SSHURSA PUBLIC STATEMENT ON SOUTH SUDAN’S NATIONAL DIALOGUE
May 30th, 2017(Nyamilepedia) —– The South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy(SSHURSA) notes the launch of ‘National Dialogue’ by South Sudan President Salva Kiir, who installed himself as its Patron. The launch took place on 22 May 2017 in South Sudan’s capital, Juba. Though SSHURSA considers a national dialogue as one of the ways a country can choose to deal with its myriad issues tearing or which have torn it apart, yet the national dialogue launched by President Kiir suffers significant shortcomings which include the following:
- The said National Dialogue is part of the reconciliation and healing processes under article 2(2.1.3 ) of Chapter I of the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan(ARCISS), signed by the parties in August 2015. It is supposed to be implemented along other functions of a joint government under the Agreement. Then giving it notable priority alone over other provisions of the Agreement, seems to destroy any good intention towards the implementation of the Agreement. National Diolauge is assumed to take place under calm situations where the then expected harmonious Transitional Government of National Unity(TGoNU) could have been in place by the main signatories to the Agreement. The Agreement virtually suffered and collapsed after violence in July 2016 in Juba. The violence again sets the country into the ongoing civil war. Therefore, a national dialogue cannot be handled alone while paying no attention to the main provisions of the Agreement.
- President Kiir is one of the key parties to the ongoing conflict and he cannot thus be the lead Patron, overseeing a national dialogue intended to resolve causes of the same conflict.
- The timing for a national dialogue is not right. South Sudan is now bleeding, with civil war raging all over the country. The warring parties are still in active combat, famine is looming, violence remains the greatest threat to the civil populations and punctuated by constant human rights abuses. National Dialogue as of now, cannot therefore, be the wise choice to assume that it will by itself, miraculously put off the ongoing war in the country.
- The membership to the launched national dialogue is exclusively dominated by President Kiir’s friends, allies and members of the ruling Sudan’s People Liberation Movement(SPLM) party. Practically speaking, a national dialogue with genuine intents to restore stability in a war-torn South Sudan, should have been designed in a manner that involves key armed opposition actors under main armed Opposition Leader Dr Riek Machar. It should involve opposition political parties, key civil society groups, grassroots community leaders, religious groups among others who are inside and outside South Sudan. A well intended national dialogue should be participatorily inclusive yet the current national dialogue lacks such ingredients of inclusivity. In frank terms, the government is conducting a national dialogue with itself and its allies.
- The Venue of the launched national dialogue is not neutral. Apart from its lack of inclusivity, even if the other South Sudanese such as the armed opposition and political parties outside the country who now absent in the dialogue, were to be included, still they would not have attended such a national dialogue held in Juba. This setback has been demonstrated so far by members of Former Detainees(SPLM Leaders) who turned down their appointment. It is naturally to observe that a genuinely-thought out and planned national dialogue would have been convened at a neutrally secure venue for all to freely attend and not in Juba as it is. Those who left Juba in fear for their lives from South Sudan’s government, could not be assumed to return to the same city for a dialogue when hasn’t been a proces which involved them to first resolve issues which made them flee.
South Sudan’s cohesive social and political fabrics have been shattered apart by the hatred manifested in brutalities and human rights abuses perpetuated in the ongoing violence. The country has reached a point where business cannot be done as usual. It would need honest and practical approaches beyond the ordinary national, regional and international indifference towards a comprehensive solution to resolve recurrence of violence, abuses of human rights, famine in South Sudan and to save the country from fragmented economy and likely disintegration into tribal enclaves. The present situation if allowed to go on, will continue projecting dire consequences not only on South Sudan’s survival as growing nascent state but also such consequences would be felt in the region. In a bid to rescue the situation, SSHURSA adds it voice to the many voices appaled by the situation on the ground and it therefore, recommends the following:
To the Government of South Sudan under President Salva Kiir:
- Take full direct commitment to ensure that unilateral ceasefire significantly remains respected by the government forces.
- Instead of pursuing partial National Dialogue, despite challenges, commit to a genuine new political process that would revive the 2015 Peace Agreement through which among others, an inclusively embraced national dialogue can be legislatively designed, carried out and with honest commitment to implement its outcome.
- Take committed courage to face the fact that the country is collapsing under your leadership and that a Political Process that is well intended to end the ongoing violence will not only need the roundtable involvement of your then main Peace Partner Dr Riek Machar but also other emerging and existing non and armed opposition parties inside and outside South Sudan.
- Take unusual steps forward to directly ensure that relief and humanitarian agencies are not obstructed by the government forces to reach the famine-striken counties of Leer, Mayendit and other areas of South Sudan. Your office should ensure that relief is not continued to be used as a tool to intentionally starve and let die the famine-hit civilians in armed opposition controlled areas. These are South Sudanese people dying and it is the work of any patriotic South Sudanese to save lives of civilians without preferences to ethnic, geographical or regional background and political affliations. Your government should do just that.
- Commit to the practical initiation of the idea of joint humanitarian arrangement with all armed oppositions having controlled terroritories in South Sudan. The advocatd for relief arrangement should be under a neutral body like any of the United Nations humanitarian agencies. This will show genuine commitment of saving lives and stopping usual government forces’ obstructions of humanitarian agencies.
- Despite previous failure, make new commitment to ensure that those who abuse human rights and international humanitarian law among the government forces and its supported allies or militia groups, are identified and legally held accountable.
- Allow free and indiscriminate corridor and passage for all civilians who want to cross to safety in neighbouring countries.
- Desist from exclusive and inflamatory langauge against political opponents because hate speech and inflamatory langauge further incites violence in South Sudan and keep bitterness among local communities. This raises emotional outbursts which are translated to violence hence preventing further chances of any genuine efforts for peace and reconciliation.
To the armed Opposition: SPLM/A-IO under Dr Riek Machar
- Commit to full and unconditional ceasefire all over South Sudan in SPLM/A-I0 controlled areas.
- Ensure full commitment to a new political process that is aimed at ending raging violence in order to allow atmosphere conducive for a political process that will ensure restoring stability and saving the country from looming possible disintegration into tribal factions.
- Ensure humanitarian agencies are accorded free access in SPLM/A-IO controlled areas to deliver relief services to the civilians.
- Commit to continued push for a joint humanitarian and relief arrangement with government to ensure that humanitarian and relief services are delivered to all civilians in dire need.
- Ensure protection of human rights and respect of international humanitarian law by SPLM/A-IO forces and that those found to have and be violating human rights, are held accountable.
To the regional and international bodies(IGAD, AU, UN, TROIKA and others):
- Appreciate the dire climax which violence in South Sudan has reached and therefore, overcome indifference, then commit to a united voice and language to approach South Sudan’s conflict.
- Instead of supporting a partial national dialogue, but encourage, push and pressure the warring parties, other non and armed political actors to ensure that they commit to a new politcal process to end the war. The new political process should not be imagined on usual theoretical assumptions but on factual and situational realities of South Sudan that have been prevailing on the ground. This will therefore, require inclusive approach to involve all non and armed political actors including Dr Riek Machar and his main armed SPLM/A-IO . It is only inclusive process that will finally stop bleeding in South Sudan.
- Appreciate the significant interests-dilemma IGAD leaders are faced with in approaching South Sudan’s conflict. This calls for a new approach, thus SSHURSA recommends that South Sudan peace file, is removed from IGAD to be handled by African Union but supported by IGAD, UN and other regional and international bodies.
- Pressure for speedy deployment of a Regional Protection Force. United efforts and voice of the regional and international actors genuinely feeling sufferings of South Sudanese civilians, will ensure full and urgent deployment of this force to protect civilians.
- Unite to ensure that push for arms embargo on South Sudan remains alive within the UN Security Council. In addition to arms embargo, individual sanctions on those political and military figures who have been and continue obstructing efforts towards genuine political process to end violence in South Sudan, should be implemented.
SSHURSA is a nongovernmental and nonpolitical human rights organisation founded on 5 June 2007 by South Sudanese lawyers and law students in Kampala, Uganda. Its vision; a democratic, peaceful, human rights and rule of law abiding South Sudan. It areas of focus are in human rights education, documentation and monitoring, constitution, rule of law, transitional justice and peacebuilding, legal aid and counseling among others. For more information on the above statement or about SSHURSA, Contact SSHURSA Executive Director Biel Boutros Biel on e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, www.sshursa.org.
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