IGAD: An impediment to the South Sudan peace process

Logo of IGAD

By Hoth Giw Chan

March 28, 2018 (SSNA) — Chinua Achebe, the African Icon in literature once narrated a story of a Royal Court composed of the big Animals (Elephent, Lion, Rhino, Buffallo, Man, etc) pertaining to the treatment of one of their own (Man). “The issue of the day was the dispute between the man and the elephant.  Elephant had asked a man to allow it into a hut built by man because it was raining on that day as the elephant had nowhere else to go to.  Man allowed his friend elephant in and due to the size of the elephant, the owner of the hut (man) was forced out of his own hut by the elephant.  That was the central issue of the dispute.  To resolve the dispute, a royal Court was convened, with King Lion, presiding over the royal Court.  After a lengthy discussion on the issue where the litigating parties disputed every conceivable facts, King Lion decided for the Court to break for lunch and to give his verdict in the afternoon.  All of the animals, except the man, went to have lunch prepared by the wife of the defendant (Madam Elephant).  It was a good lunch and after return to the royal Court after the afternoon lunch break, the verdict was read out louder and it was ruled that “an unoccupied space in the man’s hut was put to good and proper use by the elephant and that the man should build himself another house”.  Having nowhere to appeals his case (because that was the highest court in the wild), the man built another hut, but that hut too was occupied by the King lion.  The ruling was the same when the man tried to litigate the case.  He built one hut after another and each time when a hut got finished, another animal would occupied the place until man got tired and burnt down all the huts he built—including those occupying those huts (the other animals).  The man finally stated to himself that “Justice is costly, but worthy,” Home & Exile by Chinua Achebe.

On March 26, 2018, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) issued what they called “Final Communique of the 61st extra-ordinary session of IGAD Council of Ministers on the Situation in South Sudan”.  That extra-ordinary session was attended by the representatives of the countries (Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, South Sudan, Kenya, and Uganda), which comprises of the IGAD members States.  In their deliberations, the IGAD countries agreed on the following points, inter alia:

Decides the house arrest of SPLM/IO Leader Dr Riak Machar be lifted as soon as possible, on conditions that ensure he will renounce violence and not obstruct the peace process and he be allowed to relocate to any country outside the region and are not neighboring South Sudan; Designated IGAD Ministers will propose and decide a  possible location;

Urges all the South Sudanese parties participating in the Forum to engage in good faith, in a spirit of compromise to resolve all outstanding issues to achieve the objective of the revitalization, etc…

The above statements from a body (IGAD) that supposed to be neutral in mediating South Sudan internal conflicts prove to everyone that IGAD as an Organization is acting as a Prosecutor, Jury and a Judge at the same time on the SPLM-IO Chairman’s case.  Legal ethic taught us that whenever there is a conflict of interest on the part of the Prosecutor, Defend Lawyer, or the Presiding Judge, the safe method is usually to excuse oneself on the case as that conflict of interest could jeopardized the outcome of the pending case.  Why would an IGAD that is now the Prosecutor in the case insist on being the body presiding over the same case?

Let take it one step further.  The SPLM-IO Chairman has not been charged in a proper Court of law where he can defends the charges.  It was a political move on those who would not wanted him to democratically lead the country at all cost when he was lured in Juba, for an assassination in July 2016.  After the failure of that attempt, the same IGAD made sure that he was locked out of the peace process, resulting in his current confinement in South Africa.  The goal was to frustrate the SPLM-IO to the point where it could disperse and submitted to the illegitimate regime run by thugs and thieves in Juba.  When that did not happened as the war continued by engulfing the whole country, especially in Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria region, IGAD came back with the idea of revitalization of the dead peace—the same peace killed earlier by the same body. One can concluded that IGAD is being an Angel of a SATAN as far as South Sudanese mediation is concerned.

It has been clear during the time of the resumption of the revitalization of the peace in Addis, that IGAD maintained its previous position—sidelining SPLM-IO by organizing brief case Movements, otherwise known as “other political parties”.  This has been a parrell project of IGAD in order to weaken the position of SPLM-IO, in addition to confining its Chairman.  IGAD has always come up with unreasonable proposals as a way of frustrating SPLM-IO and as a way of delaying the peace process.  It’s a known fact that IGAD is pursuing the Illegitimate South Sudan government’s position on the peace when it came up with such a COMMUNIQUE that cannot meet the neutrality test.  For instance, a day before IGAD issued its COMMUNIQUE, the illegitimate South Sudan Chief Negotiator, Nhial Deng Nhial (who is being groomed to take over the Warrap throne) gave the following statements “we rather fight to the last blood then to see Riek Machar back in Juba”.  This statement was given by Nhial Deng Nhial, knowing that IGAD had already blessed their proposal of keeping the Chairman of the SPLM-IO in confinement.

It’s clear that whatever the illegitimate government of South Sudan proposes is what always work with IGAD.  This has been clear from the beginning of the peace process in 2014.  The idea of keeping the Chairman of SPLM-IO under detention in South Africa has been sing as a song by, Salva Kiir, Taban, Lol, and now Nhial Deng Nhial.  This is what was blessed by IGAD in their so call “extra-ordinary meeting” when they were presented by the government proposal on the status of the SPLM-IO Chairman, by none other than Lomorro (Minister of Cabinet Affairs).  And after a heavy lunch in the Ethiopian Capital, Addis, the IGAD representatives concluded like in the above animal royal courts, that the SPLM-IO Chairman, should be transferred from the maximum prison to a solitary confinement in another prison.  Is it not a violation of International law at best when a person is confined for a year without charges by a body that has no judicial power?

Let go technical. In the above quoted phrase, the IGAD Communique stated that “the house arrest of SPLM/IO Leader Dr Riak Machar be lifted as soon as possible, on conditions that ensure he will renounce violence and not obstruct the peace process and he be allowed to relocate to any country outside the region and are not neighboring South Sudan”. Now, this sanction (confinement) is always allowed when an individual is charged in the Court of law, taking into consideration his due process for the fair hearing, where he is being represented or he represented himself.  Was Dr. Riek, charged by IGAD and was he given his due process to contest these charges?  What kind of a kangaroo court (IGAD) could act as a judicial body when it sole role was to be a regional development organization for the Horn of Africa, tasked to mediates the internal conflict of a country (South Sudan)?  Was IGAD found to have a judicial role on the matters of internal issues of each Member State and what are the jurisdictions of that body when it comes to arresting a citizen of a given nation?

On the issue of SPLM-IO Chairman renouncing violence and not to obstruct the peace process, IGAD must be kidding.  You confined somebody in South Africa, the war does not stop and now you are telling the world that it’s the same person you confined that is causing the violence.  I don’t think IGAD has done its homework in finding out the root causes of the conflict they are trying to mediate.  It’s the same government that IGAD is siding with that had carryout genocide on its citizens and the citizens resisted and are now resisting the same policy of the government.  Are you telling people that it’s ok for the government to carryout genocide and that they should not resist?

IGAD must know that Dr. Riek Machar, has nothing to do with the ongoing conflict in South Sudan.  On the contrary, he is trying to be a solution to the conflict by channeling the anger of the masses toward greater good (not revenging on those who massacred people on the basis of their ethnic backgrounds) aiming at State building.  This is shown by the fact that if he was the cause of the conflict, the said conflict would have stopped by now after you confined him in South Africa.  Now that he is outside the region under your confinement, and you are telling him that he should renounce violence, how do you reconcile this contradiction?

IGAD should remember that SPLM-IO is a political organization with leadership structure.  In order for a peace to prevail in the country, the Chairman of the Movement must be allowed to move freely and meet with his leadership in order to find a lasting solution to the conflict.  Currently, he does not have mean to meet with his leadership body. How do you expect him to be effective in the ongoing peace process when he cannot even meet with his leadership?  Be mindful also that the current illegitimate government of Taban and Salva Kiir, prepared delaying the peace process by any mean possible as a way for them to milky and loot the country.  In a way, you as IGAD countries are quilt by association as you are currently helping with the ongoing situation in the South Sudan. It is a known fact that some of the IGAD countries prepare a weak South Sudan where it leader kneeled down to people like Ugandan President.  It’s obvious that a strong leader is not needed in that part of the world, but South Sudanese will do whatever it takes to put their house together.

The traditional African mechanism of settling dispute like the current situation in South Sudan is to always involve parties to speak their minds and to provide road map for ending such disputes.  Legal experience has taught us that the accused has a right to confront the accuser in order to tell his side of the story.  Until IGAD allows SPLM-IO to be represented in these types of sittings where vital proposals related to the ongoing conflicts are discussed, their commitment to mediate South Sudan peace will always be questionable.  An Organization such as IGAD whose aim was to see South Sudanese as refugees in the neighboring countries because of the mess up of a fail leadership in their country should never bring peace to South Sudan.  IGAD has to put its house together first before meddling in other’s affairs.

As for South Sudanese who are resisting the current illegitimate government whose aim is to divide South Sudanese along ethnic lines, time will come for such a government with persistence resistance from the masses.  South Sudan is a multi-ethnic States where all ethnic groups stand tall and proud with one another.  A government that is supporting sectarian violence among peaceful ethnic groups is not what South Sudanese fought and voted for at the time of independence.  As for the ongoing confinement of the SPLM-IO Chairman with the help from IGAD countries, it’s interesting that he is confined in a country where an African Icon in the name of Nelson Mandela, went through the same process there, although Mandela himself had gone through Judicial Process.  IGAD will never killed the spirits of South Sudanese in choosing their leader for the quick cash from South Sudan.  That illegitimate South Sudan government may bribed all the nations it want, but TRUTH WILL ALWAYS PREVAIL!

The author can be reached at [email protected].

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