The Khartoum Declaration of Agreement Could be the Road Map to Peace in South Sudan

By Aldo Ajou Deng Akuey

The Introductory Statements and Forwarding

The War: (a) The Warring Parties identified it as a “senseless war.”  The mediating international community calls it “SPLM’s ignorance, greed, corruption, and Unwarranted Power-Struggle.” The international political, diplomats and journalists’ analysts conclude that the “warring South Sudanese politicians lack political will to make peace.” Even the children, the youth, mothers/women, young-men-elderly, the civil society, the Church, its denominations, and the world-concerns, have been/are in tears and in prayers for humanitarian plight and survival. The peace process sponsored by Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and supported by humanitarians worldwide, could not take off from the “ground of chaos,” to the “ground of order and safety.” During the peace process period, from January 2014 to June 2018, the warring politicians held, promoted and continued the “lack of political will,” in pursuit of political power in the expense of human lives and livelihoods.

   ‘Civilians flee fighting in an U.N. base in Malakal, Upper Nile’. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

(b) The world has listed and continues to list South Sudan, as the worst humanitarian disaster zone ever. In the world’s humanitarian disasters indexes, South Sudan tops Syria, Libya, Yemen and the Republic of Central Africa. This war accounts for human death tolls, fifty to one hundred thousand dead, as estimated by the United Nations (UN); four million displaced from their homes internally; two million left the country for Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo as refugees and seven million are starving to death, as we speak. And finally, the destruction of the infrastructure, politics, economic, social fabric and disability of liberalism, democracy and the rule of law- institutions.

(c) The August 2015 Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS), failed because it did not address the “root causes of the war.” Taking the peace process in chronological order, from 2014 to 2018, of the “Khartoum’s Declaration of Agreement Between Parties to the Conflict in South Sudan,” we can conclude why the IGAD in its first round of talks failed and why it is now expected to succeed if the “revitalization process of the ARCSS resumes.”

(d) Thus this article traces the war and peace from 15 December 2013 to 27 June 2018. The speculations and expectations, so far, indicate that peace and security are imminent if the “IGAD’s Draft Bridging Agreement,” is signed by the warring political parties in the coming weeks. We begin our sequence of events and narration with truth, honesty, and hopefulness. Find here below, the phases covering the peace process from January 2014 to June 2018.

Phase One

South Sudan became independent from Sudan on 9 July 2011. On 15 December 2013, the Ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), leadership felt apart over: (i) democratic reforms and amendments on the SPLM’s manifesto and constitution; (ii) corruption allegation charges against seventy-five ministers and ex-ministers; and (iii) dismissal of the then vice president Riek Machar and more ministers, on 27 July 2013, on insubordination, corruption, and conspiracies to remove the Chairman and President Salva Kiir Mayardit. The group disagreed to the political charges leveled on them by President Salva Kiir.

   Civilians cought up in fighting between the rebel faction of SPLM & and the Goverment forces

On 15 December 2013, the violence broke out in the capital, Juba. After three days of fighting, the rebel faction of SPLM, led by deputy chairman and government vice president, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, withdrew into the countryside, leaving President Salva Kiir Mayardit, in control of the SPLM mainstream and the Government. Following the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) divide the ethnic groups (Dinka versus Nuer communities) and developed into the ongoing civil war since December 2013.

Phase Two

IGAD: In January 2014, the Horn of Africa Regional Bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), intervened in order to stop the arms hostilities. The IGAD countries: Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Djibouti, Kenya, and Somalia, promptly consulted with the Government of South Sudan and rebel parties, in concerted attempts to initiate a peaceful resolution to the conflict. The warring parties: The SPLM, SPLM IO, SPLM Former Detainees and other parties, agreed to resolve the conflict by way of a negotiated settlement.

In April 2014, the IGAD invited the warring parties to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The African Union (AU), the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the Troika (the US, UK, and Norway) and the humanitarian community worldwide threw their weight behind the IGAD initiative to stop the war. As the hostilities were gathering momentum for a fierce civil war, intensely heightened with an increasing rebellion throughout the regions of South Sudan, there were no immediate means available to avert the war.

  South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (bottom L) and South Sudan’s rebel commander Riek Machar (bottom R), together with African Union (AU) Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui (top L), Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta (top C) and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, attend the signing a ceasefire agreement during the Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Summit on the case of South Sudan in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, Feburary 1, 2015.

Besides the devastating killings and destruction taking place and space, the IGAD, and mediators could not do anything to halt the fast accelerating hostilities. Worse of all, the IGAD and mediating community lack necessary power and ability to access the “root causes of violence and hostilities,” In order to push for an immediate ceasefire, as the warring parties were still very hostile and wary-moody, the violence moved on like wildfire.

Caught in the political puzzle, the IGAD mediators faced apparent difficulties in following the conventional rules of fairness and neutral approach to handling and resolving arms conflict analogous to South Sudan’s political power struggle. Some IGAD’s member states, along with some international mediators, expressed political sympathy with Former Detainees-rebels who only believed in “disinformation and distortion” of facts for their narrow interests. The lack of facts, the partiality of mediators, and lack of ability to conduct negotiations in “good faith,” rendered IGAD incapable of obtaining facts surrounding the conflict on which they could rely upon. The stalemate persisted from 2013 to 2015, unabated.

But, in 2015, the IGAD and mediators, guided by disinformation and distortion of facts, avoided to identify the root causes of war, observed neutrality and impartiality approach, and started to work on a draft agreement. On 15 December 2015, with disregards to the warring parties, they (mediators) ruthlessly presented, with the intention to impose it on the parties to “sign it or to leave it.” The draft of the August 2015 Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS), was then distributed to the warring parties individually, ordering each of them to sign or abstain.

The chairman of SPLM IO, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, the FDs and other political parties, led by Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin, without prior official ceremony, signed the draft in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The Chairman of the SPLM and President of the Republic of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, refused to sign in Addis Ababa. He asked the mediators to give him more time to read the draft. The request was accepted and he went to Juba. While in Juba, he conducted his consultations with the SPLM, the Government and interpreted the draft agreement. He discovered that the draft lacked necessary intention to resolve the conflict and stop the war. President Salva found that the agreement “is intended to promote more chaos and political anarchy.” It was on this point that President Salva decided to attach written reservations to the document, seeking more discussions and possible amendments. Fortunately or unfortunately, the UNSC, AU, IGAD, and Troika rejected any further amendments to the draft.

Having read the protracted conspiracy between the lines, the political tricks embodied in the draft agreement, President Salva Kiir decided to follow the rough road, with full awareness that the plan might lead to the end of his government. Nevertheless, and with overwhelming suspicion, and for the sake of peace and security, he signed the bogus ARCSS with attached reservations, on 17 August 2015, witnessed in Juba, by President Museveni of Uganda, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir (bottom right) and Dr Riek Machar sign a peace pact in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during the 29th Extra Ordinary session of IGAD on February 2, 2015

Again, the IGAD and mediators, especially the Americans, Europeans and even Africans, were not fully committed or enthusiastic in supporting the ceasefire and the implementation of ARCSS. The insecurity and economic situation of the country was then deteriorating due to natural drought and failure of crops, hyperinflation and the drop in oil prices in the international market. This economic situation, coupled with the insecurity, created a lack of food, causing devastating hunger and starvation in the whole country. In spite of insecurity building up in the country, the UNSC, AU, IGAD, and Troika wanted  Dr. Riek Machar to come to Juba since his Party’s leadership and his army generals were already in Juba and other cities. The mediators wanted Riek to take his position in the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU), though the security arrangements were inadequate and uncertain.

Phase Three

On 29 April 2016, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, arrived in Juba. From Juba International Airport, he was taken to the state house-Juba 1 (J1), by the national security and his bodyguards, where the President was awaiting him for the official ceremony. The President, Instantly and immediately, declared the appointment of Dr. Riek Machar Teny, as First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan, and called upon him to walk aside for the swearing-in ceremony. All were done on the same day, 29 April 2016.

                                             Swearing in of Riek Machar, april 26  

After the swearing-in ceremony, he was taken to his military base-to be-the temporary resident in Juba. After three days, 2 May 2016, the TGoNU was formed. The TGoNU was inclusive of all the parties that signed the ARCSS. The Government was now installed in accordance with ARCSS, but the cessation of hostilities was being violated everywhere in the country, including the capital, Juba. Juba was tensed. The Government, the UNMISS, and the public in Juba town and elsewhere in the country, expected more hostilities and fresh, heavy fighting to occur eventually. For three months, the country lived in tension, while the peacemakers were in acquiescence.

On 8 July 2016, at 5.00 pm, the hostilities erupted between rebels and Government forces, around and inside J1. President Salva, First Vice President Riek, Vice President James and many other senior Government Ministers, Military and Security Generals were Present in the scene, but were helpless and could not do anything to stop the then happening dogfight. After the fight cleared, at 12.00 midnight, the First Vice President, Vice President and all “Very Important Persons” (VIPs), were distributed to their residents, some without their bodyguards. The fighting ceased, just to resume at 5.00 am 9 July 2016. At the midday, the rebels withdrew to the suburb of Juba town, along with their leader, Dr. Riek Machar Teny. However, President Salva continued in contact with Riek, in an effort to persuade him to return back to Juba. Dr. Riek replied, “No, I am not anymore coming back to Juba!” For Riek, that was the end of the peace deal with President Salva Kiir and his Government in Juba.

Phase Four

The ARCSS was believed to have collapsed and more fighting expected to occur. But, by the next day, 10 July 2016, President Salva contacted the SPLM IO senior members who were still in Juba and conveyed to them the final message from Dr. Riek “I am not coming back to Juba anymore.” But that was not to be the end of the deal.

The leadership of SPLM IO led then by Deputy Chairman, Alfred Lado, Secretary-General, Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol, Chief negotiator, Taban Deng Gai and many others, resolved to uphold the ARCSS. This position was conveyed to IGAD’s Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (JMEC). The IGAD approved the replacement of Dr. Riek Machar as the First Vice President, only with the SPLM IO member, in accordance with the ARCSS. The SPLM IO, with a unanimous vote, elected General Taban Deng Gai to lead the Party and assumed the portfolio of the First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan. Promptly, President Salva Kiir accepted the nomination of General Taban Deng Gai and decreed the appointment in accordance with the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan and the ARCSS. Unfortunately, the ARCSS implementation could not meet the schedule and targeted date for elections in 2018.

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir (R) embraces Taban Deng Gai after his swearing-in ceremony as First Vice President at the Presidential Palace in the capital of Juba, South Sudan, July 26, 2016. REUTERS/Jok Solomun

Phase Five

In June 2017, the IGAD invited the warring parties again, including SPLM IO (Riek’s faction) to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to reconsider the status of ARCSS. Some parties wanted new initiative and negotiations. Contrary to parties’ wishes, the IGAD proposal demanded inclusive High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF). The HLRF was approved and the revitalization of ARCSS indorsed for further revivification. And so the round two of 21 to 22 December 2017 was fully convened under IGAD and attended by Troika, AU and UN envoys. The warring parties (thank you for Christmas) signed the cessation of hostilities but failed implementation as usual. On 6 May 2018, the parties came back to Addis Ababa to discuss specific agenda: Ceasefire, governance, and power-sharing etc. But the parties could not implement the ceasefire or resolve their differences over governance or proportional power-sharing.

                                     SouthSudan peace talks #HLRF

The parties, TGoNU (SPLM and other parties in the Government), SPLM IO and SSOA, gave separate press statements, as follows: (a) The TGoNU spokesman, Hon. Micheal Makuei Lueth affirmed their position, saying that the “peace talks are progressing fairly well, but we only demand some adjustments in the security arrangements and governance.” The SPLM IO spokesperson, Mabior Garang de Mabior said, “we reject the power-sharing proportions because of the SPLM in the Government lion share;” he concluded, “we are not surrendering.” And the last spokesperson, Mr. Lasu, for SSOA, stated, ” the draft agreement does not include liberalism, democracy, and the rule of law.” The parties refused to sign the draft. We were told that responsibility was then pushed to IGAD mediators for the final decision, after which the parties shall be recalled for final signing of the revitalization Bridging Proposal Agreement. With the release of Dr. Riek Machar from South Africa to attend “face-to-face-talk” with President Salva Kiir, supervised by Prime Minister Abiye Ahmed and President Omer Hassan Ahmed Al Bashir of Ethiopia and Sudan respectively, parties are in a spirit of positive negotiations and may go back soon for signing the final document. God willing.

  SPLI – O Chairman, Dr. Riek Machar (on the right), President Salva Kiir (in the middle) and Ethiopian   Prime Minister Abiye Ahmed

Having railed all the way, from 2013 to “face-to-face” scenario between the main and true belligerence and proponents of the power-sharing, President Salva Kiir Mayardit, and Dr. Riek Machar Teny, one believe that the real “root cause” is being addressed in pursuit of a realistic and permanent peace deal.

Although the delay to conclude peace and save precious lives since 2014, we may have a reason to stock-take why the warring politicians failed so many ceasefire peace agreements. The “lack of political will” unnecessarily impact on the lives of the people is only due to non commitment and disloyalty to the country. The fact that South Sudanese care none about their people and love to cooperate, coordinate and collaborate with foreign countries and individuals to plan a change of their government by use of force in the expense of innocent citizens could be accounted for. It is, in other countries, an unforgivable crime against the state.

From left to right, South Sudan opposition leader Riek Machar, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir at peace talks in khartoum

The Khartoum Declaration of Agreement is significant of a paramount importance to seriously bind the warring South Sudanese politicians and citizens, as the new and realistic “Road Map:” (a) The Khartoum Declaration addresses the root causes of the political conflict; (b) It incorporates the permanent ceasefire; (c) It embraces liberalism, democracy, good governance and rule of law; (d) It indirectly cites federalism by the mere naming of three capital cities of Juba, Wau and Malakal; (e) And final place correctly the need for political, economic and problems solving bilateral cooperation with Khartoum, since we still share the demises of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Cases in point include Abyei region, borders, Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile and Darfur. We must keep peace with Khartoum because we need one another in pursuit of shared interests.






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One Reply to “The Khartoum Declaration of Agreement Could be the Road Map to Peace in South Sudan”

  1. Hon. Aldo Ajou Deng;thank you for elucidating the genesis of the South Sudanese conflict,challenges facing the attainment of peace and social order.

    We are as those hopeful of peaceful and equitable peaceful settlement to the political crisis in South Sudan, do wish the parties to the conflict, agree, put the interest of the state first and allow peace to prevails in the state of South Sudan.

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