic mismanagement initiated on the watch of both President Kiir and Dr Machar from 2005 following the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and promoted by the entire SPLM/A leadership coupled with the political mismanagement of the last decade which blew up in December 2013 has brought the country to its knees socially, economically and politically. When the country was at a relative peace the SPLM/A entire leadership looted the coffers of the state and in war as now the revenue is spent on lethal weapons and the regime supporters. Unsurprisingly, South Sudan has just gained a new name, ‘Kleptocratic State’. Please see, ‘In IMF view, a kleptocratic state bordering on bankruptcy.’ https://mail.aol.com/webmail-std/en-gb/suite and ‘Corruption saga: the SPLM five big guns or the quintet squirrels’ http://www.southsudannewsagency.com/opinion/articles/corruption-saga-the-splm-five-big-guns-or-the-quintet-squirrels
The third point Dr Miamingi raises is very crucial as it relates to the issue of security of the stakeholders itself. Dr Miamingi argues that the peace talks should be taken back home. In other words he wants to see the peace talks held inside South Sudan. This proposition is imprudent and fails to take into consideration the safety of the stakeholders.
Any talks held inside the country will not yield a lasting solution. The reasons are:
1) Lack of security for the participants. What will stop President Kiir from intimidating the stakeholders? What will stop President Kiir from arresting some or all the stakeholders and declaring peace achieved? Let us not forget, the regime in Juba has neither respect for human rights nor values of decency. To understand these points just think about the experiences of Mr Peter Sule and Dr Lam Akol Ajawin with regards to their invitation to the IGAD peace talks. Did President Kiir’s government not deliberately obstruct their travel plans to the peace talks and threatened to harm them?
If the regime was intolerant to allow stakeholders to attend the peace talks in Addis Ababa, would it tolerate their participation in such talks inside the country under its jurisdiction? Actually as much as nobody would want to say it, should the talks be held inside the country President Kiir may be pushed to silence a good number of the stakeholders whose voices he does not like hearing.
2) The regime does not believe in freedom of speech and expression. Those who speak freely in the past like Isaiah Abraham paid the ultimate price with their lives. The outspoken leader of civil society organisations Mr Athuai Deng narrowly escaped death on two occasions for speaking out. The first time the security agents of President Kiir kidnapped him, beat him up thoroughly and threw him into a garbage site by the river Nile thinking he had died. He was lucky to be rescued by locals. The second time, President Kiir’s agents in broad day light shot him in public. Luckily the bullet hit his leg and he survived.
These are just few examples of the government’s usual tactics to muzzle the people. With such an environment of terror, how could Dr Miamingi make the futile proposition for the talks to be held inside the country. For the sake of a lasting peace the peace talks need to continue being held outside the country in a neutral secure venue.
This brings us to Dr Miamingi’s final point of African Union intervention backed by United Nations Security Council Article 7. The first thing South Sudanese need to acknowledge is that since the Independence of South Sudan on 9th July 2011 the country has been under UNSC Article 7. So the UN can actually exercise this power any time if it wants. Military interventions are always fraught with difficulties to both the interveners and the intruded because of the issue of emotions linked to pride and humiliation.
Apart from this, it is not clear whether the international community will want to commit to such a project given its costs and the uncertainties around success. Nevertheless it is something worth pursuing because already there are foreign forces in the country – the Uganda People Defence force (UPDF) in addition to the Blue Helmets of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). UPDF can not be part of a solution as it actually deployed to protect the government of President Kiir which has been carrying out ethnic cleansing of the Nuer. Therefore, UPDF needs to withdraw back home soonest. It has no business being in South Sudan – Uganda interest or no interest is immaterial.
These four points delineated by Dr Miamingi are poorly arranged and for them to be effective, the order should be reversed starting with the last point and ending with the starting one. Therefore, African Union backed by the United Nations should take over the country for a strictly specified period as recommended by the leaked Draft Report of the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan. http://nyamile.com/2015/03/07/draft-report-of-the-au-commission-of-inquiry-on-south-sudan/ There should be no worries because the report clearly sets out a hybrid plan of action (comprising South Sudanese and international experts) regarding the intervention.
Point three should take the second place. The interim government can be set up as envisaged by the Obasanjo report without any peace talks, but with wide consultation with all the stakeholders without those allegedly involved in illegal acts like the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE).
Point two becomes redundant simply for the reason that when the country is taken over by African Union and United Nations, the architects of the chaos would vanish into exile or they will have been arrested and farmed off to some detention facilities to await trial for their grave crimes.
Point one becomes feasible and essential to implement in a violence free and peaceful environment. The main purpose would be to address the vital constitutional issues and the critical problem of national reconciliation and healing.
Following the above re-arrangement, the modified “Four point campaign for just peace in South Sudan” of Dr Miamingi now becomes ‘Three point campaign for just peace in South Sudan’. This can offer a solution to the quagmire South Sudan is in now. However, whether this plan will be considered by IGAD or not, the most important thing is not to let the SPLM/A in all its different forms and shapes to dictate and monopolise the peace talks. For South Sudan to be de-tribalised socially and politically, state power must equally be de-tribalised which means the talks must include all the stakeholders and it must be in a neutral venue.[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]
The author can be reached at [email protected].