By John Kuek
The IGAD leaders meeting on a sideline in New York(Photo: supplied)
Oct 23, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — IGAD stands for Intergovernmental Authority on Development. This organization was founded in 1986 by the following countries: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, with a focus on development and environmental control. Its mission was revised and upgraded in 1996 to address issues of drought and development in the region. In addition, IGAD’s mission expanded to coordinate and harmonize policies in the areas of socio-economic, agricultural development, environmental protection and political and humanitarian affairs. The new development was viewed positive in the region. Eritrea became independent and joined the group in 1993; South Sudan joined the union and became the eighth member state of IGAD in 2011 after celebrating its independence. With no doubt, IGAD was viewed as an emerging leader by both the African Union and the United Nations.
As IGAD started to act on its programs with speed and enthusiasm, the African Union Peace and Security Council approved an IGAD proposal to deploy Peace Support Mission in Somalia in September of 2006. IGAD played a role of a policeman in the region, trying to keep peace and support developments. On February 21, 2007, the United Nations Security Council approved Resolution 1744, which authorized the deployment of a new African Union Mission to Somalia, relieving IGAD support mission troops. Clearly, one can see that it was a mission of IGAD countries to keep peace and bring development in the region. What was not part of IGAD’s mission was to help the leaders establish dictatorial empires in the region. There is no statement in the IGAD’s policies that supports criminals to stay in power, especially those who kill their own citizens. Now, a fundamental question emerged as the crisis in South Sudan revealed the true color of IGAD and its implicit goals. I would like to ask a paradoxical question, what is the role of the IGAD in East Africa? Is it to bring and maintain peace or create and support chaos? Well, the answer is simple. Let us look at brief stories of some individual leaders of IGAD in the region.
Who is Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, to begin with? This man has a long and negative story in the region. Museveni was involved in rebellions that toppled Ugandan leaders Idi Amin (1971–79) and Milton Obote (1980–85). After the disappearance of these “icons” in the region, the presidents of Burundi and Rwanda and Dr. John Garang of South Sudan, all in airplane crashes, and Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia of an unidentified poisoning, I have given Mr. Museveni a new title, “the cock among the hens” in the region. This man has a lot of blood in his hands. The death of the two presidents, for example, sparked one of the worst genocides in human race after the holocaust killed 80,000 Tutsi in Rwanda. Also, Museveni was suspected in the first Congo war (1996-1997) to have had a hand in it. He has long been suspected of John Garang’s death, which remains an unsolved mystery today. The three inexperienced leaders, Paul Kagame, Uhuru Kenyatta, Hailemariam Desalegn are Mr. Museveni’s subordinates and cronies as is his key bodyguard, Salva Kiir. All are simply taking orders from him. Ugandan troops are everywhere in the region, which Mr. Museveni is using in an act of demagoguery.
Look at what has been going on in Somalia; is conflict in Somalia different from what is currently taking place in South Sudan? In the Somalian conflict, the international actors are either naïve of the reality on the ground or are just keeping eyes on their mere interests. Both international and regional actors have been providing interest based support, either weapons or money to different warring groups within the same country. This has made Somalia a chaotic country with anarchy, which will take years if not decades to resolve. The international actors, such the Arab states and Western states, have been drawn into Somalia’s conflict for various reasons including the prevention of terrorists from establishing roots in the region, acquiring new battle grounds and resources. At the regional level, the conflicting interests of IGAD member states in Somalia made it very difficult for the adoption of a common position by Somalians. There is no doubt that those few IGAD member states’ leaders are building an empire of dictators in the 21st century in East Africa. May be the so called “stable countries” in the region are benefiting financially from these chaos and oppression.
In the South Sudanese conflict, which really prompts this commentary, Mr.Yoweri Museveni, along with his inexperienced followers and the rest of the IGAD leaders came out with a bold statement condemning Dr. Riek Machar, as if he was the perpetrator of the Juba Nuer massacre. Mr. Museveni and his followers bowed to capture Riek in a few days if he refused to give up fighting. Their statement is a clue to their hidden interest in the South Sudan. Museveni is the cause and driving force in the conflict of South Sudan. One thing the South Sudanese government does not know is the fact that Museveni does not like or respect Salva Kiir as a leader in South Sudan. He portrayed Salva Kiir as a fool in that Mr. Museveni would not play his dirty tricks with because Salva could expose both of them to the world. Why has Mr. Museveni despised Riek Machar? He views Riek as an emerging leader in the region just like he did with John Garang, who would had the potential to unite the entire continent of Africa and at the same time eastern Africa.
Mr. Museveni is clearly a confused and unwise leader. He prefers to manipulate and control others for his own self-interests. Given his underlying motives, Mr. Museveni now has two missions in the South Sudanese war- to get rid of Riek Machar by any means possible and to also get rid of Salva, thus opening the door to force his own agenda. A good example is a new military corporation recently signed between Uganda and South Sudan, which paves the way for South Sudan government to smuggle guns and ammunitions in blackmailing the arm embargo policy imposed on South Sudan recently. This military corporation is unnecessary at this crucial time of peace negotiation for the people of South Sudan. One of the reasons that the peace talk became stalled in Addis Ababa is Ugandan military present in South Sudan. Have IGAD member states agreed to fight alongside the government of South Sudan? Also, the international observers have not reacted against this military agreement; are they for it? What is the reason for this peace to move forward, while it has been violated in a broad daylight by both the IGAD member state and the perpetrator of this war, Salva Kiir?
Why IGAD not serious about this peace process? Here is one of the reasons. The peace process in Addis Ababa has been slowed down due to numerous regional and international interests around it. Though IGAD is the leading broker of this peace, the international players are holding the key of the whole process. Troika members including the United States are the key players in this peace process by steering the process from behind the stage. With this, anyone would agree that IGAD as an institution faces many external challenges. In addition, the organization lacks leaders whose interest is to bring true and just peace, and stability in the region. I admired Ethiopia for maintaining neutrality in this South Sudanese war, though it lacks the financial capacity to push successfully and forcefully its peace initiatives forward.
IGAD Achievements in the Region
Credit must always be submitted where it dues. Despite these challenges noticed above, IGAD as an organization has done a magnificent job in bringing the Somali crisis to the attention of the international community, though it seems to have taken things easily enough, notwithstanding the sorrow and suffering that surrounded them on every side in the region. IGAD facilitated peace between Ethiopia and Somalia as well.
Within the IGAD policies, great emphasis was given to the peaceful settlement of regional conflicts as a means for achieving sustainable development. IGAD member states agreed to invest time and money to the following agenda items: to take effective collective measures to eliminate threats to regional cooperation, peace, and stability; to establish effective mechanisms of consultation and cooperation for the peaceful settlement of differences and disputes; and, to agree to deal with disputes between member states within this sub-regional mechanism before they are referred to other regional or international organizations (IGAD 1996). With this aim, three priority areas were identified: a.) conflict prevention, management and humanitarian affairs; b.) infrastructure development and food security; and c.) environmental safety control. IGAD has capitalized on the peace process between the Sudanese warring parties (the north-south conflict) and achieved it with a mighty help from the United States under President George W. Bush.
IGAD had earned an outstanding grade on that particular mission. With no doubt, the Somali and Sudanese peace processes was one of the major reasons that rendered the transformation of IGAD, hoping to do more in the region. To keep the region safe, IGAD members agreed to not support any “coup” plotter at all. This initiative was used by Yoweri Museveni and Salva Kiir to started war on December 15, 2014 in South Sudan, to kill Dr. Riek Machar and his political colleagues and pronounce the killing a coup and scapegoat it on the dead. God knew that what Museveni and Salva planned was harmful to the whole nation; thanks God Dr. Riek and all the political detainees survived. Now that Dr. Riek and his political allies survived and spoken the truth, IGAD leaders have no legitimate reason to gang up against the SPLM/A in Opposition. Clearly, IGAD has no use for the region as a few members are promoting their own selfish interests. Everything has a starting and an ending point. IGAD’s mandate to provide services to the region will come to an end soon. Learning the truth about IGAD’s interest, I am afraid that some prominent member states will withdraw their membership in just a matter of time when they discovered the hidden interests of a few leaders among them.
The Ending of IGAD Legitimacy in the Region
Here is what IGAD leaders have overlooked in this current crisis. South Sudan has been strained recently to the continuation of regional instability. This could probably be the worst turning point in the region if IGAD member states do not pay attention to the damage they have created and are also supporting. The region needs to look back to what had happened to both Ethiopia and Somalia during the Cold War. Indeed, the Cold War led to the end of dictatorial regimes in Ethiopia and Somalia and “the ideological differences and military confrontations associated with it” (Kinfe 2006). The newly “emerging leaders” in the post-Cold War era wanted to promote policies of peaceful relations and a new era of cooperation and co-existence. This was one of the ways to unite the East African countries, such as Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region as a one giant continental business hub for entire Africa. This promise is now slipping away as the member states started pursuing their individual and perhaps selfish-interests. Instead of uniting the region with collaboration between all the member states in the region, handling issues with care and dignity, Mr. Museveni, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame have lately appeared to expand their territories and operate in trilateral “coalition” in a rather zealous and oblique integration with Tanzania and Burundi while bypassing Tanzania and other states.
Tanzania has warned that any efforts to sideline it while fast-tracking the East African Federation could cause failure for the whole regional integration project. Dr. Ladislaus Komba, Tanzania’s High Commissioner to Uganda, reiterates on the interest based policies of some of the IGAD member states leaders and predicted “doom” for the East Africa Community if alienation and disconnectedness in some states continued. How about between Uganda and Sudan, LRA and the SPLM/A North? South Sudan invited the SPLM/A North and Darfur groups to the war, fighting alongside the government. The Ugandan military has armed these rebels, hoping they get rid of Riek Machar’s forces and continue through Sudanese territory to help change the regime in Khartoum. When and if Sudan understands exactly what Uganda and South Sudan are doing, it will do the same with South Sudanese rebels. The two countries will start fighting a proxy war, which could lead to a serious confrontation between the two countries. When this happens, what will the rest of IGAD countries do, Ethiopia and Kenya, for example? Will they remain neutral or join the play in the field, on which side? How about other interests around the world, such as the Islamic fundamentalists in West and North Africa? What message is this to the region? I am going to leave it to those regional analysts to ponder.
Pitfalls on the Current Peace Proposal
Upon studying the IGAD’s current peace proposal for South Sudan, the layout has not deviated that much from a road map to lasting peace in South Sudan that we have all yearned for. However, this IGAD proposal fell short of addressing what brought this “senseless war” to this young country in the first place. This document infers the truth behind IGAD’s plan, which is to not eliminate the conflict, but rather to help manage it in a productive way. Though IGAD countries have been tirelessly working on this emerging regional wars, there have been three major competing interests that have hindered the peace process and which remain unaddressed: a.) power-based, b.) rights-based and c.) interests-based. The three key players in this peace process, IGAD, the government of South Sudan and the SPLM/A in Opposition, have lined up behind these three issues. IGAD should have been the one to identify these differences and come up with a mechanism to bridge gaps and arrive to a resolution that the country needs.
Power is often expressed through the use of authority, oppression, neglect, threats, and separation of people and groups. IGAD member countries have one thing in common which is to remain in power as long as possible. Any resolutions proposed toward removal of a president in power are viewed by this organization as going up against the interests of, or contrary to, IGAD and not in aiding the situation in South Sudan. IGAD member countries were originally expected to use their formal and informal authority to broker a resolution to this country’s problems, but it is heartbreaking to see that they have neglected this fundamental premise stipulated in their guidelines.
In the case of the Juba Nuer massacre, which occurred on December 15-18, 2013 in South Sudan, the SPLM/A in Opposition did not need to conduct any form of research to convene a meeting with IGAD members to prove to them that indeed the massacre took place. This massacre has been documented by various humanitarian groups and the United Nation that it is clearly considered an obvious form of genocide. Why did IGAD mediators not act based on the facts? Now, IGAD is rewarding the very government that just committed this despicable crime with more power to kill more innocent people again and again. The rights-based approach is the card played by the SPLM/A in Opposition to tell the world that the president lost his legitimate position on December 15, and therefore, he could no longer serve as the president. The key players or brokers in this process did not want to hear this fact because they knew that it is real.
A real and genuine interests-based approach is oriented toward problem-solving based on the needs of those involved, and not based on subjective feelings and politics. The party at fault and even the perpetrator often tries to move forward with the explicit goal of forgetting what happened and move on to a new chapter. The South Sudanese government is playing this card, saying a legitimate government cannot be asked to step aside before its term ends. The IGAD member countries seem to be favoring this claim rather than addressing the root causes of the conflict. That is, they are siding with the current government. This begs a crucial question: Why have the IGAD countries not moved in the direction of pushing for the current leadership to abandon South Sudan since the hallmark of the current government is pure corruption, hatred, and totalitarianism? The answer to this question is rather simple, the IGAD mediators are equally part of the corruption and have no interest in seeing to it that South Sudan become a peaceful and democratic country. In Kenya’s conflict between the Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, Uganda created this very system IGAD is now attempting to impose on the South Sudanese rebels.
Can all three approaches be combined for the benefits of solving this very conflict? The answer of course is YES. All these methods-authority-based, right-based, and interest-based- can be useful and are deemed necessary in this current political situation. As a mediator, you have to acknowledge that such a thing had occurred, but you have to take a tough stand to resolve it. Meeting with warring parties, other parties and civil society to discuss the needs of everyone involved also can be instrumental in moving toward an interest-based solution, which the SPLM/A in Opposition longs for. The IGAD mediators can assist the warring parties to move from their complaints to understanding their own interests. Their complaints are often based on their position or perceived unfairness. They are often all-or-nothing statements and in the end only one person’s solution to the problem. Interests, on the other hand, are the motivations that are often unspoken and based on personal values and experiences. They are the reasons behind the complaint that IGAD favored one side or the other.
The IGAD proposal to ending the war in South Sudan notes 28 items to be implemented by the warring parties and other stakeholders. Below are the five items which I consider to be the most problematic.
First, there shall be no third vice president in this federal transitional government if this is what the IGAD want to introduce to the South Sudanese people.
Second, like Rwanda and Ethiopia in the region, the prime minister in South Sudan should be the one entrusted to implement national policies and leading the government to negotiate what is best for the country as defined by the stakeholders, the citizens of the country. The prime minister shall also be entrusted with the function of formulating the government programs of action in consultation with council of ministers. Third, the prime minister of the TGONU shall be eligible to stand for any public office in the national elections at the end of the transitional period. What in the world the IGAD is doing, proposing a useless prime minister position for the Opposition? I am wondering if this makes sense to IGAD members themselves. This document is an invitation of more conflicts, nothing less. Anybody would disown this cheap and shallow proposal to end this intensive war. It does not address a solution to this war in any way.
Fourth, it would make sense if the IGAD proposes that the executive of the transitional government shall comprise the president, the prime minister and council of ministers. I am not in favor of this model at all any way. Why not using the same system that is already in use? We need a president and a vice president system. Regardless of any of these methods, now, the debate would lie in WHO is going to lead this transitional government of national unity and complete all the steps discussed and approved in the peace talk? Will Salva lead this transitional government until election and be able to follow all the steps to ensure war does not happen again? If this is what IGAD believes and wants, it is not going to solve the problem. It’s indeed better to keep searching for a better scenario until a solution is sorted than reaching a cheap deal now only to return to war in a few months after. Salva would not want to change the status quo at all in South Sudan. He has forgotten the very reason he fought the Khartoum government for and the people who fought with him that he fought to change the status quo. He gestures this already in his circumstantial speeches that he does not want federal system and no Riek Machar again in his government.
Finally, I agree to the fact that a permanent constitution be reconstructed and used by the transitional government, and shall be based on federalism, being mindful of diversity with more power to states. This process will only be achieved under a different leader than Salva Kiir. Once this proposed structure is put in place and lead by a true nationalist, whose interest is to promote peaceful co-existent of all different ethnicities and believes, the country will be peaceful forever.
In closing this author believes that to bring a lasting peace to South Sudan this peace process needs to be forward to the African Union as the second step. IGAD leaders have been playing around with it and got stuck already. They are dancing between the truth and favoritism to their colleague more than solving the war. The South Sudanese people worldwide want to see this war comes to an end soon. They also need to have a model in place that will guarantee their co-existing forever. Salva Kiir made Nuer and Dinka believe that they are enemies to each other’s. This is not true. It was not an intention of the Dinka of South Sudan to kill the Nuer. It was Salva Kiir who wants to remain in power, and was intimidated by the present of Nuer figures who could claim the same right as anybody in South Sudan to run for the president, should an opportunity presents itself.
The author has a PhD in psychology. He is a South Sudanese living in the United States. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org