Home | Comment & Analysis    Saturday 21 August 2021

Is IGAD partly responsible for current confusion in South Sudan?

By Bol Khan

In April 2016, Radio Tamazuj posted and answered questions about the fainting Security arrangements or demilitarization of the capital, Juba as stipulated in 2015’s signed ARCSS and I quote. "Has Juba been demilitarized? A guide for confused observers. Why is Juba supposed to be demilitarized? Who is supposed to verify if the two sides comply with the limits?" End quotes. Similarly, this opinion piece appraises whether or not the regional bloc, IGAD is partly responsible for the current deadly confusion in South Sudan. Who are Peace Obstructers in South Sudan? A question to Peace Guarantors and those seemingly confused citizens of South Sudan. In other words, the implementation of the R-ARCSS (especially the Security arrangements) has stalled. Who has been impeding the process, for all this time? Is it IO, IG, FDs, Real-SPLM, the R-TGoNU, the Presidency, or who in person (s)? Who is supposed to identify or hold South Sudan’s peace spoilers accountable for violating the peace agreement or the rights of South Sudanese people? Is it IGAD, AU, TROIKA, the UN or R-TNL? Or they are (Peace Obstructers) free to selectively implement whatever they want and leave what they don’t with impunity. Are you a South Sudanese citizen? What is your role (as a South Sudanese true citizen) in peacemaking?

Split in the SPLM’s House: The source of current deadly confusions in South Sudan!

In a brief flashback, let’s be reminded that the seed of South Sudan’s current deadly confusion (vicious cycle) originated in the SPLM’s house in 2013. It was a seed sowed by members of the party’s leadership. The confusion emerged when H: E Mama Rebecca Garang, Riek Machar, Wani Igga, Pagan Amum and Gen. Salva Kiir were declared vying for one seat; the SPLM’s Chair. It was a slight misunderstanding which everyone accustomed to democratic principles thought would be handled by the party’s legislative bodies (PB & NLC). The misunderstanding first revolved around the modalities to be used during the expected party primary elections, a direct show of hands or secret ballots. People thought were that the differences would soon be ironed by the party’s leadership within the SPLM’s House. However, unfortunately, it appeared there was no such audacity in the SPLM’s house to settle its own internal misunderstandings. As a result, the party’s structures dissolved themselves; depicting the party’s entire membership from top to bottom as being contaminated. On 23 July 2013, the entire cabinet was sacked; a government that comprised all political parties in the country including independent South Sudanese citizens. Apparently, in the month of October 2013, it came clearer that the SPLM’s internal misunderstanding was soon going to have a negative effect on the country as a whole. On 15 Dec 2013, as expected, killings were started at Tiger battalion, Presidential Guards unit. And on December 16 2013, the fire leapt and selectively burned in Juba’s suburbs the houses of the innocent civilians who had nothing to do with the power struggle or politicians’ differences within political parties. The ethnic-based killings continued and escalated to the States. It then became a Civil War. That’s how the current (deadly confusions) problem of South Sudan started; a brief reminder, for those of you who might have forgotten.

Social, economic and political crisis

Who has the responsibility to solve social, economic and political crises in any country? There are three (3) different approaches (institutions) use in solving social, economic and political crises. The first is the leadership (leaders) of any given political party (parties) in any country. Second, are regional and international actors who must always come in to help mediate the failed country’s leaders. Third and the last which also sometimes comes second to the first approach, depending on the urgency of the crisis, is the civil population of that country.

First, the party (ies) and the country’s political leadership is always expected to solve its own internal crisis. Kenya, for example, internally did it in 2008’s post-elections crisis and again in the 2016 elections. This can sometimes further be done in one of the following ways, either through political settlement while the same leaders still leading the country or by stepping down as a leader in order to allow new blood to take the country to the next level of prosperity. As Ethiopia’s former PM H: E Hailemariam Desalegn had done in February 2018. This is executive level in the government system, but should the executive branch (comprising of all political parties) failed in solving be it a social, economic or political crisis, then the people’s representatives, the legislature branch immediately intervene and rescue the country civil population from the yoke of messes created by the executive. For instance, in South Sudan, the 2010 elected MPs to National Legislature (NL) were willingly supposed to intervene in 2013-2018 and do what is in the best interest of the people they represent in parliament. However, unfortunately, for all this time since 2013, the parliament in Juba didn’t act in their constituents’ interests as expected. Now, the current 650 membership R-TNL, though most of them are hands’ picked, has a viable chance to rescue South Sudan and its people from the current vicious cycle. As legislators, they “represent the will of the people of South Sudan” the power to exercise legislative powers, to advise or even slap a vote of no confidence against any particular executive member (s) or “impeach the President or Vice President (s) as Article 55 (f) of TCSS (as amended) stipulates.

Two, once the country political leaders failed to solve their own internal crisis, then the regional or global meditators come in for help. The TROIKA-IGAD-backed peace mediation broke the Sudan Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) successfully in 2005 stands as an example. And what the ECOWAS also did in the Gambia....etc.

Three, when all of the above, the first and second approaches (the country leadership or regional mediation) failed to materialized, then the people/civil population of that country can act and do whatever they can to rescue themselves directly from the vandalism done by the politicians. The civil populations gather themselves in front of the government institutions and remove political leaders from power, especially those political leaders seen as the obstacle to peace in the country. This always happens (interchangeable) after the failure of unified political forces in addition to nearby intervened regional meditators. The civil populations always do this democratically as a last resort. Like what had happened in Tunisia and Egypt in 2011 as well as in Sudan in April 2019.

Is IGAD partly responsible for deadly confusion in South Sudan?

I have categorized South Sudan contagious past and current deadly confusions into three (3) correlated stages as briefly described below.

The 1st deadly confusion occurred on 15 December 2013 when the SPLM/A started the killings within itself before extended it to Nuer civilians in Juba. This incident came as a result of the party’s leadership failure. Around March-June 2013, the party leaders democratically tried failed to curb personal and ideological differences. Instead of ironing their differences, they came out from the house in groups each beating the chests spreading fire on the streets. Before Dec 2013, the SPLM’s leaders toured their respective regions and confused the people with information suiting only their political interests. As a result, some armed youth trekked into the national capital at the diurnal time to the already polarized national army, the SPLA. On Dec 16 2013, the same armed men indiscriminately targeted one ethnic group, the Nuer people in Juba. In the minds of those armed men “Machar and the Nuer wanted to forcefully snatch J1’s top seat from Mayardit”, so they were on a mission “rescuing the Bandit”. The Government called 15 Dec 2013’s incident a thwarted “coup attempt against the Constitutional, legitimate and elected Government of the Republic of South Sudan”. The killings of civilians in Juba irrepressibly confused the entire situation in the country. The Nuer White Army in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile States, therefore, joined the fight “retaliating” against the innocent Dinka e.g. in Akoba County of Jonglei State. Riek Machar side of the story said Dec 15 2013’s incident was “an assassination attempt on the SPLM’s leaders”. This deadly confusion went deep into the grassroots level where the war continued Dinka vs Nuer, Nuer vs Nuer, Chollo vs Nuer, SPLA-IO vs SPLA-IG Dinka vs Chollo until 2015 when the ARCSS was signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Juba. Paradoxically, to diverse people, that deadly confusion was a tribal, personalities’ or ideological (civil) war. Tens of thousands of innocent South Sudanese were killed out of that confusion. In 2014, the SPLM alone later realized and agreed in Tanzania that what happened in 2013 was wrong (the methods of elections) and that the party would be reunited with one political party.

The 2nd deadly confusion happened on 8th July 2016; three months after 2015 signed ARCSS became “very difficult to be implemented”. James Gatdet Dak, Machar’s spokesperson, immediately wrote on his Facebook page that the earlier communicated State House meeting was “a trick to arrest and harm the FVP President, Dr Riek Machar". Shortly, after the fight President Mayardit and First Vice President Machar came out and held a joint press conference, addressed the media saying they “were all in a meeting inside the State House; when the fighting erupted outside”, therefore they knew nothing as to what could cause the fight. However, on the following day, statements changed; both sides claimed the 8th July 2016’s incident was “an assassination attempt” made against each other. That the latter “had a pistol” wanting to shot the former. On 11th July 2016, fighting resumed Machar with his forces pushed outside Juba fled towards WES. Gen. Taban Deng dethroned Machar, on the other hand, relegated Lado Gore and declared himself SPLM/A-IO’s Chairman & Commander-in-Chief, now ready to continue with the implementation of the ARCSS without Machar. On 25th July 2016, Gen. Taban D. Gai was named First Vice President by President Kiir. South Sudan returned to full-scale war. Destructions of both human lives and properties continued. The 2016 deadly confusion escalated just like in 2013, the SPLM-IG backed-IO-Taban’s faction vs IO-Machar’s faction, Nuer vs Nuer. The relatively peaceful Equatoria region was now involved, Bari vs Bari, Azande vs Azande, Acholi vs Acholi, Lotuka vs Lokuta and Kuku vs Kuku...etc. Parties returned to negotiating table, through HLRF first in Khartoum, Sudan and then ended in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Lastly, the 2nd peace deal, the “R-ARCSS” was signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 12th September 2018 after 3 years of the first Transitional Period were wasted, point-blank. Taban Deng’s SPLM/A-IO joined the SPLM mainstream under President Kiir. Ten of thousands of South Sudanese people were unreasonably got killed yet again in such deadly confusion.

The 3rd and current deadly confusion occurred on the 7th of August 2021 in Upper Nile State, at Magenis/Kit Gwang SPLA-IO’s Sector One (1) HQrs between the frustrated SPLA-IO’s forces. The confusion/infighting is still continuing within the IO’s homestead but it may spread sooner or later to other areas in the country which in turn shall again negatively affect the R-ARCSS. In an actual sense, the current deadly confusions in Kit Gwang plus rampant communal violence in Tonj North, East or Tonj West of Warrap State and other places across South Sudan all came as a result of frustrations caused by a slow pace of the R-ARCSS’s implementation process. There is no other reason at all for communities to fight themselves or look at themselves as enemies if there has been some progress in the implementation of the peace agreement in the country. Each and every one of those soldiers now fighting themselves in Kit Gwang, the youth or other citizens who are killing themselves in Tonjs or dying helplessly in IDPs/refugees camps would have been busy by now in their respective posts working in the government institutions or private sector for their own families’ economic survival. Stop Kit Gwang’s infighting. We don’t want the Kit Gwang’s ongoing deadly confusions to escalate and reach innocent people of South Sudan at their already devastated homes as it had happened in 2013 and also in 2016, where neighbour fought against neighbour, Nuer against Nuer, Chollo against Chollo, Nuer against Chollo, Kuku against Kuku, Anyuak against Anyuak, Fertit against Fertit, Azande vs Azande…etc. No, that eight (8) years of senseless civil war is enough because it has cost us, the South Sudanese people a lot. There is no need for more deadly confusion.

Magenis—Kit Gwang’s infighting

Was Kit Gwang’s deadly confusion avoidable? Is IGAD partly responsible for this continuous 3rd deadly confusion in South Sudan? Let’s briefly read & see whether or not Kit Gwang’s infighting was avoidable, how it came about or if the regional bloc, IGAD was responsible. In February 2020, the SPLM-IO’s political leadership went to Juba and then (“because of the mounting pressures from IGAD, the region & Global Community”) it decided to participate in the R-TGoNU’s formation (which was behind scheduled) but without security arrangements in place. During the formation of the R-TGONU, the SPLM-IO’s nominated Gen. Johnson Olony for the oil-rich Upper Nile’s Governor. This nomination was instantly rejected by SPLM-IG on the ground that Gen. Johnson Olony commands a separate and untrusted Agwelek force which had also “destroyed the properties of Apadang Dinka” during the five (5) year old South Sudan Civil war. The SPLM-IO, in accordance with the R-ARCSS, shared the contentious issues with RJMEC and regional bloc IGAD. The SPLA-IO’s military command leadership at its base in Magenis/Kit Gwang requested SPLM-IO’s leadership & FVP to go and brief them of the progress made so far in the peace implementation. SPLM-IO political leadership demanded the opposite, allegedly because the leadership, Dr Riek Machar, was "under house arrest" in Juba. Gen. Gatwech Dual wrote a direct Letter of “an appeal to South Sudan Peace Guarantors IGAD, AU and Troika to accept our request as a Movement that the Chairman, Commander-in-Chief and FVP of the Republic of South Sudan, Dr Riek Machar Teny-Dhurghon, should be given a chance in order to meet and brief the SPLA (IO) Military Leadership about the status of the Peace in the military HQrs”. Gen. Simon Gatwech accused and suspended Gen. Simon Dhilling Chief of Military Intelligence (MI), Machar rejected the suspension. After the exchange of bitter words over the variety of peace implementation-related issues, for nearly a year, the SPLA-IO military Chief of General Staff then accused the IO political leadership (politicians) in Juba of having abandoned them; flagging in the bushes, while the later are enjoying lavishing life in Hotels. On the other hand, the IO’s political leadership in Juba said Gen Gatwech Dual unreasonably refuses to go to Juba and join the R-TGONU, formed under the legitimate R-ARCSS signed by all parties in 2018. In the minds of the SPLA-IO’s Kit Gwang group, Riek Machar is the one impeding the implementation of R-ARCSS or the Security Arrangements because he is unable to move outside Juba or talk about the peace implementation contentious issues. So, the Kit Gwang’s splinter group said Riek Machar must be removed from movement and fought at accordingly. IGAD as the responsible body tasked to guide the parties is also unable to push for R-ARCSS’s implementation, the security arrangements or clarify whether or not Riek Machar is indeed under house "arrest" as allegedly said by Gen. Gatwech Dual. People depend now on assumptions which definitely caused the current deadly confusion in Kit Gwang. So, to me, IGAD is entirely responsible for the ongoing Kit Gwang’s deadly confusion; because everybody including IGAD saw it coming because it was too widely communicated by the parties involved yet IGAD chose brutal silence over those issues. When the above stated contentious issues were being raised, I thought, IGAD was going to take quick and decisive action against any party it perceived was violating the other’s rights. Moreover, most of the issues raised were all in line with the provisions of R-ARCSS (IGAD) facilitated in 2018. For instance, the unreasonable continuous starvation of the people of South Sudan amid these rampant insecurities, rejection of Gen. Johnson Olony to lead Upper Nile State as Governor, the issue of Security Arrangement to mention but a few. So, given an IGAD’s extensive knowledge of South Sudanese (leaders) behaviours, I can say and repeat the IGAD was/is partly responsible for 2016 (read Radio Tamazuj posted and 8 questions in April 2016) and 2021 deadly confusions. Why because as a responsible regional body tasked to be guiding the South Sudan leadership during the implementation of the peace deal, IGAD was supposed to immediately intervene after every dispute which occurred between the parties involved. IGAD isn’t only partly responsible for Kit Gwang’s current confusion; it was also responsible for this current unabated political will from within the leadership of South Sudan. It is that lack of political will which caused the SPLM’s split in 2013 (the first deadly confusion) and the 2nd deadly confusion when the 2015 ARCSS was openly thrown into River Nile without questions from you, the direct regional actor. You’re a father, and one of your children for instance is intentionally and sabotaging the family well-being. Get up as a father and tell the child at fault that he/she has done it wrong. Use the soft and stringent ways for your children to correct objectively. It can encourage their unity and harmony. Don’t choose brutal silence and expect things to work out smoothly. IGAD is supposed to reprimand and chastise those who incessantly violated (ing) “too many agreements” or the rights of their fellow citizens. Do that in a face-to-face or closed door or official meeting, tell them what has gone wrong, where and what should be done going forward. "We call upon the parties to the ARCSS/R-ARCSS" to do this or that without decisive action wasn’t/isisn’t the best way to handle the current situation in South Sudan. You have experienced the same thing in the past peace agreement the ARCSS signed in 2015 when it was deliberately being abrogated. So, after that, you needed to use a “stick & carrots” policy so that history doesn’t repeat itself. For how long should you allow peace spoilers/obstructers to create more messes and deadly confusions through their actions, decision and decrees without accountability?

The fragmented SPLM’s leadership; complicit IGAD and the languishing South Sudanese people

What is the South Sudan problem? To me, South Sudan’s problem was and is still the lack of “political will” from the fragmented SPLM’s leadership to do what is right and good for the people of South Sudan. The fragmented SPLM’s leadership includes the current SPLM-IG under Pres. Mayardit, SPLM-IO under FVP Machar, FDs under Vice Mama Rebecca, SSUFA under Malong & the Real SPLM under Pagan Amum. This fragmented leadership is where we need to search thoroughly until we find all those impeding peace in South Sudan; particularly all or some of those big five (5) individual leaders who expressed their needs to run for SPLM’s Chair in 2013. Why because when they disagreed in the SPLM’s House, they came out and confused the situation and where thereafter the people of South Sudan went and killed themselves in 2013, 2016 & 2021’s deadly confusions which we all witnessed and read above. So, my humble advice going to my fellow South Sudanese is that; please stop looking at yourselves in the grassroots as enemies to each other, turning against yourselves in Warrap (Tonj North vs South, Tonj East vs Tonj West) the same thing in UNS, in WES, in USB, JS, EES, NBGS, CE, Lakes, WBGS and three Administrative Areas. No, the main problem is neither you the ordinary Dinka, Nuer, Bari, Chollo, Jur Chol nor Murle, Kuku in the villages. The problem is those Dinka, Nuer, Chollo, Bari at the final decisions making in our national capital, Juba, were the ones who have been creating all these deadly confusions. The confusions which have so far mass buried the lives of four hundred thousand (400,000) South Sudanese people—now approaching half (500,000) a million people as you read this piece. Remember, the transitional period of 36 months provided under 2018 R-ARCSS is soon coming to an end without the peace dividends South Sudan expected to enjoy as per Article 45 of TCSS 2011 (as amended). Are we ready to wait for the end of this shaky peace the R-ARCSS and then go back to Khartoum or Ethiopia in order to re-negotiate & sign another agreement (maybe the Third R-R-ARCSS) in 2025 or 2026? Also remember, both the fragmented leadership and IGAD are not very different in being part and parcel of the immense sufferings South Sudanese people are facing today in the IDPs’ PoC sites, Refugees camps and across the country. So, the best thing that you can do now is to stop dividing yourselves and fight behind the fragmented and failed leaderships. Instead, let’s unite ourselves together against those individual leaders we believed to be lacking the political will to implement the 2018 peace accord, the R-ARCSS in spirit and letter as they did with the 2015 first ARCSS.

Bol Khan is a Human Rights and Peace Activist. He works with a South Sudanese National and Civil Society Organization. Most of the views expressed here are his own and do not represent the Organization. Reach him at khanrom8@gmail.com or Twitter@BolKhan5