The South Sudan Peace Process: Is it Likely to Fall off the Rail Once More?

By Aldo Ajou Deng Akuey
Photo: South Sudan President Salva Kiir (R) shakes hands with former rebel leader

Photo: South Sudan President Salva Kiir (R) shakes hands with former rebel leader

Correctly, Africa and the world have established the root cause of the ongoing war to have resulted from the ruling SPLM leadership. Two events are recorded to have triggered and accelerated the attempted coup and eventual rebellion. First, the dismissal of Vice President Riek Machar Teny and some leading members of SPLM Political Bureau by President Salva Kiir Mayardit, on 27 July 2013, charging them with political insubordination and corruption. And second, the formation of the de facto opposition group within the SPLM, led by Deputy Chairman Dr. Riek Machar, with clear intention to remove the elected SPLM Chairman Salva Kiir from the leadership and the presidency of the state. Based on the move, the de facto group held their official press conference on 6 December 2013, to confirm their political stance. This press conference at SPLM House in Juba did not mince words, but straightforwardly denounced Salva Kiir and equally accused him of corruption and mismanagement of national affairs. On 15 December, at 9 mp, South Sudan time, the violence broke out within the military wings. What occurred and broke to violence could be, categorically, identified as a “political power struggle.”

 

The power struggle between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar ranged in violence throughout the 2013/14. In 2014, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development, IGAD, and South African and Tanzanian ruling political parties intervened and attempted to resolve the conflict. In April 2014, the Arusha, Tanzania unification of SPLM agreement was signed by Salva’s and Riek’s SPLM and SPLM IO respectively. In the same month, after signing a power-sharing agreement, the whole package, political and executive failed, thus ignoring the ceasefire and resumption of hostilities. From here on, the political and ethnic splintering began vigorously to multiply like mushrooms, pulling away from the main power struggle into social chaos, political anarchy, and armed banditries.

Nevertheless, the main parties to the conflict, SPLM, and SPLM IO, along with the splinters: SPLM Former Detainees, FDs, SPLM DC and others joined and signed the 17 August 2015 Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, ARCSS. The ARCSS earnestly was implemented in April 2016, forming a Transitional Government of National Unity, TGoNU. Accordingly, with ARCSS and the Transitional Constitution, Riek resumed the post of First Vice President he fought for and retrieved. Everyone in South Sudan, Africa and the world at large, believed that the war was then over.

Unfortunately, the war was not nearing an end. In an absence of a cessation hostilities, ceasefire and security arrangements, the Riek’s forces (SPLM IO/A) started skirmishes in Juba, Wau, Yei, Kajokaji and other areas, staging a tribal violence, not against the state, but targetting Dinka women, children and the elderly civilians in Equatoria and Wau. On 7 July 2016, Riek brought his war to the Palace (J1) and the ARCSS ended in disarray. Riek fled Juba for further safety in the Democratic Republic of Congo and finally got himself stranded in the Republic of South Africa. Peace process stagnated and moved into more chaos, thus breaking opened unnecessary wars circumventing the main political category, the “Political power struggle war.” The ARCSS, by letter, and spirit, actually failed. But the IGAD proposed, instead of initiating new initiative and another round of negotiations decided to “review and revitalize” the ARCSS by inviting the main parties, SPLM and SPLM IO, without prejudice to inviting the splintering groups and individual warlords.

IGAD 'forcing' South Sudan agreement

IGAD ‘forcing’ South Sudan agreement

All the way, ups, and downs looking for “South Sudan path to peace.” We are at last in the High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) “hopeful zone”. The conference of the 21 December 2017 brought the main parties that signed the ARCSS in 2015 and new parties. The old and new parties signed the cessation of hostilities in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 22 December 2017, “thank you”.

The cessation of hostilities was declared by IGAD principals with huge support by African Union (AU), the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the Troika (the USA, UK, and Norway). Now back to square one, 2014 and 2015 ceasefires and their violations by South Sudan warring parties. From 24 December 2017 to 16 January 2018, 22 days in total, the ceasefire is undergoing, yet, intended violations, as we speak. The world is asking why violations again?

It seems as if South Sudan has plunged into more unknown wars. What we know, since 2013 is the “power struggle” war between the SPLA and the SPLM IO/A, commanded by President Salva Kiir Mayardit and Riek Machar Teny respectively. The IGAD ceasefire monitors are only now reporting the violations committed by the SPLA and SPLM IO/A. But they are unaware of more wars going on in South Sudan. This is a tragic phenomenon which must be addressed and identified in order to resolve the arms conflict in its inclusive and comprehensive merits available.

Without eradication of arms proliferation, tribal wars, banditry, and warlordism, South Sudan may recover from war. The revitalization of ARCSS is our final journey and destination to “Rome of peaceful wellbeing.”

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Jikany Nuer White Army fighters, a local youth militia affiliated with the rebels, walk-in Upper Nile State February 12, 2014.

NB: (a) the war in Central Equatoria is still unclear. But it could be read between the lines as purely tribal fight, directed against Dinka; (b) fighting between Morlei and Bor Dinka is about cattle and human trafficking; (c) the clan wars of revenge and counter-revenge in Greater Lakes Region of Rumbek; (d) Nuers alone in Betiu and elsewhere in Nuer lands. if any more, could be local political power struggle; and (e) then Fertiit of Bahr Al Ghazal attempting to fight Dinka and Loa; and (f) the Shilluk and Padang over the claims of lands around Malakal. These wars are historic and traditional and should be addressed, separately from the IGAD forum, only by the National Dialogue and Reconciliation. The Church and traditional leaders can play a positive role.

 

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