Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 5 August 2017

Making sense out of South Sudan unprecedented politics

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By Lako Jada Kwajok

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the world was bipolar regarding political alliances. America was the leading superpower of the Western bloc of nations while the Soviet Union controlled the Eastern bloc with an iron fist. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was never a match to any of the two camps. It never succeeded in placing itself as a third world power in practical terms. The reason was that many of the member states were one way or another affiliated with the two camps. Moreover, it encompasses a group of countries that have little in common. The Western bloc follows capitalism while communist and socialist ideologies ruled the Eastern bloc. The Non-Aligned Movement hasn’t got an ideology of its own to make it a cohesive bloc.

The fall of the Soviet Union ushered in a new era in international politics marked by unipolar world order. It made America the dominant superpower with unrivalled influence over global affairs. I believe that era is coming to an end with the rapid growth of Chinese influence across the world and the resurgence of Russia as a superpower to reckon with. However, international politics and cooperation have more often been influenced by political ideology rather than mutual interests. The prominent example is the policy of boycott that was used for over half a century by the USA and China against Cuba and Taiwan respectively.

In the case of South Sudan, a new sort of international politics seems to be at work. It’s whereby ideological affiliation plays a lesser role in defining international cooperation. Monopoly by one superpower and loyalty to it particularly in the field of armament appear to be practices of the past. It’s common knowledge that if a country has military cooperation including arms deals with the Western bloc, it will have none with the Eastern bloc and vice versa. Of course, it’s understandable that each side would not want its military secrets and technology to be accessed by the other side. It’s a rule of thumb that seems to have been overlooked in South Sudan’s arms deals. The knowledge of weapons shipments to the regime in Juba from China, Ukraine and Russia (countries that were previously part of the Eastern Bloc) - has been in the public domain for a while. Also, we do know that an Agreement of Military Cooperation and Training does exist between the government of South Sudan and the USA. We have never seen something like it before. The situation is certainly one of a kind whereby you find Western Bloc countries and Eastern bloc countries "collaborating" to arm an embattled regime.

The wonder never ceases when you ponder over the Israeli and Egyptian involvement in South Sudan’s affairs. There is a case before the Israeli Supreme Court submitted by the Israeli Human Rights Activists demanding a criminal investigation into alleged unlawful arms deals. It’s regarding the role of the Israeli Ministry of Defense, Foreign Affairs officials and Israeli arms dealers in supplying weapons that were used to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. It transpires that the Galil Ace assault rifles were sold to the government of South Sudan but ended up being used to arm the Mathiang Anyoor government militia.

Israeli involvement in South Sudan’s affairs may not be a surprise to many people given the fact that Israel has always been a sort of an ally to the South Sudanese since the birth of the Anyanya movement in the sixties of the last century. However, Egyptian involvement on the side of the government is something unprecedented. Historically, Egyptian policies have consistently been hostile to the South Sudanese aspirations. Egypt has been all along on the side of the Northerners since the time of President Jamal Abdul Nasser. Although its policy towards South Sudan did change following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) on January 9, 2005 - still the relations remained formal or at best described as a friendly relationship that lacks warmth. Egyptian Foreign policy towards the region is majorly driven by its need to lobby as many countries as possible to bolster its agenda in the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). Now we hear of Egyptian arms supplies to the regime in Juba coupled with agreements for cooperation in various fields. It makes one wonder - what happened to the Arab league policy of boycotting any African country that has an active military and diplomatic ties with Israel? Some of you may know that you will not be given an entry visa to Sudan if your passport carries an Israeli stamp. In fact, the following translated Arabic phrase is found on Sudanese passports (For all countries except Israel). It’s an Arab League directive; therefore, I would expect a similar expression on Egyptian passports. It’s amazing that with such level of antagonism, how could the two countries supply arms to the same client and work in the same vicinity training the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA)?!

During the war of liberation, Russia and China were clearly on the side of Sudan government frustrating attempts by the US and its allies to impose sanctions against Sudan at the UN. The Americans were the only heavy-weight ally that the SPLM/SPLA got on its side. A paradox arose in December 2016 when the US sought an arms embargo against the government of South Sudan at the UN Security Council (UNSC). In the face of Russia wielding a veto against the arms embargo - the US was left with no choice other than withdrawing its draft resolution before being put for voting. It looked like the Western bloc of nations, and the Eastern bloc of nations swapped their sides. Furthermore, the American position in itself displayed the second paradox when judged against US actions. Almost around the time when it was seeking the arms embargo; it renewed the Military Cooperation Agreement with the Republic of South Sudan. What happened highlighted the inconsistency that marked the US policy towards the regime in Juba since the war broke out in December 2013.

Contemporary world history never witnessed such meddling into a Sovereign State’s internal affairs by neighbouring countries on the scale seen in South Sudan. The Ugandan military intervention in late December 2013 and Early January 2014, brought up questions regarding the legality of the act in international law. The regime in Juba claimed that an agreement was in place between the two countries that permitted the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) to intervene. But the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), that is tasked to ratify such agreements was unaware of the existence of anything of that sort. Even if there were to be a Mutual Defense Treaty, it would have sanctioned UPDF intervention in the case of foreign invasion but not in a civil war. Uganda was only safeguarding its enormous economic interests in South Sudan and would resist any attempts for regime change at all costs. It’s not a secret that many South Sudanese are pointing fingers at Uganda as the entity behind the demise of General George Athor, and the disappearance of opposition leader Peter Abdul Rahman Sule and General Elias Lino Jada.

Kenya is the second beneficiary of the Juba government after Uganda. It has dominated the financial and banking system in South Sudan. Some Kenyans were given influential government positions Like Dr Renish Achieng Omullo. She was appointed as Special Envoy to the Federal Republic of Germany by a Presidential Decree. While some highly qualified South Sudanese were denied positions for the ridiculous reason of being overqualified, a foreigner gets employed in a sensitive post in a country that does not lack qualified persons. It’s up to the reader to draw his or her conclusions as to why such a thing could happen.

However, the most disturbing aspect of the relation between the two governments is the involvement of the Kenyan government in the kidnapping and deportation to Juba of the opposition operatives. James Gatdet Dak, the former spokesman for Dr Riek Machar, was the first victim of the sinister cooperation between the Kenyan government and the regime in Juba. Subsequently, it didn’t take long for the Kenyan ally to lend Kiir’s government a helping hand by making the Human Rights activists Dong Samuel Luak and Aggrey Idri disappear from the streets of Nairobi.

The track record of the Juba government has shown to the world unsurpassable irresponsibility. Its policies do not promote unity and peaceful coexistence among the diverse communities nor do they project the image of South Sudan as a Sovereign State. There is no doubt that the regime has utterly failed in all aspects of governance.

The international community would be ill-advised to continue entertaining the notion that sustainable peace could emerge from the ashes of the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS). The High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) would neither work nor the National Dialogue (ND) that was launched by Kiir’s regime. It’s apparent that the international community has got limitations to what it could do and the obvious example is its failure to impose an arms embargo on the government of South Sudan. We also do remember how the Rwanda genocide unfolded under the watch of the UN and the superpowers. We should bear in our minds as South Sudanese that many in the international community and the regional powers are in our country pursuing their private agendas and interests. As we speak illegal gold mining is being carried out vigorously by various foreign entities and other precious resources are being plundered as well. The regime has leased or sold large pieces of land to foreign individuals and firms, not to mention putting the country under massive debts by borrowing large sums of money from abroad. It’s committing a generational theft that would certainly lend our future generations in the red from the start.

Right now South Sudan gives the impression of a place where there is plenty to gain for everyone except the South Sudanese people. It has become a safe haven for international fortune hunters, thieves and crooks. But the blame for what has become of the Republic of South Sudan falls squarely on the military junta and the self-serving politicians in Juba. Many lessons could be learned from the above account to avoid being misled and disappointed. The central point though is that salvation from the failed regime will not come from abroad but from the people of South Sudan. The way forward has never been clearer than at any time since the start of the conflict. For peace to be realised and flourish on our soil - Kiir’s regime must go either through an inclusive new Peace Agreement whereby accountability is paramount or the hard way through other means.

The author can be reached at lako.jada@hotmail.com



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