By Hon Arop Madut Arop
“But if, on the other hand, the warring parties hold to the previous positions that they held during the February 5th -16th 2018 conference, which led to the failure of the second HLRF meeting, the answer is a Big No.”
In accordance with the High Level Revitalisation Forum (HLRF) the envisaged timeline (December 2017), the year 2018 would be spent in discussing two main items: Declaration of Permanent Ceasefire, adoption of the type of governance through which the world youngest nation would be governed till the end of the transitional period.
If the second meeting were to resolve these two main items, according to the High Level Revitalisation Forum, a more realistic and acceptable timeline would be worked out and signed. This would be followed by the conduct of a democratic election would take place at the end of the set down timeline.
It was stressed that, if the upcoming second meeting would succeed, the year 2019 would be spent for the repatriation and resettlement of refugees from the neighbouring countries and the return of the Internal Displaced People inside the country back to their homes of origin. The year 2020 would also be spent on conducting the national consensus. The remaining years; 2021 to 2023, would be for the drawing up of electoral constituencies and the conduct of internationally supervised general elections after which a democratically elected government would assume office in 2023.
Accordingly, the second meeting was convened on February 5. Encouragingly, the parties and the stakeholders agreed virtually on the existence of 2015 the Agreement of the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), which was the object of the Revitalisation process.
But as all and sundry were expecting some kind of a revitalised deal during the second meeting in February, things fell apart because the opposition Alliance, reportedly, demanded that the incumbent, President General Kiir Mayardit and the leader of SPLM IO, Dr Riek Machar, should be excluded from any transitional government that would be put in place. Further, they demanded the dissolution of the government institutions: National Security, Transitional government and the legislature among others. The new interim structures should instead be put in place to run the country throughout the transitional period.
The members of the Government delegation vehemently rejected the opposition demands; arguing that, the opposition demands were not part of the agenda agreed upon by all the stakeholders, which was to review the August 2015 (ARCSS) peace deal. The members of the government further made it abundantly clear that the opposition alliance demands if accepted by the Mediators would be like a renegotiation of a new peace deal and therefore unacceptable.
As if to find a common ground to break the deadlock, where the government and the oppositions could compromise, the IGAD led Mediators threw down another bombshell, when it recommended that; the incumbent President Salva Kiir Mayardit would lead the transitional government and to be assisted by a four presidential deputies, apparently to administer different ministerial clusters.
The IGAD new package of a president and four presidential deputies proposal, presupposed an abolition of the incumbent transitional national government that was put in place as per August 2015, ARCSS deal; where the head of the government and state was being assisted by a first vice president and a vice president. The HLRF proposition was immediately rejected by the government delegation.
All further efforts presented by various civil societies on the top South Sudanese faith based appeal, could not bring the desired compromise. When, after a two-week discussion (February 5th -16th 2018), and the warring parties failed to reach a compromise, the IGAD led HLRF Mediators were left with no alternative but adjourned the meeting to reconvene on the date to be decided by the IGAD in consultation with the parties.
Importantly, if the HLRF third session, were to reconvene, two fundamental issues will also be on the negotiation table for substantive discussion. Expectedly, the transitional government (TGONU) would maintain its position by inviting the opposition; both the armed and unarmed groups, to join the government. This would mean that, the incumbent National Transitional Government and the Transitional Legislature would be expanded.
The opposition groups on the other hand, may hold to their previous position in which they demanded that the incumbent president Salva Kiir and the SPLM IO, leader Dr Riek Machar should be excluded from any forthcoming transitional administration. The opposition alliance may demand for dissolution of the incumbent TGONU and parliament and a formation of a neutral administration during the transitional period. These are the two controversial positions the IGAD led High Level Revitalisation Forum must address adequately if the third session would bring peace back to the war ravaged country.
It is apparently in this regard that the IGAD foreign misters have been shuttling between Juba and Addis Ababa to make further consultation with all the stakeholders in effort to narrow the gap and strike a compromise. If the IGAD foreign ministers managed to bridge the wide divergent positions of the parties, the third IGAD led Revitalisation Forum may reconvene before the end of May or earlier June 2018 in order to sign a peace deal.
It is against this background one can say that those who would like to help the young republic to come out of its predicament must avoid imposing solutions on its people. Rather, the IGAD led HLRF mediators should advisably devise feasible way which will take the country forward toward sustainable peace and prosperity.
More importantly, it will be instructive for the international community to assist the current Revitalisation Forum efforts to negotiate a permanent ceasefire first, and to confirm the HLRF proposed HLRF timeline or alternatively draw up an acceptable time line.
According to the South Sudanese public opinion, the on-going mediation efforts between the parties should be encouraged to proceed on, no matter how long it would take to reach acceptable endurable peace.
Advisably IGAD should, by all means try to avoid the 2015 ARCSS experience when peace package was imposed on the parties and which as we all know did not work as expected. This apparently, the main reason why all are now back to square one, the current efforts that are being made to revitalise that bad peace.
Further, it would be instructive to stress that, it is the concern of the silent majority of citizens of this young nation, the republic of South Sudan, that the international community, at the forefront the Troika countries in which US is an effective lead member, should contribute positively through the known conflict resolution mechanisms but not through coercion on South Sudan warring parties. In other words the US and other members of the Troika, in effort to bring pressure to bear on the South Sudanese warring parties, should use both sticks and carrots effectively and address their grievances through democratic process instead of through the barrel of the gun.
On the question repeatedly raised by majority of South Sudanese whether the third HLRF meeting will salvage the situation in South Sudan; the answer to the above questions is yes and no. If the IGAD led HLRF were to find a common ground, by convincing the warring parties to stick to the revitalisation of the conflict and chart out a realistic time line, the answer would be a Big Yes. This would presuppose that all have accepted the existence of the ARCSS as the basis for reviewing, revitalising or revise it.
But if, on the other hand, the warring parties hold to the previous positions that they held during the February 5th -16th 2018 conference, which led to the failure of the second HLRF meeting, the answer is a Big No. Consequently, there will be no peace deal and the situation may drag on endlessly while thousands of innocent civilians continue dying or living in squalid conditions.