By Tor Madira Machier
The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the rest of the international community seem to be investing in two rival projects: One is the Machar project and the second is the so-called High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF).
The IGAD, on one hand, seems to be exerting efforts to revitalize ruins of the dead peace agreement (as it is known to Machar and the entire leadership of the SPLM-IO) signed in August 2015 by the SPLM-IO rebel group and President Kiir’s SPLM-IG-led government. Preceding this initiative was an admission by the region that the 2015 peace agreement, the ARCSS, has failed just after the release of a UN confidential report in September 2016 which accused the government of having the highest hand for the collapse of the peace and the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) in July 2016.
The regional bloc on the other hand invests in targeting of Machar who is a party leader on the false accusation that the SPLM-IO leader is interested in pursuing violent means to unseat the regime in Juba attaching to the planned release of the rebel leader a number of conditions including but not limited to the IGAD’s demand that Machar first “renounce” violence; something which doesn’t make sense and which also contradicts the reality on the ground.
Having signed the Cessation of Hostility Agreement (CoH) along with various armed groups fighting the government in December 2017 in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Machar had automatically renounced violence since it doesn’t have to be like saying “I renounces violence” because ceasing fire with the enemy means giving peace negotiation a chance which literally means one is not interested in violent means to solve political issues.
Now, although the IGAD has stated recently that the negotiating teams representing each party in the peace talks are given until April 30 to agree on a peace deal, clashes between these two projects being run by the IGAD threatens to kill the peace process and to once again set forth a very bad precedent for the regime in Juba to assume that there will be no risk as usual and would again try to derail peace efforts in the watchful eye of the regional and the international communities.
With the IGAD unwilling to bring to account government officials which are to blame for 90% of the ceasefire violations, other armed groups will not respect the regional bloc as a neutral body and a faithful mediator, but will instead label it as a business force investing in the South Sudan conflict. Although Ambassador Ismail Wais recommended that the IGAD should release Riek Machar citing numerous proposals by opposition groups in Addis Ababa, IGAD acted friendly to the Juba government’s thoughts that Machar should be excluded from any future peace agreements and implementation. The government in Juba stated clearly that it won’t accept Machar again in Juba as part of any peace deal implementation which also contradict IGAD’s supposed will to pressure each party to live to peace agreements they inked.
To be frank, with the IGAD decision to relocate Machar to another country, rather than releasing him, the recently cited opposition concerns about Machar’s exclusion are not addressed and this will shed on the unfolding IGAD investment interests in the Machar project which is not friendly to the so call HLRF.
To this extent, the IGAD dateline set forth by the mediation recently for the negotiating parties to reach a deal is expected to past without any deal, unless the IGAD suspend the Machar project and focus on pursuing the HLRF in order to avoid a clash of interests.
First Published by ST