By Aldo Ajou Deng Akuey
This article is intended to support the two leaders, Salva and Riek, in their search for the peaceful resolution of the conflict, leading to permanent peace. South Sudanese need peace more than any time before. Peace being the primary requirement of human life, one can survive without it.
See the following quotations on peace by great political leaders of the modern times:
John F. Kennedy , the 35th President of the United States (1961-1963) & Margaret Thatcher , the first female prime minister of Britain,
(a) Albert Einstein said, “Peace is not an absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” and continued, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”
(b) John F. Kennedy, President of the United States is quoted to have said, “Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”
(c) Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is quoted to have said on peace, “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is an error, may we bring truth. Where there is despair, may we bring hope.”
Can President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar, reflect on their fifty years of the liberation struggle and “bring harmony and hope”? How many of their generations lost and how many more are still alive? Is it their intention to wipe out this generation? I don’t even think so, though. Because they lived the heat of the war, disasters and destruction of human lives and properties. They are true eyewitnesses to the damages incurred in South Sudan by foreigners throughout the fifty years of liberation struggle (1955-2005).
General Salva Kiir Mayardit and Dr. Riek Machar Teny, from their teen ages to date, shared the “vision and mission” of the right to self-determination and independence of Southern Sudan from Sudan. This mission navigated their trail from 1964 to 1972 (Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972) and during the second round of the liberation war from 1983 to 2005. Together, they concluded the liberation war, through the regionally and internationally mediated peaceful resolution of the arms conflict between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the National Congress Party (NCP), representing New Sudan and Government of Sudan respectively.
Along with the charismatic and strong leadership of the SPLM Chairman, Dr. John Garang de Mabior, SPLM Deputy Chairman, Salva Kiir Mayardit and the third member in the SPLM hierarchy, Dr. Riek Machar, plus other leaders, led their team into the most controversial and contentious negotiations, in terms of liberal-secular democratic system versus Arab Islamic system or separate Southern Sudan. The SPLM and NCP, in the end, managed to accommodate the two parallel and opposite systems in the content of a single agreement: The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in Nairobi on 9 January 2005.
As stipulated in CPA, the interim government had to be shared by the SPLM and NCP for the period of six years, after which Southern Sudan “shall exercise their right of vote on a referendum to decide on two options, “independence or unity.” On 9 July 2005, the SPLM and NCP formed the interim government, with President Omer Hassan Al Bashir for the NCP and First Vice President Dr. John Garang de Mabior for the SPLM. On 30 July 2005, Garang died in a helicopter crash between Uganda and Southern Sudan. Then, in accordance with the SPLM hierarchy, Salva Kiir automatically became the Charman and Riek Machar accordingly moved to Deputy Chairmanship of the SPLM. They two leaders then moved together as the leaders of the SPLM and the Government of Southern Sudan. From August 2005 to 15 December 2013, they led South Sudan through peace harmony.
In the process, the two leaders developed political differences over democratic reforms, Riek demanded amendments on the SPLM manifesto and constitution to conform with liberties, democracy, rule of law and the country’s constitution. By those moves, Riek posed ambitious, ready to challenge Salva on the chairmanship of the SPLM and the runup for the country’s presidency in 2015.
President Salva considered the move as insubordination to his leadership. He ran out of patience, rejected the proposed reforms and sacked Riek as vice president on 27 July 2013. From there on, the “political power struggle” began in earnest. The two leaders felt out over those issues, lost senses to cooperate and understand. On 15 December 2013, the talks ceased and violence emerged. This violence involved military mutinies and civil war. Since January 2013, the war could not be averted. It is now five years without a ceasefire and effective peace process.
President Salva Kiir with then Vice President Riek Machar (Photo: file)
In spite of the early intervention of the Eastern African countries: Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Sudan and the African Union (AU), with the support of the United Nations (UN), Troika (the US, UK, and Norway), and with increasing intention to stop the war, the warring parties could not respond sufficiently for a peace dialogue. Nevertheless, the mediators, led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), continued to exert their efforts, explored means and ways to bring the warring parties to the table and try to resolve the conflict peacefully. In April 2014, the mediators prevailed and brought the parties to the table.
On 17 August 2015, the IGAD floated a draft agreement for the warring parties to “sign it” or “leave it.” Dr. Riek Machar signed it without amendments or reservations. But General Salva Kiir requested more time to read, digest and consult with the SPLM, the cabinet and the National Legislature. After extensive consultations, Salva signed the Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS) and attached written reservations. The ARCSS, from the beginning, was surrounded with ambivalence and suspicion, accusing mediators of partiality. The ARCSS remained overwhelmed with unresolved contentious loopholes, one of which was the “two armies, one country and one government.” Whatever, the IGAD and the mediators wanted full implementation of the ARCSS, mainly for regime change and humanitarian plight.
In April 2016, the ARCSS implementation started, thus bringing General Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar to share the Government again after three years belligerency. In accordance with the ARCSS and the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, President Salva Kiir Mayardit again reappointed Dr. Riek Machar Teny as the First Vice President, a position he fought for, for three years. Riek was sworn in on the same day and went to his military Garrison. In spite of the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU), there was no peace on the ground, but a mere transfer of war to the capital, Juba, Equatoria, Western Bahr Al Ghazal and the already on fire, Greater Upper Nile. The political atmosphere was not conducive to peace. It was then thick with violence-mongering, inspired by evil spirits and demons, waving fear and death, probably in Juba and everywhere in the country. Tension, gossips and rumors Increased the alarms and alertness to parties for another round of violence in Juba.
The High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) on South Sudan
As expected, on 8 July 2016, the three-year history repeated itself. The Presidential guards from two armies ran amuck and resumed violence again, around and inside the State House, Juba 1 (J1). The violence and fighting continued for days, pushing Riek and his forces out of Juba. Riek withdrew from the TGoNU, thus ending the ARCSS implementation. But, fortunate President Kiir, SPLM IO led by General Taban Deng Gai and the Chairman of Join Evaluation and Monitoring Commission (JEMC), former President Festus Mogae, marginally saved ARCSS. But the ceasefire, more killings and general situation completely hindered the implementation.
The call for negotiated peace continues. The opposition wanted fresh negotiations. The TGoNU wanted the ARCSS to be implemented. In the end, the IGAD, AU, UN and Troika recommended the revitalization of ARCSS. In June 2017, IGAD invited the warring parties to Addis Ababa to approve the proposal of a High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) to decide on the revitalization of ARCSS. This conference decided to include all the warring parties and stakeholders in the first round of the HLRF in December 2027. On 21-23 December 2017, the round 1, attended by all warring parties, convened and unanimously signed the cessation of hostilities. This ceasefire, with hiccups, seems to hold in more areas, with scattered violations in parts of Greater Upper Nile and Central Equatoria.
On 16-23 May 2018, the IGAD, with the support of the mediating community, set the correct agenda and a road-map for the first time since 2014. The mediators effectively and sufficiently shuttled among the parties in the TGoNU and in opposition. This arrangement helped to streamline the leadership of both TGoNU and the Opposition. The two warring parties, the TGoNU and Opposition (SPLM IO and South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA)), sat face to face, fulfilling the conventional customary law of peaceful resolution of conflicts worldwide. To advance this criterion of Government and Opposition negotiating directly, the South Sudan Council of Churches, other Christians denominations and women/youth civil societies, met alone as South Sudanese citizens, and pray for peace, reconciliation and forgiveness.
In the process, the mediators produce a draft agreement and distributed it to all parties, the TGoNU, SPLM IO and SSOA, to read and respond. The parties responded positively. The TGoNU agreed with the most of the content except on the security arrangements and Governance. The SPLM IO rejected the draft on the bases of power-sharing, calling it a “surrender.” The SSOA said the draft excluded “liberties, freedoms, democracy and the rule of law.” But all in all, the second round of the HLRF, this time round, was a major breakthrough. The parties could not sign the final agreement because of the few areas where they could not agree with drafters-mediators. However, the parties have unanimously agreed and signed the cessation of hostilities, ceasefire and security arrangements.
The last important initiative is the released of Dr. Riek Machar Teny to come home from South Africa, where his movements were restricted and join the peace process. This must be added to the credit to IGAD, AU, Troika, EU and Raila Odinga in his personal capacity. The expected meeting between President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar, face to face, on peace issues, is a major discovery of the “missing link” in the search for peace in our country. This outcome must be welcomed by all South Sudanese and peace lovers worldwide. We must also extend our sincere gratefulness, gratitude and appreciation to President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar of having accepted to come together, firstly, meeting face to face and hand shakes, secondly, to reconcile, thirdly, to condemn violence, fourthly, to apologize to all citizens of South Sudan, specifically, those who have lost their love ones and properties, fifthly, forgiveness and final declaration of ceasefire and any other means of political violence
In my opinion Salva and Riek should end this “senseless,” devastating and destructive war. The infrastructure is no more, 50,000 lives have perished as a result of war, starvation and related diseases. The citizens are in serious despair and desperately hunting for better life. Two million are displaced from their homes internally, other two million citizens have sought refuge in neighboring countries. Seven million are yet to fight the hunger, diseases, ignorance and unemployment. The public institutions have broken down, along with economy.
It is only by achievement of peace that we can overcome these problems. Any option is unavailable at this stage, but peace.