WHO ‘S TO BLAME FOR THE FAILURE TO ACHIEVE PEACE IN SOUTH SUDAN?

BY DANIEL JUOL NHOMNGEK, KAMPALA, UGANDA

A batch of Rwandan forces arrive in Juba as part of the strong 4000 Regional Protection Force earlier this month, Aug 2017(Photo: file)

A batch of Rwandan forces arrive in Juba as part of the strong 4000 Regional Protection Force earlier this month, Aug 2017(Photo: file)

Sept 07, 2017(Nyamilepedia) —– The conflict in South Sudan has been described as complex. This conclusion is reached because in South Sudan every person angry but with no one in particular. The presence of conflict is seen visibly in the way citizens react and conduct themselves in relation to each other and to the government.

Citizens are blaming each other, government employees are blaming their master, rebels are defecting and counter defecting while citizens are constantly faced with fearing of deaths and leaders at laughing but amidst these disaffections the leaders who are purported to be fighting are whenever they meet at negotiating table they talk happily and greet each other in brotherly love.  

What complicates and even makes the situation in South Sudan complex is the crisis of socio-citizenship. The failure to create inclusive and strong system of governance has fostered the already existing division and hatred among South Sudanese that was created by successive Northern governments before 2005.

The situation as described above creates a serious challenge to central authority. Marginalized citizens who have become disgruntled against the system in general hate the authority as a result. This disgruntlement from the marginalized or peripheral communities of South Sudan has made them to stage new patterns of civil conflict that does not have a clear central command.

The lack of central command makes the conflict even more dangerous to everybody in the country. Currently, the citizens kill each other as they wish: a killing without any accountability.

It is sad to see the previous united and developing citizenship based on a multi-ethnic nation-state that punctuated the pre-South Sudan struggle against the North across Southern Sudan is everywhere now being challenged by notions of tribalized and ethicized citizenship based on ethnicity.  Contrary to what is going on now in South Sudan, before and immediately after independence, citizenry there was expectation that there the system of governance in South Sudan was going to be inclusive in regard to political power, decision-making and access to economic and other opportunities.

However, the prevalence of kleptocracy and patrimonial systems established by the SPLM rebel leaders turned politicians led to the exclusion of majority of South Sudan that fostered hatred and localized ethnic and political’ identities, and then to unequal development and widespread disaffection. The disaffection we currently witness everywhere in South Sudan now is something has its basis in history of the unequal relationship between Northern and Southern Sudan and how ethnicities were used to maintain this unequal relationship and ethnic divisions.

To maintain division among Southern Sudan communities as a means of weakening South Sudanese, Northern Sudan created the ethnic stereotypes and divisive patterns that fuelled ethnic tension fostered by ethnic identities, thus sowing the seeds of competition and conflict along ethnic fault-lines. Consequently, South Sudanese sixty four or so tribes or communities found themselves in this legacy of divided-and-ruled that was intended specifically to protect the power of Islamic regime in Khartoum from 1950s to 2005.  

When Southern Sudan was created after signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (the CPA) in 2005 the ethnic and identity politics was there and it was expected that the SPLM that was ruling Southern Sudan from 2005 to 2011 and then South Sudan from 2011 to date would work hard to dismantle this ethnicity and identity politics by coming up with one South Sudan policy to force all South Sudan forge unity based on justice, liberty and prosperity.

However, regrettably,  putting SPLM Party in charge of the part of the country likely Southern Sudan from 2005 to 2011 and then in charge of a country like South Sudan from 2011 to date proved to be disastrous. This is because the SPLM installed a system headed by kleptomaniacs. These kleptomaniacs established the confused system of governance which turned South Sudan to not one party with, no, state at all or no-party military systems. This confused system enabled them to siphon public resources away with impunity.

After clearing or almost clearing the Central Bank of South Sudan and while the country was put under economic intensive care and as they did not know how to explain their actions to the citizens, they decided to call themselves to Freedom Hall in Juba to plan how to escape from being questioned by the citizens on misappropriation of the public funds.

The agreement reached in the Freedom Hall was that they should quarrel and accuse each other on ground of framed non-existing coup. This was just to create conflict that divided citizens along ethnic line so that the citizens are kept busy fighting among themselves and by implications forget the misdeeds of the politicians. It was from Freedom Hall the conflict started and spread like a wildfire in the West as ethnicity and identity politics provide a strong cultural medium for it to continue.

Unfortunately instead of the regional and international bodies coming in to put more pressure on the leaders to sort out their political differences, they instead have ‘fostered uncertainties and inequalities that have reinforced primordial sensibilities and recidivist ideologies, inspiring the atomization of political processes’; hence, fuelling the ethnic and tribal conflict in South Sudan even more.

Moreover, the direct and indirect role of the forces of economic globalisation in South Sudan’s ethnic wars also tends to transform the conflict into a ‘business war. In fact, South Sudan is now witnessing increasing involvement of mercenary companies in the conflict ‘in ways that carry eerie memories of colonial pillage and violence’. The mention of Black Water in South Sudan in 2016 during the July conflict and the presence of Chinese companies, Canadian, Nigeria Oil companies and many others that are not interested only in exploiting South Sudan oil and other natural resources but to maintain the war shows that the conflict is basically being driven by economic interest. The war enables them to secure access to mineral-producing areas in return for direct payments and commercial concessions from government officials.

To make matters worse, the government officials are conspiring with these foreign companies to steal the money and oil. For instance, there has been disturbing report that some big people in the heart of the government are deliberately putting the down the oil production just to maximize profits or to use the part of the oil that they sell at black markets for their own profits leaving nation bleeding in shortage of foreign currencies and skyrocketing oil and food prices.

Apart from the above, the international oil cartel are fuelling conflict at different levels in South Sudan purposely to keep the country divided so that they are able to loot the resources without being questioned.  To be fair, the conduct of these international oil corporations is not only affecting South Sudan but Africa as a whole. This has been pointed out by Gerard Hagg and Peter Kagwanja in their seminal work entitled: Identity and Peace:  Reconfiguring Conflict Resolution in Africa. In this work, they noted that:

“Linkages between international corporations and the region have exacerbated conflict on a number of levels: not only do they provide financial incentives for contenders for power, but they have also employed mercenaries to provide security for commercial extractive ventures…In addition, international regulation regimes and other legal restrictions often make the black market more profitable. These restrictions provide financial incentives for cooperation to engage in business ventures with whoever controls and delivers state resources, regardless of the impact on local population or the political repercussions for the state.”

Thus, the conflict in South Sudan though disastrous to the ordinary citizens, it is beneficial to multi-international corporations, business community and leaders or government officials in South Sudan. The benefits obtained from the conflict by South Sudanese leaders far outweigh the benefits they may get if they bring peace. This is why it is not desirable for them to bring peace at any time soon. In fact, there are some indications that South Sudanese leaders are not interested in bringing peace very soon as indicated by the following examples:

First, the destruction of 2015 Peace Agreement by the President and Riek Machar is one of the examples which show that leaders of South Sudan are not interested in peace to come to the country. The destruction of the 2015 Peace Agreement that was begun with the President signing the Peace Agreement with reservations as if it were an international Agreement, which was the beginning of the end of Peace Agreement of 2015. Riek with his unbridled desired for power and reckless conduct threw himself into plan already made to destroy 2015 Agreement, hence, the government is now busy blaming Riek Machar yet it was the one who created weakness in the Peace Agreement by signing it with reservations.

Second, after chasing away Dr. Riek and to avoid being forced to renegotiate Peace Agreement, the Government came up with its own version of the SPLM/A-IO, which does not have any touch with the realities on the ground. This was a ploy by the government to maintain the status quo and to keep Dr. Riek away and as a way of maintaining the already destroyed peace agreement.

The fact that the SPLM/A-IO in Juba was formed with the new leader to replace Dr. Riek Machar has not ended the hostilities on the ground shows that the SPLM/A-IO in Juba does not have a control on the ground and also the Peace Agreement no longer in existence. Rather, it appears that the Government and the SPLM/A-IO in Juba are capitalizing in using opportunists who carry out killings and other terrorist acts against innocent civilians in different parts of the country and then defected to Juba to get promoted under the auspices of the SPLM/A-IO in Juba to show that the Peace Agreement is working.

The above assertion is supported by the fact that though the SPLM/A-IO in Juba continually promoting serial criminals or killers, the government is just comfortable with these promotions since it is in its best interest to keep the world misinformed that the peace is still intact as well as it is still enforcing peace Agreement.

Third, the government in collaboration with the international and regional bodies detained Dr. Riek in South Africa thinking that with the detention of Dr. Riek the peace will come which has been proved to be a lie. Instead, the war has raged on unabatedly.

Fourth, the President of South Sudan thinking that it will escape the consequences of the conflict and the reforms needed to end the conflict and to bring lasting peace, decided to declare National Dialogue. Many people welcomed the declaration of National Dialogue as they thought that it was going to be real National Dialogue. But since it was declared there is up to date no progress as the conflict of interest on the side of the government is affecting the credibility of National Dialogue.  The presence of conflict of interest shows that the government did not intend to go into genuine national dialogue that can bring far reaching reforms in the country.

Fifth, the government agreed to the deployment of the Regional Protection Force (RPF) thinking that it will restore law and order so that it continues ruling the country without carrying out reforms as currently required. Nevertheless, after discovering that RPF might have different intention, the government officials are now complaining bitterly that they do not want RPF, which shows misconduct of the government in the regional and international arenas. However, the interest of the government was to see that it remains in power without any reforms.

Sixth, the government recently attempted through the use of the President of Uganda to resurrect the already dead Arusha SPLM Reunification Agreement. As the fact later showed, the government was not genuine in achieving the true reunification of the party. This was shown by the anti-agreement activities that emerged later after signing of the Agreement as some elements within the government started threatening the Former Political detainees. Therefore, the Entebbe Declaration to resurrect the Arusha SPLM Reunification Agreement was proved to be a strategy intended to reduce the negative political impact the Former Political Detainees might have on the SPLM government in Juba and to continue mismanage the country in peace.

Seventh, the government is now planning to hold elections in 2018 as rumors have been circulating. Any reasonable government will never think of running elections at the present in South Sudan unless the peace is first brought to the country. The planning to hold elections may show the intention of the government that it is not interested in bringing peace and reforms as was provided for in 2015 Peace Agreement but it intends elections a means of maintaining itself in power.

Eighth, the SPLM/A-IO in the bush is not also interested in comprehensive peace process that will bring the lasting peace to the country. This is shown by the recent writing authored by one of the members of Dr. Riek  against Pagan Amum, Lam Akol and Thomas Cirillo, which shows that Riek’s Group is not interested in going into political negotiated settlement with other South Sudanese who claim to head any organizations. The intention of Riek’s group as seen in that article is that they wanted Riek to remain in monopoly of peace agreement while blocking out the other potential oppositions or politicians, which is not in the interest of South Sudan. What South Sudan wants now are not big men, but, South Sudan wants comprehensive solutions that must be agreed to by all South Sudanese stakeholders.  

In summary, the discussion above clearly shows that South Sudan conflict has its root in the conflict of interest in the ruling party, the SPLM that came to power not to unite the citizens but to use ethnic and identity politics to maintain its own interests and itself in power. Thus, the question as to who ‘s to blame for the South Sudan conflict, whether  the government, citizens, the oppositions or regional and international actors is that to a greater extent, the government is to blame. When I talk of the Government, I meant even the members of the SPLM/A-IO, those of Riek and Former Political Detainees as they are of the two faces of the same coin. It is the same party with the same policies that cause war and now they are in different sides maintaining the war as they are not interested in peace.

The regional and international communities are also to blame for the conflict of interest they have shown in conflict of South Sudan as they are continuing to do business with South Sudan while relaxing to get an appropriate solution to bring lasting peace to the country. In regard to citizens, in my opinion, citizens are not to blame for the conflict in South Sudan because the duty to keep citizens in order and in peace rests with the government not citizens.

The question as to what is the appropriate solution to the conflict in South Sudan is to inviting all the interested stakeholders to renegotiate the peace Agreement so that the other oppositions to achieve comprehensive political settlement and after the peace has come then the issues of national dialogue, accountability and reparation are then tackled.

In short, there is a need for a completely new interim government without Riek and Kiir so that the said government carries out reforms objectively and then the two men are later allowed to take part in general elections after reforms have been carried out. Otherwise, conduct national dialogue and elections now may be a waste of time as the conflict is still raging one.    

The Author is a lawyer by profession; he graduated with honors in law from Makerere University, School of Law. He participated in various workshops and training in community mobilization in awareness of their constitutional rights in Uganda. He is the member of Public Interest Law Clinic (PILAC) and NETPIL (Network of Public Interest Lawyers) at Makerere University; he is currently doing research with NETPIL on private prosecution; he is trained in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR); he participated in writing Street Law Handbook on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Uganda. He is practicing with Onyango and Company Advocates Bunga—Ggaba, Road Kampala He is currently staying in Kampala Uganda where he is undertaking bar course training. He can be reached through juoldaniel@yahoo.com or +256784806333.

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