By Luka Biong Deng
After the disappointing deadline of March 5, the role of IGAD in continuing mediating the South Sudan peace talks came under scrutiny. The question is less about what went wrong with the IGAD-led mediation but rather what lessons we can learn to improve the mediation of the next peace talks.
Recently some non-state actors consisting of civil society, media, women, traditional authorities, faith-based institutions and academia held a meeting in Juba to evaluate the IGAD-led peace mediation. Despite bitter criticism of the poorly managed mediation, the participants recognised that IGAD is the only regional organisation mandated to resolve conflicts in the region.
Given the subsidiarity principle and the geopolitics of the region, IGAD is well situated to continue mediating the peace talks, using a new design of mediation. The participants also agreed to expand the IGAD mediation to include other countries that can add value and have sufficient economic, political, diplomatic and military weight. The meeting also recommended the new mediation to learn from the CPA experience of having one main mediator, accepted by all the parties.
While the participants affirmed the principle of an inclusive process, a multi-process of engaging stakeholders was accepted. This would include direct negotiations between the warring parties, provided that the outcome is brought to the plenary of all stakeholders. The meeting also stressed the added value of the Arusha Agreement in resolving the outstanding issues in the IGAD-led mediation.
With the failure of the peace talks in Ethiopia, the warring parties have started pursuing the option of war, as seen recently by increased violations of the cessation of hostilities agreement. The question is: What can be done to encourage the warring parties to engage in peace talks but in good faith?
A recent report, titled ‘South Sudan: The Cost of War’, indicates that every minute spent on the war effort will make the task of putting South Sudan on the path of sustainable peace and stability more difficult. The report shows that if the conflict continues for another one to five years, it will cost South Sudan an estimated $28 billion. In addition, the region could save up to $53 billion and the international community $30 billion if the war stopped today. The report stressed the urgent need for the warring parties, the region and the international community to take action to bring peace to South Sudan.
A possible action of encouraging the warring parties to conclude peace deal is to enforce targeted UN sanctions on individuals who are obstructing the peace talks. Although these sanctions may target individuals, there is need for a thorough assessment of their impact on the people of South Sudan, the region and the international community. A recent evaluation of the effectiveness of UN targeted sanctions shows that they are effective only in one-third of the time in changing the behaviour of targeted individuals, constraining them from engaging in certain activities or stigmatising them.
UN targeted sanctions are often evaded through the diversion of assets through a third party, the use of black markets or safe havens, the diversification of funds and investments, and reliance on family members. Besides, the report shows that sanctions do have unintended consequences, such as an increase in corruption and criminality, the strengthening of authoritarian rule, a burden on neighbouring states, diversion of resources and a negative humanitarian impact.
Given the complex context of South Sudan, the unintended consequences of UN targeted sanctions will certainly be borne by the people of South Sudan, with far-reaching consequences on their lives and livelihoods. In addition, neighbouring countries such as Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and probably Ethiopia would not be receptive in implementing the sanctions given their economic and security interests in South Sudan and the possible impact of the sanctions on their economies.
Another option for the region is to use the much-awaited report of the AU commission of inquiry to encourage the warring parties to conclude the peace agreement without compromising on issues of justice. Although the content of the report is not known, the leaked report may provide a hint of what is expected from the final report. It is most likely that some senior leaders of the warring parties will be the prime suspects of the atrocities committed since the eruption of the conflict in December 2013.
It is understandable that the release of the report should be managed in such a way not to obstruct the peace talks. Given the fact that the warring parties committed themselves to issue of justice in Arusha Agreement, the African Union in collaboration with IGAD, the Troika, the EU and the UN could use the AU report as a carrot or stick when appropriate in encouraging the warring parties to conclude a peace agreement.
Another option is the leaked IGAD action plan for resolving the conflict in South Sudan by April 18. Unlike previous deadlines, when the warring parties were given a chance to agree on the contentious issues, the new action plan aims at proposing a final and binding peace agreement to be signed by the parties by April 18.
If the leaked document reflects the true IGAD action plan, then the challenge is how to inform this process so that it reflects the aspirations of the people of South Sudan and reduces the risk of bringing a ‘bad peace’. As a good peace is becoming unattainable due to the intransigent positions of the warring parties, the remaining choice for the people of South Sudan is whether to have a bad or imposed peace, or war.
The remaining outstanding issues are two armies, federalism, power-sharing, the choice between the position of prime minister or an additional vice-president, and succession. With the exception of federalism, all these issues are less of concern to the people of South Sudan. The security concerns rightly raised by the SPLM-in-Opposition can be resolved by increasing the pre-interim period, to build trust between the warring parties and establish appropriate security guarantees rather than having two armies.
The issue of federalism is less contentious. It has been agreed in principle as the appropriate system of government for managing diversity in South Sudan. However, its adoption requires a thorough study and engagement of the citizens as part of the constitution-making process. The other issues of power-sharing, the position of prime minister or another vice-president, and succession can either be resolved in the context of the SPLM reunification agreement in Arusha or through logical assessment, as reflected by previous IGAD proposals and its protocol of August 25, 2014.
One would expect the newly expanded IGAD-plus mediation, with South Africa, Rwanda, Chad and Algeria added, to be bold in proposing a draft agreement guided by the overwhelming desire for peace of the people of South Sudan. If the proposed agreement would subject the remaining issues to the will of the people, then it cannot be termed a bad peace. However, it would be appropriate that all the stakeholders, and particularly the warring parties, are given a last chance to discuss the proposed peace agreement before it is signed into a final agreement.
The author is the director of the Centre for Peace and Development Studies at the University of Juba. He is also a global fellow at the Peace Research Institute in Oslo and an associate fellow at the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. He can be reached on [email protected]