By James Gatdet Dak
On Thursday, 29th of January, 2015, heads of state and government of the African regional bloc, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), served the warring parties in South Sudan with a principle agreement document. The text drafted by IGAD leaders on the sideline of the African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa “dictates” a solution for formation of a transitional government of national unity by imposing a leadership structure and personalities as well as proportionate power-sharing arrangements.
The take-it-or-leave-it document has provided key artificial arrangements and warned the South Sudanese warring parties of consequential action should there be non-full compliance.
In summary, the document has endorsed the incumbent President, General Salva Kiir Mayardit, to lead the transitional government, deputized by first vice president and vice president. This is in reiteration of the body’s long held decision that General Kiir is an elected president, although his legitimacy term ends in May or July this year, whether it is derived from the last April 2010 elections before independence or July 2011 constitutional legitimacy after independence.
In this it is to be noted that IGAD has imposed on the parties a leadership structure which this time round should be of presidential system, throwing out other ideas and proposals which suggested it should be a parliamentary executive leadership structure composed of President and Prime Minister, or with deputies to the Prime minister, and Council of Ministers.
The regional leaders now dictate that while the first vice president should be a nominee from the SPLM/SPLA led by Dr Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon, the vice president should be the incumbent, James Wani Igga.
The IGAD leaders went further to pledge that the speaker of the parliament should come from Greater Equatoria region.
IGAD has also imposed a power-sharing ratio, giving General Kiir’s government a lion share of 60% at all levels of government, SPLM/SPLA 30%, and other political parties and former detainees, 10%.
It has rejected the idea to dissolve and reconstitute membership of the legislative assembly and only agreed for an additional 68 new members to be appointed in accordance with the proposed sharing ratio, topping up to 400 lawmakers from the current membership of 332.
Further, IGAD has pre-empted how succession of executive leadership should be handled in South Sudan at least during the would-be transitional period under the proposed government of national unity. In this, IGAD has contradicted the traditional leadership hierarchy in the presidential system and also shunned application of seniority in the SPLM party’s would-be leadership.
These are some of the observations in the latest round of what has become an IGAD-led, not IGAD-mediated talks in Addis Ababa.
A question that comes to mind is what does IGAD want to achieve in this dictated and prioritized irrelevant arrangement?
To me, the answer is a mere pursuit of a short-lived credit….
I say it is about pursuit of a short-lived credit because it seems the regional bloc is not guided by the importance of reaching a lasting peace in South Sudan. It is rather urged by the desire to say it has made the warring parties to sign an agreement on leadership structure and power-sharing arrangements, in case the parties agree, despite lack of important proceeding resolutions on the underlying fundamentals that are key to a lasting resolution of the conflict.
This dictated document has unveiled a grave weakness and lack of seriousness in the mediation efforts and strategies IGAD employs in trying to resolve the 15 December 2013 crisis and uproot it from the roots.
Many would have thought that IGAD should be building on the intra-SPLM agreement on reunification in Arusha. In Arusha the parties agreed to reunify their ranks and file by first revoking General Kiir’s decision which dismissed party leaders.
This should have been followed by further dialogue on introduction and implementation of reforms and the fate of top leadership within the party while IGAD in Addis Ababa imitates the consensus reached in Arusha in resolving other non-party contentious issues.
The Arusha accord provided an opportunity for IGAD to address the root causes of the conflict which would inform and educate the mediation body about the genesis of the crisis and guide it towards resolutions and achievement of a lasting peace in South Sudan.
By now imposing that General Kiir shall be the president of transitional government in an attempt to provide him with a leeway to escape from the Arusha process, and by also pre-empting that the incumbent vice president Igga shall succeed Kiir, in case, IGAD has devastated the gains from the reunification initiative and dragged the peace process back to square one.
The regional bloc has set a precedence of intransigence in the SPLM reunification process on the part of the government.
Arusha agreement was supposed to be a healthy model for the Addis Ababa peace process because it addressed the root causes and committed the parties to resolving them through that roadmap.
The long held belief in IGAD’s failure or difficulty to mediate and resolve the conflict mainly emanates from its reluctance to recognize the importance of addressing the root causes of the conflict in South Sudan.
IGAD has been on impossible mission to quick-fix the problem by seeking to dress the surface of the infected deep wound with bandage rather than first diagnosing and treating the wound.
The regional body has been unfortunately responding to the impact of the conflict and urgent need to give it a temporary solution rather than addressing and resolving it based on its root causes.
IGAD leaders should generate an enthusiasm to study reasons why political conflicts within South Sudan always occur and recur within the SPLM for the past 32 years. This will provide them with a clue and understanding on how the current conflict came about and can be addressed thoroughly so as to avoid future recurrence.
For the results to be sustainable, the mediation effort should address the root causes of the conflict!
It is in the understanding of the root causes that a solution towards a lasting peace and stability in South Sudan can be achieved and sustained.
IGAD should instead press on the parties to respect the cessation of hostilities agreement. It should also persuade its member state, Uganda, and make it withdraw its troops from the war in implementation of the agreement.
The regional body can now prevent violence from escalating and focus on addressing the root causes in order to come up with the best remedy. The mediation should, of course facilitate and advise, but allow the parties to negotiate a lasting solution and not dictate a short-lived solution.
To utter threats of action against both parties collectively irrespective of who did what or how the crisis came about will not help the situation. The fact that IGAD attempts to push president Salva Kiir down the throats of his victims, rewarding him to continue as the leader, is a wrong strategy that will likely face resistance.
However, if IGAD wants to test imposition of solution on the parties as an experiment in the region, this should be based on an informed wise decision by taking into account the genesis of the conflict. People of South Sudan would expect IGAD leaders to be courageous enough to thoroughly address the root causes and call spade a spade.
This is also to say if democratization of politics and introduction of various reforms matter in the SPLM party and in the institutions of government – to bring about a lasting peace and unity of the people in the country and to usher in development – then a competent visionary leadership that will realize these fundamentals equally matters.
Finally, making responsible leaders to account for the genocide or committed war crimes and crimes against humanity is an important element in achieving justice and reconciliation.
Thus, it is important for IGAD to advise AU to make public the report of the Commission of Inquiry on the atrocities committed in this conflict.
Information on the magnitude and extent to which the damages have been done will further guide the warring parties in tackling the issues on compensation and reparation of the victims, which are yet to be resolved under the IGAD mediation.
Hence, putting the cart before the horse is a recipe for another disaster to recur, which is a disservice to the ever suffering people of South Sudan.
The author is a Spokesperson in the Office of the Chairman, SPLM/SPLA. He can be reached at: [email protected]