Let’s Celebrate the Beginning of Peace in South Sudan

By James Okuk, PhD

“peace will bless us once more with hearing the happy giggling of children and the enchanting ululation of women who are excited in happiness for one reason or another.” – Dr. John Garang at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, January 9, 2005.

February 27, 2016 (SSNA) — When the peace-loving people appreciated President Salva Kiir Mayardit for issuing the Republican Decree No.60/2016 on Thursday February 11, 2016 to appoint Dr. Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon as the First Vice President (FVP) of the Republic of South Sudan, caution for delaying the celebration of the announcement was recommended until the major hurdles get resolved.

Now we have seen that the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS) has finally resolved the hurdles via external pressure by redeployed the unauthorized forces from Juba as agreed though it might not be all of them at once.

Also the GRSS has identified and delimited some stations for hosting the first phase of the authorized forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – In Opposition (SPLM-IO) inside Juba, including the ones to form the integrated police for the capital city.

Further, President Salva Kiir has asked the Vice President James Wani Igga to vacate his Office Building at the Presidency so that it could be used by FVP Dr. Riek Machar for his newly established strong office.

Further more, a five star hotel is prepared to accommodate Dr. Riek and his entourage once they arrive in Juba in March after completion of phase one of the compromised special security arrangement proposed by H.E. Festus G. Mogae, the most able African Grand Chairman of Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC).

The good news is that the Troika countries and other donors have pledged through the leadership of the JMEC that they will bear the financial costs and transport by air the urgently needed 1370 forces of SPLM/A-IO to Juba. This shall occur by 29th February 2016 as planned by JMEC in its new schedule. The outgoing GRSS’ Council of Ministers had endorsed this in its ordinary sitting of Friday, 26th February instant.

The short visit of the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, to Juba on Thursday, February 25 instant and the assurances he got from H.E. Gen. Salva Kiir directly and from H.E. Dr. Riek Machar on phone regarding their readiness to form the Government of National Unity (TGoNU) soon in the first week of March, is now a positive indication towards realization of first crucial steps of peace at last for the embattled new country on the globe.

This third visit of Mr. Ki-moon has not been a light one as per the African saying that “the third is bitter”. The language in his message was diplomatically loaded with a warning to the top South Sudanese political leaders that they will be held accountable by the international community if they failed to put the people first as commitment for the ethics of care. Missing the second chance will raise the cost of intransigence on the the warring leaders. Peace does not need protection because it is the highest blessing for the land.

The UN Secretary-General is regarded as the symbol of UN ideals of peace and security and the spokesman for the interests of the world’s peoples, particularly the poor and vulnerable ones. What he says is given a weight by the community of nations. The very serious message he brought to Juba on Thursday is for the GRSS and SPLM/A-IO to:

a) form the TGoNu and implement the August 2015 Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) without further delay;

b) respect the UNMISS’ Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) for peacekeeping operations under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter;

c) allow humanitarian access by air, roads and rivers so that relief items and personnel could reach to the needy population at risk of starvation;

d) attract international community to support humanitarian action for about 5 million vulnerable South Sudanese (Mr. Ki-moon set the example by donating US$ 21 million);

e) push for justice and accountability against those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, the recent of which was witnessed in Malakal UNMISS’ PoC when armed elements in SPLA uniform attacked and burnt down shelters belonging to Shilluk and Nuer IDPs, killing 24 on the spot and wounding 91;

f) know it well that the UN will not tolerate continuation of protecting a big number of South Sudanese population in its camps because this is unsustainable as the core responsibility to protect the people should be on the shoulder of the government; and

g) recommit to inclusive nation-building and cease all senseless power struggle so as to restore the lost sense of national unity that prevailed at the time of independence.

The First visit of Mr. Ki-moon came when he witnessed the declaration of independence and sang ‘South Sudan Oyee, not SPLM Oyee’ on July 9, 2011. The result of that visit led to the unprecedented recognition and admission of South Sudan as the 193 member of UN on 14th July 2011, five days only after the highest profile visit.

His second visit occurred in May 2014 but on sad situation and for attempts to contain the senseless SPLM’s leadership war that resulted in massive destructive displacement of vulnerable population, constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity in international law. Mr. Ki-moon described the situation of the affected population in the refuge camps in South Sudan as the worse, compared to many refugee camps he had visited around the world.

Thus, it could be deduced from the above-mentioned evidences, in addition to the pressing terrible economic situation and GRSS’ declared bankruptcy, that peace-loving people could now start preparation to celebrate the beginning of peace even with dry mouths and empty stomachs. The hurdles that were put on the way of the ARCSS implementation are now cleared though the issue of 28 states remains pending till suspended soon by the TGoNU in accordance with the provisions of the 31st January 2016 IGAD’ Council of Ministers Communiqué. Like what President Kiir and VP Wani did by giving peace a chance so that they could get a second chance to rule, it is expected that the currently power-obsessed governors of the illegal but de facto 28 states will do the same to allow the defunct legal 10 states to be released from the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) as required by the ARCSS.

Hence, we can proudly say that the horse of peace is now being put in front of the TGoNU’s cart, ready to move with the interest of the people of South Sudan lifted up above Machiavellian politics of the power-hungry SPLM leaders.

Time is now ripening for us to listen and see with open hearts on SSTV and all media houses the captivating songs by MC Lumoex: “Salaam Ja, Salaam Ja Kalas, Fi Daula ta Nina Junub Sudan, Salaam Ja Kalas — peace has come at last to our country, South Sudan”

We will also love to listen to Greatest Emmanuel Kembe signing enthusiastically with tears of patience in our eyes: “Taalu nabni baled sawa — come let’s build the nation together” while we welcome Dr. Riek Machar in Juba finally.

The golden voice of Vivian Nyachan shall also crack the waves lengths across the country with the song (Piny mier e podhi won, de o donya wen, Junub won nyi para ka America — Our South Sudan is beautiful in peace and shall be comparable to none but America!).

The regional leaders and international envoys shall be happy with honor of peace to accompany Dr. Riek Machar to Juba and witness the swearing-in of the entire TGoNU’s cabinet (i.e., the President, the 1st VP, the VP, the 30 Ministers and 8 Deputy Ministers) as well as the expanded National Legislative Assembly of 400 MPs led by a popular Equatorian Speaker. The Judiciary shall be made independent and reformed with honest judges for a new task.

Thereafter, all of the TGoNU VIPs will take up their dignified duties for the transitional period and practice both their individual and collective powers for:

1) Restoring peace, security and stability in the country;

2) Expediting relief, protection, repatriation, rehabilitation and resettlement of IDPs and returnees;

3) Facilitating and overseeing national reconciliation and healing process through an independent mechanism including budgetary provisions for compensation and reparations;

4) Overseeing and ensuring that the Permanent Constitution-making process is successfully carried out;

5) Working closely with the IGAD-PLUS Member States and Organizations and other partners and friends of South Sudan to consolidate peace and stability in the country;

6) Reforming the public financial management, civil service, and security sector;

7) Ensuring prudent, transparent and accountable management of national wealth and resources to build the nation and promote the welfare of the people;

8) Rebuilding the destroyed physical infrastructure in conflict-affected areas and giving special attention to prioritizing the rebuilding of livelihoods of those affected by the conflict;

9) Establishing a competent and impartial National Elections Commission (NEC) to conduct free and fair elections before the end of the Transitional Period and ensure that the outcome is broadly reflective of the will of the electorate;

10) Making all efforts to conduct National Population and Housing Census before the end of the Transitional Period;

11) Devolving more powers and resources to States’ and County levels; and

12) Carrying out normal functions of a democratic government of peace time (i.e., government by the people, of the people, for the people and with the people).

There should be nothing called opposition political parties to operate in opposite direction of the peace program as enumerated above. All must be in support of the success of the mandate of the TGoNU as long as those entrusted with the duty do their work diligently and honestly.

The credible civil society, academia, faith-based institutions and all the guarantors, witnesses and adherents of the ARCSS should operate as the watchdogs and whistle blowers to any deviation by the peace partners (i.e., GRSS, SPLM/A-IO, SPLM-FDs and Other Political Parties).

It is not going to be like SPLM’s business as usual in the past 11 years of misrule of South Sudan. Nerves shivering deterrent is proving to be the best policy than lethal combat. Alleluia for Peace at last!

Dr. James Okuk is a lecturer of politics reachable at [email protected].

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