By Kocrup Makuach
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, South Sudan’s High Level Revitalization Forum is currently underway, under the auspices of Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in a bid to bring to an end the vicious cycle of civil war that was as a culmination of political infighting within the ruling party, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). IGAD has summoned the two warring parties; the government of South Sudan under the stewardship of H. E, President Salva Kiir Mayardit and the opposition party under the leadership of former Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar to a negotiating table with keen focus at ironing outstanding issues on the way of peace and stability for the people of South Sudan.
Back in August2015, the two warring parties signed a lasting peace agreement that saw Dr. Riek Machar return to Juba after which a Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) was formed. The agreement cast a ray of hope on burdened South Sudanese citizens and further signaled remedial steps into salvaging the crumbling nation back to stability. The steps would ensure resuscitation of our ailing economy, reparation of refugees, reduction of insecurity, good governance, freedom of speech, democracy, rule of law and basic services to the people.
Unfortunately, in July 2016 the worst befell South Sudan again when deadly fighting broke out at the Presidential Palace, (J1) and the first Vice President fled the country towards DRC forest under hot pursuit by the SPLA forces. He later found his way to Khartoum but ended up in South Africa where he sought medical assistance and is currently under detention. As a result, hundreds of thousands were left dead and millions of people internally displaced across the country. The fighting presented the worst humanitarian crisis ever witnessed in the country and an influx of refugees to our neighboring countries. All the hopes and expectations of the people of South Sudan were destroyed and the country remains at the brink of collapse again.
To keep the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) and the Peace Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) alive, Gen. Taban Deng took the position of his SPLM- IO’s chairman, Dr. Riek Machar.
The international community, Africa Union, UN and Troika urged IGAD to reconvene another set of peace talks dubbed South Sudan’s High Level Revitalization Forum in the interest of the suffering masses occasioned by the pockets of rebels who are being abetted and financed by international actors for ulterior motives.
Just two weeks ago, the two warring parties, the government of South Sudan and brief-case opposition parties met in Addis under egis of IGAD and negotiated in order to revive the August Peace Agreement. In my analysis and observation, the forum which is a last- ditch effort towards a return of peace and stability to our country will fail due to the followings reasons;
First, there are far too many fragments of brief-case rebel groups who do not speak in one voice. They amount to 12 groups and have zero national interest at heart. To me, they constitute the most disorganized rebel groups in the history of the world. In fact, the majorities of these groups are power hungry politicians, uneducated, corrupt and have served in the same government since its formation as a result of the CPA which was signed in Nairobi, Kenya in 2005
A majority of these disgruntled government officials embezzled and siphoned off the public resources to international bank accounts and chose to go and live overseas in countries like US, Australia, Canada, UK, and Norway and in some other countries in Africa like Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia. They bought mansion houses, enrolled their children to expensive schools there and decided to foment violence back in South Sudan. Their solemn aim has been to destabilize and over thrown South Sudan`s transitional government.
The late Chinua Achebe, a Nigerian novelist painted the mural of our predicament in the most profound way when he said“A man who has just come in from the rain and dried his body and put on dry clothes is more reluctant to go out again than another who has been indoors all the time. The trouble with our new nation- as I saw it then on the bed – was that none of us had been indoors long enough to be able to say “to hell with it’. We had all been in the rain together until yesterday. Then a handful of us- the smart and the lucky and hardly ever the best – had scrambled for the one shelter our former rulers left, and had taken it over and barricaded themselves in. And from within they sought to persuade the rest through numerous loudest speakers; that the first phase of the struggle had been won and that the next phase – the extension of our house- was even more important and called for new and original tactics; it required that all argument should cease and the whole people speak with one voice and that any more dissent and argument outside the door of the shelter would subvert and bring down the whole house)”
Second, is the constant sanction by the US government, i.e. the recent arms restrictions, freeze of assets for some generals and travel bans for government officials. Unknowingly, these sanctions have given an upper hand to the brief-case rebels making them intransigent in their quest further accelerating unacceptable demands to government with an aim to sabotage the High level Revitalization Forum.
Thirdly, the rebels have made immutable demands which is for the removal of a constitutionally elected President, H.E, Salva Kiir Mayardit and therefore it is unlikely that the government will append a signature on the document. The accountability clause fronted by the pocket rebels seeking to bring to book all perceived to be guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity is regarded an affront to the government. Such among other strident demands from all divides threaten the very success of the much needed peace and cessation of hostilities.
In conclusion, IGAD, Troika, AU and the International community should be weary of the negotiation partners who sit at the forum to represent South Sudan. They must carefully vet all stakeholders lest criminals who continue to reap where others sow go home with bags full.
In my opinion, the High level Revitalization Forum will fail simply because the demands from splinter groups are too varied and the government side is likely to feel beleaguered thus turning a majority down. Therefore, IGAD must be careful into making rebels groups feel legit by allowing them to sit in the (HLRF) forum, otherwise South Sudan will soon degenerate to the case of Somalia where the entire population of Somalis groups resided overseas while fermenting war and terror in their country thus making Somalia (a failed state) for many decades.
In the words of John Garang, “The government is seen as an object to be looted. For example, when somebody becomes a minister, five years later the people will start saying, look at the son of so and so, he has no car, not even a suit. This is not the root cause of corruption in our culture, in our country and in Africa. The same people that are ready to cast the first stone at you are the ones that will shout the loudest how the son or daughter of so and so has not even bought himself a suit, built herself a nice house or bought the latest car.
As a leader you have to know where priorities are and what your vision for the country is; otherwise, you would get distracted and end up plundering the country in the name of building yourself a hut, in the name of buying a suit or a new car”