By Keffyalew Gebremedhin – The Ethiopia Observatory
A day after the signing of the so-called South Sudan Addis Abeba Accord, signed by rebel leader Riek Machar and SPLM SG Paga Amum, news from South Sudan Tuesday morning August 18 was that “rebel forces had overrun key town in Eastern Equatoria state, after they allegedly came under attack by government forces in intense battles.”
It is not clear how Machar came to sign this latest agreement, which three days earlier before signing it had rejected as inspired by IGAD states that were “confusing the whole peace process in Addis Ababa, saying a peace deal may not be reached as planned.” He accused IGAD mediators of inconsistency, bias, which had distorted their so-called ‘peace compromise proposal’” with Yoweri Museveni’s influence.
Also the so-called Addis Abeba Accord has not pleased the Revolutionary Movement for National Salvation (REMNASA), SPLA’s specially trained commandos, which has urged its members and supporters not to honour the “Compromised Peace Agreement”, signed by rebel leader, Riek Machar and the representative of the former political detainees, Pagan Amum, saying it does not represent the popular interests of the people of South Sudan.REMNSA has pledged to “continue to struggle to bring meaningful regime change that will save our nation from the corrupt, dictatorial and tribal regime of the unified SPLM regime under collective leadership of President Salva Kiir and his deputy, Dr. Riek Machar”.
In the light of this, while I hate to be carrier of bad news, the possibility is very clear that what international mediators and their coteries have failed to notice thus long is that peace is unlikely under IGAD leadership or the influence of their pluses.
No conflict is a child’s play; in no way can the scale of wreckage done to South Sudan as a young nation and the bleeding of its people since the onset of the carangage in Juba palace and army barracks at Bor on December 15, 2013 be ignored, nor can it be minimized.
I, for one, strongly believe that that summer day in 2013 when President Kiir took that ominous decision to dismiss his second-in command and his allies, instead of seeking political resolution, South Sudan’s fate has been sealed – thanks to African greed and arrogance of power. The president saw it unthinkable that his second-in-command seek not only to become his challenger in the election that never came. But also daringly Vice President Riek Machar wanted:
* The presidency to be reduced to two maximum terms interim constitution, which was not granted.
*The vice president to be acting president should the position fall vacant until elections take place, which as per the constitution went to the national assembly.
* To remove the clause in SPLM constitution that gives SPLM chairperson to nominate 5 percent of members to National Liberation Council (NLC) and at all other levels of the party.
* Decisions to be made in NLC using secret ballot rather than the show of hand (hoping to give the shy members to make their genuine choice without fear of intimidation).
When all those were voted down, Kiir hastened his fingers to the cock, without the ruling party senior decision-makers consulted, and dismissed vice-president Riek Machar and his allies from the party and government.
Therefore, today for the sins of a few power-inebriated politicians the people of South Sudan are paying with their lives and the future of their country.
It is clear that no peace terms come easy, especially when one is on the waning side. My son, when small, once came accross ‘recruit.diesel.com’ advert that read: “Smart may have the plans, stupid has the stories!”. He kept on repeating it that day until it also gripped my mind. Perhaps this might be because, since I know that History invariably is written by victors, especially those that make the landscape attractive for themselves and others to lurk behind and benefit from it.
Above all, the South Sudan peace and reconciliation platform is suspect. The young South Sudanese nation has fallen victim of both conflicts on one side and on the other the competitive political and strategic interests of their so-called interlocutors for peace – China, US, UK, Norway and IGAD nations.
The peace negotiations to end the conflict have been negotiated with Ethiopia’s lead, as the ‘permanent chair’ of IGAD (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda) and its pluses. However, these countries have their own national interests of an economic, political, strategic and especially a more personal nature to some of them in particular Ethiopia — the country’ opposition in mind. More importantly, its ruling party, the TPLF, has business interests and some of its senior officers have heavily invested in that country. Therefore, compared to neighboring states, Ethiopian government asset in that country for sure is a single branch of the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) that now is servicing the TPLF business interests and TPLF members enriching themselves with contraband agricultural goods. Very few are the operational assets of Ethiopian Airlines, a life-line to the country.
Similarly, Kenya’s banks have been the largest presence in the financial sector, alongside some small scale businesses of no less than 20,000 enterprise-strengths. Uganda, having militarily intervened at the outbreak of the conflict, has the seemingly nominal interest of protecting the Juba government, while in reality there is need to defend their territories, since many South Sudanese citizens strongly feel that Uganda has occupied a part of their land. As recently as early August 2015, South Sudanese forces were ferried 11km into Uganda that required Uganda to send in its UPDF 5th Division to force out the intruders.
It is against this backdrop and palpitations the so-called outside mediators, who when they want are peace-makers amongst warring parties, and also negotiators when they feel like it, must be examined. So far, they have presided over the loss of 10,000 lives, 1.5 million displaced and that a people that all along has known nothing but slavery, displacement, persecution and guerrilla warfare throughout their existence as part of the Sudan, or even as independent nation rich with oil wealth, has become a nation in an interminable war, thanks to its leaders that they have made the China-heavily-invested-natural-resource a national curse, although it had not failed to meet Beijing’s 5 percent needs.
Now this Wednesday August 19, the people of South Sudan – definitely those that are in territories under the control of the Juba government – who received their leader on his return from Addis Abeba negotiations singing “Hail President Kiir” for not signing the peace accord – would engage in consultations through the usual mevhanisms of deceit for the powerful, the so-called “civil society, political parties and other stakeholders to determine how best to move the peace process forward.”
It was clear from the get go, especially after the reaction of TPLF’s Seyoum Mesfin remarks at Salva Kiir’s refusal to put his name on the dotted line that ghee would be no penalty. He is one person both sides of the South Sudan divide love to loathe for his servility and incompetence plus the confusion of his role as an interlocutor, instead has thus become by the dictates of his TPLF background whos role has been a top-down and commandeering approach, put simply dictator in diplomatic suit and role, as Ethiopia’s long serving foreign minister- Mel’s yes-man – and now envoy to China.
Now, this latest Kiir group consultations process, I mentioned above, with the people of South Sudan would take plus minus two weeks to finally tell the Western nations and China, and their trojan horse the Horn of African nations’ interests group – IGAD – whether Juba is party to the 17 August peace accord the rebels have signed.
Equally tellingly, Susan Rice, Barack Obama’s national security adviser, on August 18 reacted to Kiir’s walk out by stating that she would be in consultations with other nations on the nature of United Nations sanctions, “if an agreement is not signed by the government within 15 days and a ceasefire is not implemented promptly by all parties”.
The saddest thing about the peace talks or negotiations on the South Sudan conflict is that it reminds me of the January 26, 2015 rush by the Troika (US, UK and Norway), which put out a statement stressing on the Oslo Times immediate need for imposition of sanctions. Ironically, such rush for action came, even as the meeting they and their allies in East Africa steer through IGAD was still taking place in Addis Abeba. It is the same story now that nations with good experience, especially Western nations, could not summon vision to facilitate peace better and instead show preference to peace imposed from outside. Could they have done this, if there was no oil, or seeing the opportunity as another stepping stoneRightly or wrongly, President Kiir has borne all the onus there could be for not signing the agreement. Thus thus he is characterized by many in the street as obstructionist, having gulped down the gibberish the media has been feeding the international community. Even those who have the information have chosen to keep quiet, since the US, UK, China, Norway have fully involved themselves.
Unfortunately, falling in this group is also United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose statement noted: “He takes note that President Salva Kiir initialled a copy of the agreement with some reservations [and] expresses his strong hope that President Kiir will sign the agreement by the end of the 15-day deadline”.
The fact that Kiir has the courage to say no and walked out without signing the agreement has likened him to an obstructionist. Juba government’s Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth on 17 August told journalists South Sudan strongly believe that such a peace cannot serve the people of South Sudan. It is a sell-out and we will not accept that”!
While this is not the final agreement, the key proposal of the agreement attached here calls for:
* Agreement on all-inclusive Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU), comprising of the four negotiating parties; FRSS (Federal Republic of South Sudan), the SPLM/A (IO), SPLM leaders (Former Detainees) and other political parties.
* TGoNU will be in office for 30 months to implement reforms plus a three month pre-transition period
* The Agreement provides for for the former GRSS (Government of the Republic of South Sudan) to maintain a majority in the legislature, the positions of president and vice-president and 53 percent of ministerial portfolios; the SPLMA/A (IO) the second largest share of seats in the legislature. The new position of first vice-president and 33 percent of ministerial portfolios; and the SPLM-FD and other political parties allocated 14 percent of ministerial portfolios and representation in legislative institutions.
* Decision-making in the institutions shall be by consensus, simple majority and on matters affecting the Agreement by two-thirds or 67 percent.
* The TGoNU shall within 18 months of the Agreement, complete the unification of security forces with national army and security forces fully constituted, unified under a single command. Until such unification is completed the president of South Sudan and the Chairman of the SPLM/A-IO shall be commander-in-chief of their respective forces; and the chair and deputy of the National Defense Council and National Security Council, respectively, to facilitate unification process.
What is it that they could not accept? The sand in the naysayers shoes is whose hand is closer to the oil resources. The answer is that the oil resources are in the rebel held areas, thereby making the goodwill of the rebels once peace agreement is struck.
Putting the lid on this, however, IGAD sources fill in the media with their own version of what was not acceptable for the government side in Juba: “Reservations about a provision in the plan to demilitarize the capital, Juba.”
There is a lesson for every African leader to be derived here. Kiir would not have been in such a position were it not for his dictatorial tendencies. While never is not usually the right word, there is bad blood between Kiir and Machar, which insensitive outside efforts and their pressure could make things go worse for the South Sudanese people.
Let it not be forgotten that the rebel camp is also split, with many experienced generals vowing not to accept any Addis Abeba deal, signed by Kiir and Machar or one side alone. This cannot be unnoticed or ignored by any of the sides, save the insensitive and bonehead IGAD and pressure cooker behind them.
Machar told the media: “We do not have any reservations on the ceasefire. We have no reason to continue fighting,” he in a slick manner told reporters. He also wondered: “There is no reason why he (Kiir) requested for more time. He has got a good agreement.”
There you have it, as I mentioned at the beginning, since the morrow of signing the peace accord his soldiers have been running all over the battlefields. Both individuals are hardly suitable to South Sudan.
Of course, the equally coarse Hailemariam is reported to have offended the equally charlatan Ugandan leader, who after bolting out of the peace talks told the man in the Ethiopian prime minister’s office: “If I am your problem then I will leave”.
Museveni is known to come up with some pot-disturbance of his own to be kept as key actor, no matter the costs.