Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 2 December 2019

South Sudan’s Security Arrangements: flawed rhetoric vs real practice

By Steve Paterno

Some compatriot South Sudanese wrote on his Facebook status, jokingly by urging people to flock to cantonment sites in big number to fulfil the required 83,0000, a threshold the peace demands for unified forces, so as peace rein without further delays. This posting sounds more like a mere joke, but it is closer to reality in what is practically happening to expedite the implementation of the much argued over security arrangements, which becomes a benchmark impediment in peace implementation.

Security sector in South Sudan is so much disorganized, leading up to the senseless conflicts afflicting the country and continuing to be a contributing factor fueling the war. As such, this call for a real genuine security reforms arrangements. However, unfortunately, the IO is capitalizing on this for short political concessions and gains, without any genuineness to show off for. For example, Riek Machar refused to sign off the formation of the transitional government of national unity, demanding among other impossible tasks, full implementation and reforms, within the security sector.

This empty rhetoric by Riek Machar and his IO supporters sharply contradicts the practical reality of what is really happening on the ground, in which Riek Machar and company are significant players.

For example, one must first, start with troops reporting to cantonment sites for screening, training and finally deployments as the agreement stipulates. This supposedly initial process of security arrangements is fraught with a lot of problems that include logistical nightmares, massive corruption, lack of readily available personnel, among other equally serious problems.

In its good gesture, the government accepts the sole responsibility of funding this process by pledging one hundred million dollars. However, due to economic hardship the government is facing, it is unable to release the pledged funds at once, meaning the process is seriously under funded. The donor partners who all claim to be supporting the peace, refuse to donate, instead deferring that obligation to later. In other words, those donor partners are deliberately setting this process to fail by only being passive participants. Therefore, shortage of funds will continue to remain a major impediment to this process, unless donor partners quickly step up to chip in to cover the gab.

Worse yet, other individual officials both in government and oppositions see this as opportunity to reap personal gains through corrupt deals out of the process. There are already emerging amble evidences of some individual government officials trying to reap the process through fraudulent contractual deals, worth staggering millions of dollars. Likewise, there are evidences of opposition officials dealing away with funds, consignments and other goods fraudulently obtained in fake name of troops available at cantonment sites. Hence, the process will continue to be dogged with frauds and massively attract corrupt officials who will act with impunity, unless the issue of corruption is seriously addressed by both the government and oppositions alike, which is a toll order.

Then there is another serious question, as to who is suppose to report to cantonment sites—the very question of personnel who are supposed to be subjects of security arrangements and occupants of cantonment sites. In its part, the agreement specifies a certain proportion from the signatories to the agreement, totalling in all, the final number of 83,000. However, the agreement does not seem to get it that accurate, but the compatriot who made a posting on Facebook, urging just about every person to report to cantonment sites in order to fulfill the required 83,000, in meeting the dateline, is more closer to the truth. The fact is that there are no prepared specific number of troops from any of the signatories to the agreement ready to report to cantonment site and represent specific designated party to meet the required 83,000, within the specified dateline of the agreement.

First, the government troops suffer greatly from massive rebellion, not reporting for duty, irregular payment of salaries, indiscipline, insubordination, general creeping in of fatigue of some sort, among other serious challenges. Therefore, given these problems, the government has difficult time to quickly mobilize and assemble its troops within cantonment sites as stipulated in the agreement.

This also mean individual personnel within the government troops are not static or standing firm within the government troops. For example, you can find one personnel within a government security branch or unit, with his name spread and represented across various oppositions factions. Such individual is intentional shopping around for the best offers he or she will get from any of existing beneficial signatories to the agreement. They are often shopping for higher military ranks, positions with benefits, suitable branch or units in the military etc. Hence, it is difficult to mobilize such individuals for specific task, when he or she is presented with quite several attractive offers. So, reporting to a cantonment sites for such individuals are contingent upon what offers are waiting him or her at the cantonment sites.

Secondly, the oppositions have equally no specific and ready number of troops to report to cantonment sites either. They are just recruiting any one with promises of incentives for sweet offers, mainly high military ranks and any other suitable positions one desires, with exception of presidency, which is reserved for one and only Kuor, Riek Machar. The even inflate the names of recruits or in worse cases, they include the names of individuals in their recruiting roasters, without ever consulting those individuals. The opposition recruiting strategies fits perfectly well with the postings of the compatriot on Facebook, recruiting just everyone. Like the government troops, the membership of the oppositions is not static or standing firm. Members shop around within the various existing factions of the beneficial signatories to the agreement for best offers, and even with some completely defecting to the government or opting out to other non signatories to the agreement, in search for better luck.

In conclusions, let no anyone buy into empty rhetoric of Riek Machar and company when they talk of security sector reforms. Riek Machar and company are using security sector reforms as a bargaining chip to score small political concessions and gains, totally unrelated to security arrangements as the peace stipulates. A genuine security sector reforms will take place, but beyond the era of Riek Machar over reliance on tribal militias. That is when he is totally disappeared off the scene. Reality must prevail. As for now, Riek Machar will continue to suffer searching to secure bodyguards, for personal protections as that remains his number one priority. Meanwhile, the entire implementation of security arrangements will continue to face logistical challenges, massive corruption, and lack of readily available personnel to fulfill specific tasks as the agreement stipulates. Therefore, there should be no excuse not to implement other equally important provisions of the agreement, because the security arrangements implementation has proven challenging and difficult.