Salva Kiir’s Unilateral Ceasefire is a Decoy!

By Deng Elijah,

Analysis.

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir decorates newly appointed army chief General James Ajongo during his swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Juba, South Sudan, May 10, 2017(Photo: file)

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir decorates newly appointed army chief General James Ajongo during his swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Juba, South Sudan, May 10, 2017(Photo: file)

June 13, 2017(Nyamilepedia) —— As South Sudan conflict spirals into its 4th year, much of the euphoria many South Sudanese had during referendum and independent in 2011 continued to be betrayed by the very leaders who pride themselves as the “beacons of hopes” for the youngest nation in the world; a country that was deemed to prosper to be one of the economic giants and a breadbasket for the region, and many parts of Africa. As the major producer of oil in Eastern Africa, and the third largest oil producer in the continent, South Sudan was expected to develop its infrastructure, agriculture, and tourism at a speed of light to set her upfront against her competitors. Because of her small population, less than 12 millions people, a booming economy would have attracted skilled workers and investors, including South Sudanese from diaspora, to rush to Juba to scramble for opportunities.

Sadly, due to a failed leadership in the country, the citizens are no longer yawning for developments but for peace and economic restoration. Hundreds of citizens are dying every week because of man-made civil war, tribal feuds, famine and diseases. Unfortunately, only Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar Teny hold the keys to restore peace and stability. This has been complicated by the fact that the protagonist’s vested interest is to eliminate his opponents or any person who questions his thrown so that he and a few of his inner circle, mostly relatives, yes-men and easy-going women, can enjoy the cake of independence. This vested interests drive the conflict as reflected in many flagrant violations of permanent ceasefire agreements and lack of commitments to implement the peace agreement in letter and spirit

The latest call for unilateral ceasefire by President Salva Kiir, like the “national dialogue” and many other unilateral initiatives, was not intended to cease hostilities permanently as it may sounds but a political decoy to lure other armed opposition groups to lay down their guns during the rainy season or risked being targeted by the region and the international community for violence.

Repeat of July 2016 3 Days War in the Capital

President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar giving speeches after the bodyguards fought and killed themselves on July 8th, 2016 at J1(Photo: file)

President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar giving speeches after the bodyguards fought and killed themselves on July 8th, 2016 at J1(Photo: file)

As witnessed on July 9th, after a failed attempt to assassinate Dr. Machar at the Presidential Palace on July 8th in which over 90% of his bodyguards were killed, Salva Kiir phoned Dr. Riek to return to the table; a deadly scene that has claimed Machar’s son and other relatives. How sensible was that?

Even if the fighting on July 8th was not a conspiracy to kill Dr. Machar, there was no reasonable ground for Salva Kiir to call Machar for a talk within the first 24 hours. A real leader should have swallowed his pride and apologize for the incident given that it transpired in his heavily armed compound and also because he is the “president”. Undoubtedly, Mr. Kiir never issue an executive order for a national day of mourning or for the flag to be flown at half-staff as a mark of respect for the death of over 300 presidential guards and civilians. If such a day is not historic, then what else would be historic to Mr. President? Instead, he went on to persuade Dr. Machar to return to J1 to address the situation when everyone was still in fighting mood!

When Dr. Machar refused to return to J1 on July 9th, Kiir ordered his troops to attack Machar’s residence at Jebel Kujur the following morning. Despite many calls from Dr. Machar, begging him to restrain his ground and air forces, Kiir denied responsibility claiming that he did not order his troops to attack him; however, when it began to get dark, president Kiir was able to declare a unilateral ceasefire which was reiterated by Machar.

On Sunday morning, the July 11th, Salva Kiir air crafts and ground forces stormed Jebel again, and bombed Machar and Simon Gatwech Dual’s compounds. The intention was crystal clear, and that was to hunt down the big men. This fighting went on for another 10 to 12 hours before its get dark again, and then Kiir declared another unilateral ceasefire. This was the time the SPLM/A-IO leadership learned that Salva Kiir has declared a full scale war and therefore they had to tactically withdraw from Juba.

The reason Salva Kiir declared unilateral ceasefires in the evening and they were obeyed by his troops, although he claimed that he was not in full control of some elements in his army, was strategically to avoid fighting in the dark. At night, SPLA-IO would have had greater advantages over the SPLA-IG, who were not going to be able to use some of their heavy weapons, and air crafts.

At night more civilians would have been killed in crossfire or in a house-to-house raid by the SPLA-IO or their supporters if they chose to revenge the massacres of December 2013. Kiir and Gen. Malong were fully aware of dire consequences of any fighting at night in a densely populated in Juba, and therefore they banked on Machar’s cooperation, which he luckily rendered but subsequently betrayed.

Similarly, the recent unilateral ceasefire by President Salva Kiir and Taban Deng Gai is a hoax to lure Dr. Machar to declare a unilateral ceasefire. If Dr. Riek goes to declare a similar unilateral ceasefire, although Kiir’s unilateral ceasefire has already been violated by his troops, the two factions may cease hostilities for a few months but SPLA-Kiir will resume offensives as soon as the rainy season ends.  This would give Kiir’s faction an advantage to retain areas they have captured this dry season and a chance to recruit and train more soldiers, and to purchase weapons for the next dry season.

Moreover, Kiir’s unilateral ceasefire is a political wildcard to frame the SPLA-IO as the violence group that should be punished by the regional and the international communities. In the worst case scenario, Juba will campaign to get Dr. Machar sanctioned, travel banned or deported to Juba if he refuses to declare a unilateral ceasefire; as much as they could wish! Juba may also try to campaign for a military support from IGAD countries and AU to fight SPLA-IO to surrender; however, given that Kiir’s faction has been ruthlessly violent this political ploy is to weak to achieve such wishful objectives.

Recommendations.

1. South Sudan needs peace and for any peace to be implemented and successfully restored, all the warring factions must return to table to review the terms of Permanent Ceasefire and Security arrangements. Once reviewed, the two leaders will declare and respect Permanent Ceasefire.

2. For ceasefire to be effective, the two warring factions must accept deployment of Regional Protection Force to act as a buffer zone between the two forces in major towns like Juba, Malakal, Yei and Bentiu.

3. Expedite integration of SPLA-IO-Taban group into SPLA/M-IG before Salva Kiir declares a permanent ceasefire; otherwise, if president Salva Kiir does not recognize Taban’s defection to his camp, then the SPLM-IO should call for an inclusive convention for all its members to converge at the headquarters in Pagak to resolve their differences.

4. Should Taban Deng Gai group incline to be independent, then they should form their own party like other opposition groups and find their means to participate in peace implementation.

5. Lastly, SPLM/A-IO and other opposition groups should accept to join the newly proposed High Level Revitalization Forum but must study it carefully, and try to unite their ranks and files before joining; otherwise, this forum could be another hoax, designed by the protagonists, to buy time during the rainy season.


The author, Deng Elijah, is the Executive Director of Nyamilepedia. He can be reached through his personal email at dengsimon2000 at yahoo dot com or through nyamilepedia at gmail dot com.

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