By Duop Chak Wuol
It has been more than four years since the civil war broke out in South Sudan, numerous pacts have been violated, and the international community seems to have no practical solution to help resolve the conflict. There are other possible approaches that, if used reasonably, could force the rival parties to compromise and sign a deal. However, the notion that the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is the only entity capable of resolving South Sudan’s civil war is logically absurd.
Ghanaian Professor George Ayittey once coined the phrase “African solutions to African problems.” Empowered by Ayittey’s expression, African leaders took the phrase to be a validation of their autocratic leadership styles. The phrase became prevalent among African leaders, with some lashing out at Western powers and making bold accusations against them. The problem was that these leaders used Professor Ayittey’s expression in a fallacious way. These leaders use Ayittey’s idiom to advance their tyrannical ideas in total disregard of the true meaning of the phrase.
The people of South Sudan badly need peace to return to their country. But the idea that East African countries should be the only ones to find a peaceful solution to South Sudan’s civil war is simply a depraved idea and cannot produce any good results unless IGAD ceases its pro-Juba activities. Any sound-minded person would contend that Ayittey’s phrase was not meant to legitimize African dictatorships; rather it was coined deliberately to perhaps provoke African leaders to change their mentalities aimed against their citizens, learn how to reasonably resolve their nations’ internal conflicts, and change their perceptions of foreign powers by using African peace techniques to resolve their internal skirmishes. What the East African leaders should also know is that Dr. Ayittey’s idiom was not meant for African leaders who want to be territorial defenders just for the sake of being territorial. The expression was invented to force African leaders to think rationally, especially when dealing with conflicts or matters of national importance. Sadly, this is not the case when it comes to South Sudan’s situation.
Remember, IGAD was initially given the lead role in the peace talks before China, Nigeria, South Africa, AU, Troika countries (the United Kingdom, Norway, and the United States) and European Union (EU) were added as part of the peace process. However, its peace attempt failed. The addition of these countries led to the formation of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development-Plus (IGAD-Plus), which was formed to not follow in the footsteps of the credibility-tainted IGAD. What the South Sudanese want is for the EU, Troika, South Africa, China and Nigeria to explain to the people of South Sudan why they are being silenced, causing IGAD to play a role that will never bring peace to the young nation.
The absurdity of IGAD’s involvement in peace negotiations is that it engages as a separate entity and at the same time acts as part of the IGAD-Plus. This is not what IGAD-Plus was formed to do. IGAD-Plus was formed to work as a unified bloc to better address South Sudan’s conflict. IGAD-Plus should restore people’s faith in the peace process because their current pursuit of a purely IGAD club is merely advocating for Juba’s regime, and some of its members are clearly complicit in the war.
Besides, the people of South Sudan believe that the Ugandan and Kenyan Presidents are allies of South Sudanese President Salva Kiir. For instance, the Ugandan and Kenyan governments are members of IGAD and are known supporters of South Sudan’s government. Based on this fact, one could conclude that Kampala and Nairobi would never do anything that would allow Juba to cede power because Ugandan and Kenyan companies are benefiting from the war. The two nations work days and nights to ensure that any peace deal that would limit Kiir’s hold on power fails in IGAD. A nation cannot facilitate an arms sale to Kiir’s regime and then claim to be impartial. A nation cannot also receive millions of dollars from Kiir and claim to be neutral. This is exactly what Uganda and Kenya do while playing the peace card. This is undeniably a classic case of investment in Kiir’s atrocious regime.
IGAD failed the people of South Sudan and deserves to be blamed for allowing the war to drag on. The bloc failed because of Uganda’s and Kenya’s immoral investment in South Sudan’s atrocities. In theory, if the bloc was serious about peace in the country, it would achieve it by working out a deal that is fair to both sides. Several of IGAD’s leaders keep making empty promises by claiming that South Sudan’s war only needs East African or African solutions. But this is not what these leaders have been doing. These regional leaders have not been searching for a solution to bring an end to the conflict — in fact, they have been busy trying to convince South Sudanese leaders to accept Kiir’s cruelty. IGAD’s concept of wanting to be the only lead player in peace negotiations is not a plausible idea. The approach simply allows the bloc to lead the South Sudanese and the international community into believing that IGAD is working for peace when the opposite is the case. What is ironic about this is that the bloc purposely abandoned its original claim that South Sudan’s conflict only needs East African solutions by cunningly trying to sell its pro-Juba ideas to rebels and other parties to the conflict. It has been more than four years and the people of South Sudan still have not seen any East African solution that can resolve the war. It is time for the African Union and the international community to take over the peace process and tell IGAD that South Sudan’s atrocities are not for sale.
IGAD is no longer a trusted entity — it is a Uganda-run project. What the bloc is doing in the revitalization talks is simply trying to accommodate rebel and opposition leaders by giving them positions of power and then enabling Kiir to keep running the country. This was evident when the bloc issued a pro-Juba communiqué, announcing IGAD’s plan to relocate South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar to a country outside the East African region and shamelessly calling it a “lifting of Machar house arrest.” It is unreasonable to think that creating jobs for people who oppose Juba’s regime will solve the problem. The South Sudanese do not oppose Kiir’s regime because they want positions. The people of South Sudan simply decided to take arms against Kiir’s regime after he killed innocent civilians in Juba who have nothing to do with his political madness. The ongoing civil war was a carefully planned project — a project designed to purge any potential South Sudanese leaders who would pose a threat to Kiir’s tyrannical leadership. The people of South Sudan know very well that Salva Kiir and his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni, premeditated the conflict. IGAD must stop its nonsensical attempt to try to protect Kiir by deliberately proposing pro-Juba peace proposals. If the East African regional bloc does not change its current stance on South Sudan, then the international community should prepare for a long, perhaps never-ending suffering of the South Sudanese. IGAD’s anti-SPLM-IO behaviour must stop — the people of South Sudan have had enough of its buffoonery.
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