By Kuach Tutkuay
September 12, 2015 (SSNA) — Civilians in South Sudan received the signing of the peace agreement with great euphoria hoping that guns would be silenced and life gets back to normalcy. Waiting in awe and eager to see a bright dawn of calms, the South Sudanese women and children have paid the heaviest price of the crisis as the war consumed everything and ravaged every mean of a living; with encroaching poverty, millions of people had to wholly depend on humanitarian aid. The war that saw the whole of greater Upper Nile plunged into avis has also cost the nation tens of thousands lives. Although a political tag of war within the SPLM party, it took an ethnic dimension resulting into ethnic brutalities.
South Sudanese all over the country heap sigh of relieve when the two principals declared a permanent ceasefire because it symbolize a grand return of peace to the nation; and to women, it means no more mama’s are going to cry and no more youth have to die. Ironically, the government still maintained some reservations that could either be construed as slowing the pace of the implementation of the agreement or perpetuating the perilous hostilities by the warring parties. Some people may argue that a significant disagreement sufficed from the government side as army slackens their feet to abide by the ceasefire. What confuses many civilians the most is that the declaration of the permanent ceasefire only increase hostilities that it was supposed to halt.
President Kiir declared a ceasefire while dispatching troops of armed soldiers by river in barges to attack the positions of the SPLA in northern Jonglei and Upper Nile. This resulted in heavy fighting in Fangak and Panyijiar as the SPLA are on the defensive whereas the Pro-government forces on the offensive. In Malakal, the government launched an all-out war on the rebel-held western bank of the Nile around Werjuok, Lelo and Makal Shilluk. It was never clear whether this is an initiative by the armies independently or with a command from Juba. When President Kiir appeared as issuing a queasy warning to the ceasefire violators, many people were forced to believe that whatever is happening with the government may symbolize a division as the chief of staff is allegedly portrayed as disagreeing to the peace agreement.
However, one thing that could be obvious is that the Juba government, including Kiir himself, knows about the whole fiasco of the violation of the ceasefire. In Juba, government have slapped an airport curfew to enable them dispatch warplanes to Malakal at night without the knowledge of the UNMISS and other international bodies present in Juba. It seems the Juba government is quite oblivious about the permanent ceasefire they declared late August. What kind of ceasefire on earth can still allow for military quest for territorial gain? It is, and has never been a ceasefire or else it was never signed in good faith. It was signed just to seduce the international community into believing that there is truly a peace in South Sudan. Whether some bombs still fly over innocent women and children in Upper Nile and Unity states that are left to the conscience of the irrational uncouth pro government troops.
In this regards, the bashing of the two warring parties is no longer applicable. It is crystal clear who the violators are and what their motive is. The IGAD-plus is therefore left with two options. They either impose punitive actions on the ceasefire violators or witness a grand return of war. Given the level of dissatisfaction this time, the second war will no longer be confined to Greater Upper Nile alone. The two other greater are likely to be dragged in and the whole nation will fall into immense humanitarian catastrophe and the already volatile humanitarian situation will perpetuate. When crisis happens, civilians always pay the heaviest price. South Sudanese have had enough share of the suffering, the remaining orphans and widows cannot afford to continue living on the edge of death—death by bullet, death by disease and death by hunger.
Tolerating a wrong means encouraging more wrongs; violation of the ceasefire remains a breach of an agreement and is not justifiable by any form of fallacy. The signing of the peace agreement was a great milestone for IGAD-Plus but an agreement per se is not enough, they should also protect it. Any agreement that does not have a clear mechanism to protect it from any breach is not worthy an agreement at all, it is merely an obnoxious peace that would backfire anytime. The bottom line is that we should punish wrongs wherever they occurred and should not shy away from reprimanding wrongdoing. With the ceasefire being violated and no action taken, the peace agreement itself is likely to be violated. This is how dictators come to control everything bit by bit, the real metamorphosis of a dictator: try a trivial nasty decision and see people’s reaction, then go for a bigger malicious decision and see their reaction again and, finally, do whatever you want.
This peace agreement has a very slim chance to pass muster, however, it is too early to conclude that it has backfired. In case the peace collapse because of the action of those individuals violating the peace with impunity and the international community does nothing, the international community would surely be the obvious to blame. But we hope and pray that it does not collapse because the lives the war has claimed, whether in government or in opposition, are the human resources that would take South Sudan forward.
The writer could be reached on [email protected] or @kuach444 on Twitter.