The Revitalization Process on South Sudan (c) The Official Blog of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia
At long last the SPLM/A in its different guises together with its off shoots have called the bluff of the international community. For four years now the international community’s handling of the peace talks and implementation of ARCSS leaves a lot to be desired. During this period, they have left foot prints of bias everywhere.
Just before the start of the revitalisation talks the international community issued strong letters sending a message that this time round they meant business. This raised the hopes of South Sudanese and for the first time the people appeared to give the international community the benefit of doubt about their conduct of the talks. Ms Rebecca Nyandeng Garang, the widow of the late leader of SPLM/A Dr John Garang captured the positive feeling of the South Sudanese people in her interview with Mr John Tanza on Voice of America on 2nd January 2018. Nyandeng expressed optimism about the revitalisation talks based on the assurance she received from IGAD. This is what she said, “And I was happy to hear that IGAD said they were speaking in the same voice. Because IGAD in the other hand also have to unite their ranks and file.” Asked by Tanza, why she was saying so, Nyandeng explained, “I say so because IGAD was divided. From 2013, even during the 2017 there are some leaders in IGAD who are supporting leaders instead of supporting people of South Sudan.”
Given the numerous violations of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement signed on 21st December 2017 by the government, the international community initially went mute only to issue the usual statement loaded with condemnation wrapped up with moral equivalence. Many people have been asking what the international community is doing given their latest tough statement. Nobody has the answer and unfortunately the hopes of the people have once again been dashed. Nyandeng must be very disappointed.
The South Sudanese people have for over a year now lost faith in the international community following the naked violation of ARCSS by President Salva Kiir’s regime and its subsequent silence followed by their endorsement of General Taban Deng Gai as a replacement to Dr Riek Machar. Why the international community as guarantors of the agreement chose to ignore Juba regime’s destruction of the agreement remains to be explained? It is something that makes many people to date to scratch their heads.
Worse still, they have gone on to isolate and confine the victim, Dr Riek Machar, the leader of SPLM/A-IO in South Africa. Machar has his own blemishes, but to put the blame of what happened in Juba in July 2016 on him to the extent of victimising him is as unfair and unethical as to reveal the internecine bias by international community against an innocent person exercising his birth right in his country’s affairs. Machar’s isolation has proven one thing beyond doubt. His absence has not brought any peace. The war has continued unabated and this should be a reason enough to exonerate this innocent man and release him from the crude illegal confinement in South Africa. Democracy demands that there must be a level ground field for all to compete for the highest office in the land. At the moment that is not the case in South Sudan. An innocent man is illegally held against his wishes in foreign land while the culprit is allowed to roam freely mismanaging the country.
This culprit, the trouble maker is in Juba. He is called President Salva Kiir, an extremely dangerous tribalist-psychopath who has already committed ethnic cleansing and continues to pose serious risk to himself, the people of South Sudan and South Sudan the country itself.
The facade of the international community in relation to peace in South Sudan dressed up in statements like, “We care for the people of South Sudan”, “There will be consequences” etc is unravelling before the eyes of the people of South Sudan and the world. The revitalisation of ARCSS was meant to be a serious business. Though speeches were delivered by Troika, African Union and IGAD as mentioned above only for the regime in Juba to instantly rubbish it by violating the CoH openly without any consequences as promised. The international community has lost credibility in South Sudan.
The majority of South Sudanese now wrongly or rightly believe that the international community including IGAD are conniving with the government of South Sudan against them. In a sense, the international community is viewed as part of the problem and as such they are perceived as allies of the Juba regime. Conversations in South Sudanese circles now a day is riddled with expressions like, “We are fighting the whole world.” This collective belief can be seen from the outcome of the National Dialogue consultations results held in Uganda and Kenya. Please see, ’19 Things Uganda Refugees Want: An Official Summary by the National Dialogue of South Sudan’ (https://www.ssnationaldialogue.org/press-release/uganda-refugees-want-change/) and ‘Official summary of South Sudan National Dialogue in Kenya consultation in Nairobi, Kenya.’ (https://www.ssnationaldialogue.org/wp-content/uploads/Nairobi-Consultation.pdf)
Gatluke Reat in his letter to Troika titled, ‘What is the difference between Hitler’s Nazi regime and Troika today in South Sudan’ compares the activity of the International Community in South Sudan with the appeasement of the Nazi regime in Germany by some European countries in 1940s. Although South Sudanese understand that the reigning world ideology of globalisation has made everything to be seen in monetary terms including human life, they can not understand why lessons learnt from the holocaust are ignored. It is clear that the cost of appeasing totalitarian regimes eventually out ways the benefits. Please see (https://africanspress.org/2018/01/02/what-is-the-difference-between-hitlers-nazi-regime-and-troika-today-in-south-sudan/). Boumkuoth Gatkouth writing a week after the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities agreement (CoH) questions whether the process would be fruitful. He highlighted the continuous silences of IGAD on the violation carried out by the government. In his article, ‘The IGAD-led High Level Revitalisation Forum & Its Prospects’ (http://www.southsudannation.com/the-igad-led-high-level-revitalization-forum-its-prospects/), Gatkouth concludes that IGAD is not neutral and can not be trusted.
Why is the international community losing credibility in South Sudan? Primarily there are three drivers. These are: direct intervention of IGAD member countries in support of the Juba regime; the application of policy of moral equivalence by Troika; and the failure of African Union to protect the “African person”.
When the conflict broke out on 15th December 2013 with President Kiir targeting and cleansing the Nuer people around Juba, Uganda joined the Juba regime on pretext of stopping genocide. The reality on the ground was completely different. It was the government of President Kiir that was committing genocide on the Nuer people. How could Uganda then stop genocide by aiding the genocidaire? This is a question that Uganda needs to answer. Uganda even sent its jet fighters to bomb the Nuer who were fighting to defend themselves from the Juba regime in Bor using internationally banned cluster bombs. In addition to this President Yoweri Museveni visited Juba on 30th December 2013 and said, “We gave him [Machar] four days [agreed that] if he doesn’t [comply with the agreement], then we shall have to go after him. That is what we agreed on.” Please see, ‘South Sudan – Uganda’s Museveni threatens Machar over ceasefire’ (https://africasustainableconservation.com/2013/12/30/south-sudan-ugandas-museveni-threatens-machar-over-ceasefire/). This declaration by President Museveni on behalf of the regional leaders clearly proves that the region sided with the Juba regime. This explains the fact that none of the countries in region condemned the ethnic cleansing of the Nuer by the Juba regime. The crime was hashed up. The other country in the region openly siding with the Juba regime is Kenya. Both Uganda and Kenya to date often allow Juba regime’s security agents to kidnap South Sudanese exiles in their countries. Now all these countries are members of IGAD and given their collusion with the Juba regime, is it any wonder why peace is difficult to achieve. We move on to the Troika.
When President Kiir unleashed his tribal militia known as Mathiang Anyoor on 15th December 2013 to cleanse the Nuer in Juba, everyone who was in Juba was horrifically shocked. Hilda Johnson, former Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nation in Juba at the time records her observations of the grave crime in her book, ‘South Sudan The Untold Story: From independence to civil war’, on chapter 6 under the subtitle, The Nightmare. The Nuer cleansing in Juba was witnessed by the whole world. When I talk about the world, I mean all the representatives of the foreign governments in Juba witnessed it. In spite of this fact, the world outside South Sudan was kept uninformed and as a result no country to date has condemned Juba for the grave crimes it committed. The UN and the Troika countries kept their mouths zipped up.
Following the ethnic cleansing of the Nuer and prior to April 2014, the international community did not condemn the grave crimes against humanity committed by the regime. However in April 2014 when the Nuer wrongly and unacceptably retaliated by killing people in Bentiu, Akobo and Bor, the international community swiftly reacted by rightly condemning the opposition for these heinous acts. Unfortunately from then on it embarked on a policy of moral equivalence. If the Juba regime commits a crime, the international community will wait until the opposition retaliates and thereafter it will condemn both sides equally. A good example of their application of this policy is in the areas of sanctions and press releases. All the so called targeted sanctions in South Sudan have been equally applied on the warring parties. Surely, this can not be right. In any conflict there must be a culprit and in the case of South Sudan the Juba regime without doubt is, yet it has never been held responsible.
Eric Reeves, senior fellow at Harvard University, elsewhere argues that the balancing of moral equities plays into the hands of the aggressors. I agree with Reeves’ argument because in my view it psychologically distributes the guilt to all the actors which in a sense absolves the wrong doer from acknowledging the reality of his/her actions and the responsibility that accompanies it. Further this policy has the potential to fuel the conflict and keep it going endlessly as both sides get corrupted with time and believe that their position is right. The problem with this policy is that it suggests those applying it do not have a moral position/responsibility on the issue at hand. But is this really true? What has happened to the values flowing from the instruments of the various resolutions of the United Nations? What has happened to the Western values of justice and fairness? Perhaps South Sudanese are not perceived as humans enough and thus do not deserve to be treated as such. The history of European interaction with Africa speaks for itself. Its vestiges may be what are in the policy of moral equivalence applied to South Sudan. Here is where African Union should have been of help, but perhaps it may have moved on and forgotten about the value of the “African person”.
The report of African Union Commission of enquiry in South Sudan (http://www.peaceau.org/uploads/auciss.final.report.pdf) which went through sieving many times before its release clearly captures what happened in Juba in December 2013. African Union as the body with power over IGAD has been expected to play supervisory role to make sure that the issues presented in the report are addressed adequately to provide lessons for the future in relation to the continent. Thus for the sake of the “African person” (the civilians, women, children and old persons being raped and killed) it should have exercised maximum supervision on the conduct of the peace talks and the implementation of August 2015 Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS). So far the indication is that it did nothing. So, when the Juba regime violently destroyed the peace agreement by turning the city into a battle field in July 2016 forcing the former Vice President Dr Riek Machar out of the country into the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudanese expected the guarantors of the deal and the international community including African Union to hold the regime to account. Surprisingly, like in 2013 they did not condemn the regime but went on to reward it for violating the agreement. Without exception they endorsed President Kiir’s blatant decision to install Mr Taban Deng Gai as vice president. All these were done in a lightning speed without any enquiries on the fact that the population of Juba were criminally exposed to serious danger by the government.
Unlike IGAD, the West African regional body ECOWAS regardless of the interest of the member states seems more competent in handling political conflicts efficiently in that part of Africa. When former President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh was voted out in December 2016, he attempted to stick to power by depriving the winner Adama Barrow. ECOWAS acted swiftly to protect democracy. It mobilised a regional force within a short time which saw Jammeh off with no violence, and the winner Adama Barrow installed in power. Well done ECOWAS for standing up for democracy in Africa. You make the average African person proud.
So South Sudanese for the last four years have been watching some of the regional countries openly supporting the regime that is tormenting them; Troika’s application of equal moral equities and the failure of the African Union to protect them helplessly while their suffering continues. Now they are making sense of their experiences and translating that into a belief that they are on their own. Are they not right? Whether the talks in IGAD succeed or not, it does not matter. South Sudanese are beginning to discuss ways of finding their own solution to their problem. That by default is empowerment.
[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]
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