By Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol
The regime’s machinary of propaganda, the State-owned SSTV is continueously misleading the public opinion in South Sudan and the world at large that the SPLM/SPLA has proposed creation of two armies in the country. This is absolutely misleading statement. The truth is that the Movement proposes expansion of the period that preceeds amaglmation of the two forces to 900 days, contray to the government proposal of 90 days.
The Government proposal of 90 days maximium as duration for reintegration of those soliders who rebelled and joined the opposition since December 15, 2013 is unrealistic and will never bring peace in South Sudan.
According to Juba regime, the 90-day period is enough to enable rebels reporting back to their previous units with the same military ranks and titles they had before their rebellion . Those civilians who were recruited after the 15th December, 2013 by the rebel leader Riek Machar to fight against government must lay their weapons down and go back to their previous jobs without taking part in the army or in the organized forces generally.
The Government also demanded for a peramenant ceasefire arrangment that its scope is Greater Upper Nile. Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria are to be excluded. Their justification was that war has not been extended to these two regions. Therefore, there was no reason for the government to discuss issues of peramenant ceasefire with the rebels in Bahr el Ghazal and Ewuatoria. The government delegation infront of IGAD Mediators repeatedly challenged the SPLM/SPLA abilitiy to transfer war to Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria.
In the last meeting of the two principals Dr Machar and President Salva in ECA, in Addis Ababa, the SPLM/SPLA forces in Bahr el Ghazal under overall command of Maj. Gen. Dau Aturjong and Maj. Gen. Thomas Bacilio attacked and captured Sira Malaka Military Garsion in Western Bahr el Ghazal. President Salva maliciously misreported the truth about the Sira Malaka battle and decided to hide facts by stating that his troops were attacked by Lord Resistance Army (LRA) at Sira Malaka.
He also misreported what took place in Western Equatoria in the same day as a mere activitiy of the LRA in the area. However, it was unfortunate for President Salva that evening, during the newshours on SSTV that Col. Philip Aguer spokesperson of the SPLA-Juba went on air and admitted that the attack at their base at Sira Malaka was carried out by rebels of Riek Machar. He went as far as naming those commanders who excuted the Sira Malaka battle contrary to the President’s reports. Basically, president Salva released this misleading statement to serve two reasons; first he didn’t want to admit publically that there was war in Bahr el Ghazal and second he wanted president Museveni of Uganda to deploy more troops in Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria under the pretext that Uganda is facing security threats from LRA in South Sudan.
In a democratic society president shouldn’t lie otherwise s/he must resign. S/he must make thorough investigation and cross-check before making any public statement.
Of course, this has not been the case in South Sudan where president Salva depends on hearsays, rumors and lies in governing the state. The propaganda of coup attampt, which died a natural death before the court of law after thousands of innocent people lost their lives and instigation of civil war in the country is a living example.
Another important aspect of the security arrangements being seriously negotiated in Addis Ababa is transitional security arrangment that deals with protection of the opposition and civil population during the transitional period. According to the government there is no need for this type of arranement. They mistakenly believed that leadership of SPLM/SPLA should go back to Juba under protection of the same Presidential Guard that caused distruction in the country in December 15th, 2013.
For a peaceful and smooth transition to commend, Juba must accept one of two options; either accept creation of amalgamated units with equal numbers that will be tasked with protection of major towns, civil poplution and VIPs. These amalgamated units will constitute a seed of new army in the country; or accept a third force that will operate in a complete demilitraized state’s capitals and major towns all over the country.
The SPLM/SPLA calls for ammagalmation of the two forces toward the end of the transitional period, which takes into the account experiences of similair situations.
In peace accord signed between the regime and David Yau Yau last year, the processes of integration are still going on and nobody knows when it will be finalized, despite the fact that Cobra Faction of Yau Yau is a one-tribe movement. Some of the challenges behind the delay are attributed to;poor organization, lack fund, inaccessibility as a result of poor roads and psychology of combatants. The bussiness of integration/amalgmation isn’t a simple task that could be done in a three- month duration. The integration of former militia forces of Jonson Olony and Oyok couldn’t be finalized until now because of the same reasons mentioned above.
In order to avoid failure in implementation of peace accord signed in Sierra Lonne in 1996 the parties agreed to be silent about duration of integration of forces and instead they talked about practicality of the integration. This quotation is from the Seira Lonne peace accord of 1996 “The disarmament of combatants will be effected upon their entry into the designated assembly zones, and demobilization and reintegration as soon as practicable thereafter”.
The concept of one united army is indisputable. However, the Movement believes on a smooth transition in all government’s institutions including security organs. The proposed 900-day period will allow TGONU seperates, assembles, screens, recruits, trains and amalgamates forces of the SPLM/SPLA, GRSS and new recruits representing diversity of South Sudan.
It seems the machinary of propaganda in Juba projected this smooth amalgamation as a call for seperate army by the opposition.
Also the government is making mistake by trying to limit the scope of peramenant ceasefire to Greater Upper Nile, meanwhile there are forces loyal to the Opposition in Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria. It’s unfortunate that Terioka, IPF and other partners in the peace process are buying this assumption from the government delegation. The concept of piecemeal in peace process will never help South Sudan. If the government strategy succeeds in Upper Nile then for sure it will fail in Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria and the possiblity of continuation of war in two regions is imminent. Let me put it in a simple and direct statement; in worst scenario that the leadership of the SPLM/SPLA buy in this cheap argument their forces in Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria will never be part of peace agreement. The same scinario applys on the issue of participation of the Opposition in the state and local government levels.
The current conflict is a national crisis, and must be addressed nationally. Any attempt to underrate its magnitute will endanger unity of the country.
The author is Chairman of External Relations of the SPLM/SPLA In Opposition and Deputy Chief Negotiator of its delaegation to IGAD led peace process in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He can be reached at [email protected]