South Sudanese Academics and Professionals letter to U.S. Envoy

Ambassador W. Stuart Symington IV. Photo: Getty Images/File

February 10, 2020

Ambassador W. Stuart Symington IV

Special Envoy for South Sudan

Unites States Department of State

2201 C Street Northwest

Washington, DC 20520

Re: Letter to US Envoy for South Sudan

Dear Ambassador Symington:

February 10, 2020 (SSNA) — The U.S. South Sudanese Academics and Professionals (USSSAP) wishes to congratulate you on your appointment as a special envoy for the troubled nation of South Sudan, Africa’s youngest country. The news of your appointment on January 31, 2020, elated not only the South Sudanese Americans but the entire global community of South Sudanese. So much thought and considerations must have been put into the appointment of an envoy for South Sudan and we are thrilled that your experience and political acumens in working with several African countries distinguished you for the job and will no doubt serve the people of South Sudan well.

We wish to seize this opportunity to thank the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump and the Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo for the wise decision they made to appoint you to the challenging position of special envoy for South Sudan. We are also aware of the efforts of many friends of South Sudan in the United States who remain actively engaged in advocacy for the people of South Sudan. On this occasion, we would like to recognize and thank the group of bipartisan senators, viz Cory A. Booker, U.S. Senator for New Jersey; Johnny Isakson, U.S. Senator for Georgia; Edward J Markey, U.S. Senator for Massachusetts; John Boozman, U.S. Senator for Arkansas; Christopher A. Coons, U.S. Senator for Delaware; and Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator for Florida, who on November 13, 2019, called on the U.S. Secretary of State to appoint a special envoy for South Sudan and here we are today.

Mr. Ambassador, the attempts to resolve the conflict in South Sudan have dragged on for years and failed to produce positive outcomes so far for a reason. We, therefore, urge that the peace process be given a fresh look and possibly a reboot based on what has transpired to this point. To date, the mediators and US-South Sudanese Academics and Professionals ǀ [email protected] ǀ Tel. 515-329-0864

parties that support the peace process have chosen to ignore the destructive trajectory charted by the SPLM leaders since 2005 after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed, culminating in the outbreak of civil war in 2013. One can surmise that the current peace process is an exercise in restoring the SPLM status quo ante than an endeavor to usher in meaningful change in the country and the approach has stoked fear and concern among many South Sudanese. It is also evident that the watered-down revitalized agreement (R-ARCSS) stacked in favor of the incumbent regime has served to embolden the perpetrators of the conflict to engage in obstructionism which is given a blind eye by the mediators and rendered IGAD suspect.

As a brief backdrop to the ongoing conflict and current peace process, it should be remembered that despite an oil boon and windfall of donor funds to rehabilitate South Sudan post the CPA, the SPLM government failed to deliver any services to improve the livelihood of its citizens, be it provision of clean drinking water, improved education, and health services or constructions of roads, to cite a few. Instead, the government engaged in blatant exclusionist practices of power control in the name of “the liberators” and the promotion of tribal hegemony and expansionism. Massive and tacit corruption permeated the SPLM political and military leadership structures and institutions; the rule of law got supplanted with patronage; and the state security apparatus used as a tool of intimidation, repression and cold blood elimination of those who dare speak out against the evil practices of the SPLM regime.

Since the outbreak of the war in December 2013, thousands of people fell victims of targeted or random senseless killings and reprisals, and millions are internally displaced or forced into a refugee in neighboring countries. Millions of citizens face starvation or are threatened by floods and other human-induced or natural disasters, and we have a government that offers no help to support its citizens and relegates the entire burden to international humanitarian organizations. Nonpayment of salaries for months for the poor civil servants eking out a living is the order of the day than an exception even though the oil revenue continues to flow and the siphoning of funds from govern coffers continue unabated. Moreover, cronies and proxies of the government are also engaged under cover of the war, in the exploitation of natural resources including timber and gold to enrich individuals rather than the state.

Mr. Ambassador, as you lead the U.S. efforts to support the peace process and a successful political transition in South Sudan, we implore you to consult US-South Sudanese Academics and Professionals ǀ [email protected] ǀ Tel. 515-329-0864

broadly and take into consideration the voices of the ordinary South Sudanese. As one such voice, we would like to offer the following recommendations and insights on the conflict:

  1. The history and dynamics of the conflict and political rivalry between President Salva Kirr and Dr. Riak Machar have rendered the prospect of achieving a sustainable peace under the two leaders impossible. The current agreement (R-ARCSS) will not strip the two men off their armed ethnic constituencies, nor will it settle their disagreements. Moreover, the two leaders are a spent force that failed to deliver any peace dividends to the South Sudanese people since 2005. It is certain that a transitional government led by the two leaders will never implement changes or reforms in the interest of the people but instead will be used by these leaders to consolidate their power. To achieve meaningful reforms in the transitional period and pave the way for sustainable peace, reconciliation, and socioeconomic and political development in the country, a technocratic visionary leadership capable of transforming the public and private institutions and repair the damaged social fabric in the society is needed. Kiir and Machar must therefore be sidelined during the transitional period and be free to contest in elections of leadership to succeed the transitional government if they happen not to be convicted on the charges likely to be brought against them in the exercise of justice and accountability.
  2. An alternative peace process led by a new non-biased mediation team or organization with a new mandate to negotiate a new peace agreement that is broad-based and all-encompassing to yield a meaningful change in South Sudan is necessary and urgent. In emphasis, the process must not carter only to the interest of armed groups but must include the civil society, women, youth, and the diaspora and it must address the underlying causes of the conflict which triggered the socioeconomic and political grievances in the country. The new agreement must be comprehensive and ensure targeted reforms within the transitional period. A consensus that has emerged is that without a focus of United States engagement on South Sudan, peace will continue to elude the country due to regional politics and gamesmanship which have compromised the role of IGAD.
  3. The socioeconomic attributes, environment and livelihoods of people in South Sudan vary by communities, regions and groups. Therefore, adoption and implementation of a Federal system of governance in the

US South Sudanese Academics and Professionals ǀ [email protected] ǀ Tel. 515-329-0864

transition period is important to ensure social cohesions, equitable power-sharing and sustainable socio-cultural, economic and political development going forward. Under a federal system, state law enforcement will be handled by state authorities, and not the federal government, and this will curb the problem of ‘land grabbing’ and occupation tendencies by certain tribes.

  1. Deliberate ethnic militarization during the SPLM war in South Sudan in preparation for post-war power-grab has enabled the current militarized politics and instability in the country. This underscores the difficulty in the implementation of the security arrangements in the current peace process because the leaders are afraid of losing or diluting their military power base. Moreover, an ethnic military base is viewed as essential insurance for sustaining power and security of the leaders and their ill-gotten wealth. Without any adequate reforms in the security sector, it will always be difficult to ensure a stable government in South Sudan and more so when leadership shifts to someone who is not viewed by the lopsided military establishment as one of their own. In this respect, any agreement reached must include a clear and measured security sector reform process to enable the building of a new national army and security apparatus that reflects diversity of the country. For this to happen, South Sudan needs adequate help to facilitate the process which will likely be challenged and resisted by those with a propensity to dominate.
  2. Grave and extensive human rights violations have been committed in South Sudan against women and children, many of whom have been brutalized, displaced or confined in UN Protection of Civilian sites. Targeted ethnic massacres and extrajudicial killings have been committed. Minorities have been uprooted from their villages and become internally displace or forced to flee for refuge in neighboring countries with no prospect of a return to their ancestral villages and towns some of which have been burned down or occupied. Leadership positions in the transition government, therefore, should not be allowed as a means to circumvent or thwart justice and accountability in South Sudan. An agreement that will not ensure successful implementation of justice and accountability for crimes against humanity and war crimes is a non-starter. The establishment of Hybrid Courts or better still, International Criminal Tribunal for South Sudan or both must be prioritized.

US-South Sudanese Academics and Professionals ǀ [email protected] ǀ Tel. 515-329-0864

  1. To ensure successful reform in the economic sector, efforts must be launched to confront the rampant corruption in South Sudan to ensure that financial resources are put to appropriate use. This could include the creation of an escrow bank account or trust account to which the oil revenue should be remitted and managed by a third party or an entity independent of the government of South such as the UN.
  2. Sanctions targeted on travel or transfer of funds through the US or major international banking institutions are not effective when the individuals sanctioned do not care for travel overseas and stash their money or invest in properties in neighboring countries. The US and UN must, therefore, consider expanding sanctions to include a freeze on funds and properties in neighboring countries and sanctions on regional leaders who provide safe haven for stolen assets and enable South Sudan to evade arms embargo. The US administration which has leverage on the neighboring countries of South Sudan should exert pressure on these countries to cooperate with the implementation of sanctions.

Mr. Ambassador, we wish you every success in your current assignment to help bring focus on the peace process in South Sudan. We look forward to an opportunity to engage with you face to face in the near future.

Sincerely yours


Dr. Henry Y Lejukole | USSSAP Coordinator and Research Scientist, DSM, IA

Dr. Benaiah Yongo-Bure | Professor, Kettering University, Flint, MI

Dr. Jane Kani Edward | Associate Clinical Professor, Fordham University, NY

Dr. Sam Laki | Professor, Central State University, Wilberforce, OH

Dr. Kon K. Madut | Professor, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada

Dr. Wudu Lado | Postdoctoral Fellow, Columbia University, NY

Eng. William Oching | Faculty, British Columbia Institute of Technology, CAN

Cc. Michael R. Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State

Cc. Cory A. Booker, U.S. Senator for New Jersey US South Sudanese Academics and Professionals ǀ [email protected] ǀ Tel. 515-329-0864


Cc. Johnny Isakson, U.S. Senator for Georgia

Cc. Edward J Markey, U.S. Senator for Massachusetts

Cc. John Boozman, U.S. Senator for Arkansas

Cc. Christopher A. Coons, U.S. Senator for Delaware

Cc. Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator for Florida

Cc. Amb. Endre Stiansen, Norwegian Special Envoy for South Sudan

Cc. Amb. Bob Fairweather, U.K. Special Envoy for South Sudan

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