By Aldo Ajou Deng Akuey
This week’s meetings between the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU), 26-28 January 2018, is reported as a positive consultation towards a “could-be” successful move for the High-Level Revitalisation Forum (HLRF) for the Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS). In two separate meetings, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, made a point to meet Presidents, Salva Kiir Mayardit and Yoweri Museveni. Delivering join statements to the press, both the UN Secretary-General and South Sudan’s Minister for Cabinet Affairs, Dr. Martin Lomuru described the meeting as “extremely positive.”
Then came the second meeting which, I take as important and strategic. It is quite strategic because of President Museveni and Antonio Guterres whose peace efforts for South Sudan are tangible.The success of the ARCSS revitalization, in my opinion, could win an international “noble peace price” for the two leaders.The two men must have discussed the difficult issues hindering the successes and promoting failures that hangover this peace process.The series of ceasefires and agreements that failed, from 2014, 2015 and 2016, provide a concrete evidence of how much the South Sudanese warring parties could be trusted.The politicians are being blamed and accused of “lack of political will and necessary nationalism,” incapable of reconciliation among themselves and finding no clear path to peace in order to salvage what is left of their country out of the manmade chaos.
Out of the related issues discussed, President Museveni seemed to have suggested a way out to end the malignant “political power struggle” among the SPLM political leaders in their use of violence and political anarchy. Museveni’s proposal to Guterres to push for immediate general elections aims at ending the ongoing power struggle. It is quite a possible solution, but how quickly can we restore national infrastructure, transform and reform national democratic institutions, cleaning up the mess, destruction and the damages incurred on all fields of social, political and economics? To restore and set up the System of government (constitution for example) in a peaceful South Sudan, we need, yet, a reasonable time before we hold genuine, transparent, free and democratic elections. Such a preparatory period is necessary and cannot be skipped whatsoever.
As the transitional schedule in the ARCSS suggests, general elections could be held in South Sudan if, only if, the following conditions are met and implemented: (1) cessation of hostilities, ceasefire and security arrangements; (2) formation of new Transitional Government of National Unity, TGoNU (after review and revitalisation of ARCSS); (3) formation of Transitional National Legislature; (4) reforming the Judiciary and law enforcement agencies; (5) reorganisation of the national security (army, national security, police and any other organised forces); (6) resettlement of the internally and externally displaced and refugees returning to the country; (7) Political reforms-from dictatorship to liberal democracy; (8) social and economic reforms; and besides rehabilitation of other national and regional institutions; (9) a making of the permanent constitution can consume more time. To make peace permanent and realistic, the above programme should be implemented before elections.
While I agree with President Yoweri Museveni proposal to conduct prompt elections after revitalization of ARCSS, there is, nevertheless, a skepticism to the fact that South Sudan has lost its initial infrastructure which was installed by the interim government from 2005 to 2011. The mismanagement of the economy and corruption could not spare any installation, being clean drinking water, electricity, roads and services in term of education, healthcare, food security or primary economic development. Above all the political parties need reorganization in order coopt up with principles of liberal democracy and accountability.
With this volume of demands for the restoration of good governance and standard system of government, a peaceful South Sudan can only be ready to conduct reasonable fair elections only within three years, starting from March 2018.