Home | Comment & Analysis    Friday 8 May 2020

How S Sudan parties stuck between government and peace agreement


By Steve Paterno

The R-ARCSS is envisioned and written beautifully, covering over a whooping a hundred pages. It sets events to be implemented in sequences, with benchmarks to beat datelines in the implementation process. By looking at it, the agreement would have resolved most of South Sudan’s woes.

However, due to challenging prevailing realities of implementing the agreement, couple with intransigences of parties involved, and international pressure, the agreement experiences a setback in the implementation process. As a result, this throws the implementation sequencing out of orders to the point that most implementation provisions of the agreement can never ever be reconciled with the circumstances of practical realities the formed government is operating under. The formed operating government already established new practical reality parallel to the vision of R-ARCSS.

The major problem is, for example, the agreement calls on the establishment of the structures of TGoNU, meaning forming the executive branch as well as Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) and the Council of States concurrently, in eight a plus months from signing date of the agreement. However, that dateline came and passed. Six more months were added for the formation of TGoNU. Unfortunately, six more months also came and went. Then three more months were added again.

This time, there were more agitation and anxiety from all corners including the general population and international community who threatened harsh punishment against individual members to the agreement, especially government members. The focus became so narrow to pressure the parties that Riek Machar must be sworn at all cause at his rightful position as the First Vice President. The parties relented to the pressure. Therefore, Riek Machar was sworn in, but his swearing-in was only ceremonial and awkward at best.

The ceremonial and awkward swearing-in of Riek Machar followed by yet dramatic appointment and swearing-in of cabinet members. Not much attention was being paid to reconstitute TNLA, which supposed to happened concurrently with the formation of the executive branch. The reconstituted TNLA supposed to vet and approve members of the cabinet before they were sworn in and oversee and supervise their work thereafter. Equally significant, no attention was also paid to reconstitute the Council of States. The problems of reconstitution of the Council of States is particularly different and difficult as it depends very much on determination on numbers and boundaries of states, an issue which eludes parties to the agreement for some times.

However, absence in reconstituting TNLA and Council of States as well as implementing other important provisions of the agreement within the supposed sequential orders already created serious practical realities that parties to the agreement must deal with.

It was, however, ironic at best and destructive at worst to see Minister of Defence Angelina Teny challenging the legal existence of current TNLA when her miserable performance was called into questions. The lesson here should be that the minister who her constitutional position has not been vetted and approved by any institution should be the last one to challenge the legality of another institution.

Equally ironic and destructive is to see Riek Machar crying foul on the Operating Procedural Standard the presidency adopted, particularly on allocations of states. The funny thing is that Riek Machar agrees with this Operating Procedural Standard of the presidency, appointing him as Czar of COVID 19, where he seats comfortably, dishing out orders as he will never have a chance to issue orders any more at the national platform.

Unnecessarily crying foul, Riek Machar erroneously went on citing article of the agreement, which actually offers zero eight per cent (08%) to Other Political Parties (OPP) as a ratio in power-sharing in the allocation of states. He argued that OPP should have gotten one state from the six allocated to the government. Mathematically speaking, zero eight per cent (08%) of a ratio allocated to OPP actually translated dismally below a whole number of one (1) and there is no below one (1) existing state under contest. But seriously, the issue at hands is not just a mathematical calculation, but also operating procedural system adopted as a result of consensus, subject to democratic rules that the presidency operates under.

The presidency is made up of representatives of their respective parties. They have their procedural operating system in resolving disputes and reaching agreements. Hence, in this particular case, the consensus agreement among the presidency is that since OPP allocated ratio is below one. It, therefore, does not meet a threshold to have a state like the rest of the parties, which met the threshold level. Using a threshold in determining outcome through numerical values, is a standard procedure being practised everywhere. OPP has no qualm with this arrangement and agreement since it actually does not deserve a state by not meeting the numerical threshold. Then who is Riek Machar to cry foul?

Article 1.16.4 that Riek Machar quoted, the "relative prominence" of a choice in this instant lays with OPP to cede state with whatever offers it agreed to take in exchange for the state it ceded. Therefore, Riek Machar has no point to make there.

And finally, with respect to article 7.11 Riek Machar cited, there is no "deadlock" among the parties for RJMEC to resolve, when the parties already reached agreement themselves. The presidency members, by virtue of their positions, are representatives of respective parties to the agreement. Therefore, their agreement is final and binding.

Since the sequencing of implementation of the agreement is not in order from the get-go, parties to the agreement who found themselves in operating government system, awkward it may be, must find practical solutions to make things work. The international community who pressure so hard in the creation of the current system must understand what they helped to create before rushing to judgement in creating more mess. It is what it is, and all must be practical to do their best going forward. Party members of the agreement in government, particularly io members must not be confused in their roles in government. They cannot play a destructive role in government operations as they wish.

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