Obstruction is the order of the day in the current transitional government of national unity in the Republic of South Sudan. Cambridge Dictionaries define it as, “behaviour or actions that prevent something from happening or working correctly.” If our understanding is correct and if we are to believe President Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Machar repeated pledges that they are wholly committed to the implementation of the Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS) we should be seeing them working together amicably to bring peace.
The transitional government by now should have demonstrated itself as a viable united entity capable of carrying out its duties and obligations as stipulated in the agreement. The realities, however, are different. President Kiir under heavy influence of his tribal group the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) has mined the road to peace, obstructing the smooth implementation of the agreement.
President Kiir’s obstructions appear to be a carefully thought out design to first waste time, secondly to provoke a conflict and thirdly to ensure that the Jieng prevail at the end.
Let us look at these points to broaden our understanding of this phenomenon of obstruction. President Kiir and his supporters are not happy with ARCISS right from the beginning because they see this agreement as the tool for ‘rebooting’ the country. They hate change, after all they are the people benefiting from their own misrule and they would not want to lose the spoils.
In the last ten years, President Kiir’s regime has managed to fill 90 percent of the entire civil service with Jieng people most of whom are either unqualified or under qualified. Just go to any office in the country and the stark reality of Jieng domination will stare you in the face. This Jienganisation of the civil service is also replicated in the security sector (army, police, prisons, wild life, intelligent services etc). With such violently obtained benefits the Jieng regime is uncomfortable with ideas of change. However, for the sake of peace the country must be a country for all and not a single tribe. Thus change is a must.
The regime having been cornered and forced by the international community to form a transitional government of national unity, the Jieng cabal in Juba now wants to wriggle out of the agreement to maintain their domination and the continuation of their grip on power. It appears that time-wasting is one of the strategies President Kiir and company have adopted to realise that end. Since the agreement was signed in August 2015 they created obstacles after obstacles to obstruct the implementation of the agreement.
Contrary to the agreement, President Kiir started by issuing a decree (Establishment Order 36/2015) slicing the country into 28 ethnic states. Then he heavily militarised Juba by bringing in thousands more of Jieng militia from Bahr El Ghazal and Upper Nile. These two actions effectively put a break on the implementation process. From then on to now this has consumed nearly ten month of wasted time. This strategy works for President Kiir and group because it is buying time for them in the sense that they continue to rule. So long as the Jieng are in charge the type of government does not matter to them because essentially they see it as a cow to milk and they will shamelessly milk it. In fact they are partially happy that ARCISS has given them 3 more years of legitimate tenure.
If such obstructions are not firmly stopped the envisaged 30 months of implementation will soon run out without any tangible change from the agreement and no doubt President Kiir will declare the agreement null and void. Dinkocracy then continues and everything is back to square one – no change.
The second strategy appears to be around provoking another conflict to kill the agreement. The fact that the demilitarisation of towns as envisioned in the agreement did not happen is very concerning. This has had the effect of emboldening President Kiir in two ways. First it has given him the confidence to violate the agreement without fear of consequences. Secondly it has allowed him to bolster his tribal hard power.
President Kiir after signing the agreement in August 2015 consistently allowed his troops to conduct military operations openly against his opponents. For example, the attacks in Wau, Malakal UN Protection camps, Western Equatoria etc are good evidence that the regime does not want peace. Sadly, civilians paid the price with their lives and luckily all these attacks have not degenerated into a wider conflict. Nevertheless should the provocations continue this peace will be doomed.
Thirdly, President Kiir wants to ensure that Jieng hegemony prevails. The Jieng cabal are aware that their decade long ruinous rule in South Sudan has reached its peak. Nobody in South Sudan apart from the Jieng will vote for another Jieng president. Also nobody in South Sudan will accept to put up with a tribal militia masquerading as national army. The chances are that President Kiir is their last president. So potentially with him going the Jieng are likely to lose their strangle hold on the country. Without support from the other 63 tribes, without brilliant intellectuals, without control of finances in the country and without a tribal militia they will be unable to dominate politics in the future the way they have been. This is making the Jieng cabal go crazy. They just can not contemplate such a scenario or reality emerging in South Sudan. Hence, they are positioning themselves to play hard ball using their hard power.
This point is what the South Sudanese need to think carefully and deeply about. For it is the most likely source of the near future deadly conflict. Think about it: why is President Kiir ferrying more and more militia from Bahr El Ghazal to the capital? Why is President Kiir ferrying more and more troops to Malakal? Why is it that President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, an ally of President Kiir redeploying in South Sudan?
The militarisation of the country appear to be the card of last resort for President Kiir and his group to fall back to, to maintain Jieng hegemony in South Sudan. However, this gung-ho and irresponsible act could lead to the other tribes seeking arms in order to protect themselves and also assert their right. Yengkopiong in his book, Golgotha opines that, “because of the unbearable activities of the tribal regime, it is now possible that some South Sudanese communities will acquire guns to protect with themselves, their land and property. However, as we know it, this form of human instinct for survival will only ferment more violence and vengeance and it will only benefit the ferocious people” of whom South Sudan has plenty.
What is very interesting in all this is the stand of the international community. In spite of being the guarantors of ARCISS they seem to be paralyzed and unable to act to honour their role. They seem to be sitting and watching the country gradually slide into another deadly conflict because they can not hold President Kiir to honour his side of the deal. The question is: what was the point of imposing an agreement they can not guarantee?
The genesis of President Kiir and JCE’s obstructions are located in one document – The Position of the JCE on the IGAD-Plus proposed compromise agreement (). In order to make full sense of the collective Jieng mindset, this document should be read in conjunction with another of their pieces headed ‘Jieng Council of Elders rejects imposition of peace on South Sudan’ (https://paanluelwel.com/2015/04/01/jieng-council-of-elders-rejects-imposition-of-peace-on-south-sudan/). It is important for all to take this document seriously because that is where Jieng intent has clearly been made public and also it is their operational plan for undermining the transitional government of national unity, a product of ARCISS.
President Kiir and his group hate the agreement because it whittles away on Jieng power base. But if one looks carefully, the Jieng are neither losers, nor are the Nuer. The real losers are the Equatorians, Fertit, Chollo, Anyuak etc. This ‘other’ is the stabilising force in the country which unfortunately has been excluded from all the deliberations to broker this peace agreement. ARCISS, constructed on theory of elitism by the international community may fail to deliver peace in South Sudan simply because it is incompatible with locally known modalities of peace making anchored on inclusivity and grounded on the concept of justice. Elitists’ theories of conflict resolutions in the context of South Sudan are flawed as they are based on the believe that if the warring elites (parties) who have vested interest in the country can be reconciled then the whole country can be returned to peace. This disregards the people and excludes them from participating in the country’s affairs. In a sense this model is anti democracy and pro dictators and oppressors.
De Waal and Ndula in their cartoon piece titled ‘South Sudan: The price of war, the price of peace – a graphic story’ highlight this anomaly by saying, “The mediators remain stuck in a model of peace making that includes only the leaders of the warring parties.” “The mediators never once got to meet the South Sudanese people, civil society views aren’t taken seriously.” (http://africanarguments.org/2016/02/05/south-sudan-the-price-of-war-the-price-of-peace-a-graphic-story/ )
Unbelievably this is what has been imposed on South Sudanese by the international community. In this act, the mediators recognised only two tribes, the Jieng and the Nuer who dominate the SPLM/A excluding the Equatorians who make and inhabit a third of the country from the deal. It also worth noting that other tribes in Bahre El Ghazal such as the Fertit tribes and in Upper Nile the Chollo, Anyuak, the Maban, Uduk etc were also excluded.
If this deal was ever meant to work, the third force which holds the centre (Equatorians, Chollo, Anyuak, and the Fertit etc) should never have been excluded. Had they been included they would be playing a balancing act between the Jieng and the Nuer offering both groups the sense of security in the transitional government of national unity. Unfortunately this was not to be. Although the Equatorians are deeply hurt by their exclusion, they have accepted this agreement only because it offers a chance for peace and a democratic exit at the end of three years.
Now the South Sudanese have ended up with a dysfunctional transitional government at war with itself. The president does not interact positively with his First Vice and he continues to rule with defunct powers ignoring the provisions of the agreement he signed up to while the First Vice President acts as an opposition leader constantly reacting to initiatives of the president. Therefore, the agreement has created a government with split personality. A government with an opposition built in it, the two in one. Will it really work? Time will tell.
However, with this unique transitional government things look bleak and the future does not look promising as President Salva Kiir and the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) seem determined to derail the agreement and carry on with their tribal agenda.
What is the way forward? The international community was sensitized to the dangers ahead should the guarantors of the agreement fail to take action on the breaches of President Kiir. As usual IGAD, African Union and the Troika ignored the message. Please see, ‘Forming transitional government of national unity without addressing violations is playing into the hands of President Kiir and the JCE’ (http://www.southsudannewsagency.com/index.php/2016/02/11/forming-transitional-government-of-national-unity-without-addressing/)
To save the country from returning to conflict the priorities in the agreement need to be rearranged with the leader of Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) robustly backed by Troika rising up to the challenges posed by President Kiir and the JCE.
First and foremost, the continuous militarisation of Juba should be brought to an immediate halt to avoid repeat of December 2013. The disarming and barracking of Jieng militia should be seen to happen to ease anxieties of the residents of Juba. President Kiir’s SPLA troops should be reduced to the agreed number in the agreement and this should be verified accordingly by the relevant tasked bodies. President Museveni should be ordered to withdraw all his troops from South Sudan immediately. He has no business being in South Sudan.
Secondly, Michael Makuei and the entire JCE should be severely sanctioned. For the sanctions to be effective the members of JCE should be denied travel outside South Sudan, not even to the neighbouring countries. This is important because this group is destroying every aspect of services in the country, yet they freely travel abroad to receive first class medical treatment and other services using money stolen from the people who die due to lack of services they do not provide in the country. This group does not want peace because nothing hurts them individually. Hence, the need for the sanctions.
Thirdly, should the 30 months period of the agreement expire without full implementation, neither President Kiir nor First Vice President Riek, nor Vice President James Wani Igga should be allowed to continue or form a new government. The reconstituted parliament should be allowed to elect a transitional government composed of technocrats to run the country for 18 months after which a national election is held. It is important now to think post 30 months as it is clear that ARCISS is unlikely to sail smoothly.
Fourthly, the international community should use the only leverage available to it effectively to starve the government of any cash. Support should go directly through aid agencies to the suffering people without any penny passing to the government. Baseless and nonsensical arguments such as the one advanced by Dr John Akec in his paper, ‘Economic consequences of peace in South Sudan’ should be ignored completely (http://newsafricanow.com/2016/05/economic-consequences-of-peace-in-south-sudan/). Akec is simply promoting chaos in South Sudan by wanting to reward the people responsible for the mess in the country. This is one of the most irresponsible pieces of writing I have read. Perhaps it should be expected since the author is a Jieng and possibly he could not control his bias. He has a lot to lose should President Kiir and JCE lose power as this could have a bearing on his position as Chancellor of Juba University, a position he earned through his identity rather than hard work.
In conclusion, given the above the guarantors of ARCISS need to act in response to President Kiir and JCE’s obstruction.
[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]
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