South Sudan Conflict: IGAD fights, mediates and negotiates

By Dr. Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol

Dr. DhieuAM

Dr. Dhieu Mathok Diing Wol, the head of foreign affairs committee with Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) and a member of its negotiation delegation with the government and other stakeholders.

Sept 12, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — One could be a party to a conflict, therefore a party to a negotiation process, if need arises. However, to be a mediating party as well in the same conflict is something unusual. The Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is fighting, mediating and negotiating at the time in the South Sudan conflict. It’s a situation which has never existed in conflict resolution theory and practice.

IGAD is a regional organization which brings together eight eastern African countries comprising of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda and Eretria but whose membership has been suspended temporarily. On December 13rd- just two days before the war erupted in South Sudan on December 15th, 2013- Uganda sent troops to South Sudan with knowledge of the South Sudanese authorities. Intelligent source reveals that minister in the office of the president for national security services General Mabuto Mamur Mete was tasked with coordination of the Uganda intervention. He (Mamur) contacted his Ugandan counterpart for intervention before the fabricated coup. Western Countries swallowed the move after the 15th December incident under pretext that the operation was meant for evacuation of foreign nationals in the country.

After this development to which Uganda readily responded, The IGAD summit, which established the mediating team under leadership of former minister of foreign affairs of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin, Kenyan General Lazarus Sumbeiywo and Sudanese General Mohamed Ahmed al-Dabi, endorsed and applauded Uganda for its timely intervention in South Sudan and encourages Ugandan People Defense Forces (UPDF) to continue playing its vital role in protecting an elected government in Juba.

The summit condemned Dr. Riek Machar and his group for their move to overthrow an elected president through a military coup and urged Dr. Riek to immediately come to a negotiating table within 72 hrs in Addis Ababa. Fighting the rebels wasn’t restricted to UPDF alone but some of the member states of the IGAD region participated in the conflict by selling guns and ammunitions to Juba. The justification given by these countries was that the government must exercise its normal functions and duties, including protection of sovereignty.

On the other side, the Sudanese rebels were mobilized by President Yoweri Museveni and Salva Kiir to fight the opposition in exchange of securing a base for the Sudanese rebels at the border with the Sudan especially, at Bentiu and Paloch. The impression is that the presence of the Sudanese rebels in these towns will provide a supply route to their forces because of the existing airfields. However, the reality for choosing these two areas is to protect the oilfields which the government uses to funds its military activities against freedom fighters and forces for democratic reforms. Unfortunately the IGAD accepts responsibility of the UPDF fighting in South Sudan and declined to take responsibility of the presence of the Sudanese rebels in the country. In mediation process; whether theoretically or practically the principle of impartiality is a key to the success particularly in a negotiated peace process. It’s important for a mediating body to seek opinion of parties and their consent on neutrality of the mediation including the venue of negotiations. In the event that any party has a reservation about mediating body then the process is compromised and shouldn’t proceed.

Although aware of consequences of accepting the IGAD decision to mediate in the conflict, The SPLM/SPLA entered into the process because there was no option other than peaceful resolution of the crisis in the country. The SPLM/SPLA leadership believes that the IGAD with its contradictions can still come and share with South Sudan burden of this conflict and its related humanitarian catastrophe. Therefore, the SPLM/SPLA thought IGAD was the best organization that could address the conflict and peace process in South Sudan. The proposition that the IGAD will take side and collide with Juba against the SPLM/SPLA in the mediation process has taken everyone by surprise but not the Movement. This is because when the SPLM/SPLA entered this mediation process the troops of some of the IGAD member states were already on the ground engaged in a serious operation against the SPLM/SPLA. What surprises us much is continuation of the IGAD conspiracy.

We thought those minds of reasoning, logic and wisdom will prevail particularly after the fabricated coup attempt, alleged by the regime in Juba had collapsed. However, the IGAD continues to stand firm behind one party by issuing resolutions, which support the government position.

With exception of January 2014, the warring parties weren’t allowed to engage on direct negotiations to address the root causes of the conflict. The only direct talk carried out was on the issues of cessation of hostilities and the release of the detainees. There was no occasion where the IGAD-led mediation allowed the warring parties to sit and discuss the root causes of the conflict.

The Mediation continues to formulate and change its own positions without considering the opinion of the warring parties. I remember in April the warring parties agreed on Declaration of Principles (DoP) and it was ready to be signed but the mediators refused and asked the parties to go for a recess and the document will be signed in the next session. When the parties reported back in May they got the DoP was abandoned and a new document called “Draft Agenda 1” was produced as a “leave or take it” document. The delegation consulted with its leadership and constituencies and accepted the “Draft Agenda 1” document but the government delegation refused and again it was abandoned by the IGAD and formulated another document called “Draft Agenda 2” which accommodates the government position and asked all the stakeholders to respond to it. Nevertheless, and despite the huge gap between the new document (Draft Agenda 2) and the SPLM/SPLA position, our delegation entered into the room and presented its position in a plenary meeting in presence of all stakeholders including the government delegation.

Unfortunately, when the Mediators formed thematic groups to narrow the gap, the government delegation immediately boycotted the meetings and stayed away for a week before the IGAD Summit on 25th August 2014. The mediation never issued a release explaining circumstances which led to the government move nor issued a release condemning the government attitude or even asking the government delegation to resume peace talks.

Before the IGAD Summit of the 25th August the document, which is known as “Protocol on the Agreed Principles on Transitional Arrangements toward Resolution of the Crisis in South Sudan”, President Museveni invited Kiir to Kampala for consultation on the document and from there Kiir revealed that he should not share the government with Dr. Machar, and if the intention of the IGAD leaders is to compel him to share the government with the opposition, then he will not attend the summit on the 25th of August. Subsequently, the Kampala meeting compromises the document in order to address Kiir’s interests and fears.

The original text was reported to be focusing on division of powers between a President who will be the head of State and a Prime Minister who will be the head of the Government. There was no position of Vice President in the original text. Kiir insisted that he should lead both State and Government and James Wani remaining as Vice President. In order to deny Dr. Machar participation, he insisted that the nominee of the opposition to the position of the prime minister must be endorsed by him, and the candidate to that position shouldn’t contest in the elections at the end of the transitional period.

The reforms which were suggested in the document and supposed to be negotiated in Addis Ababa were delayed in the amended version and proposed to be discussed and carried out in Juba during the transitional period. In conformity with his redline positions, Kiir refused dissolution of the Parliament and suggested absorption of opposition in current parliament. Kiir also attempted to delete in the document the issues of justice and accountability, which ban public figures identified to have played a significant role in the conflict from holding an office during the transitional period. However, he managed to reduce legal institution that deals with the war crimes, which will be recommended by the Obasanjo’s commission to a local court.

The amended document was sold to the rest of the IGAD leaders as a unified position and everyone blessed it. Eventually, Salva Kiir accepted the invitation and flew to Addis Ababa for the summit. In a closed session the of the IGAD Summit the document was presented with its amendments, but Dr. Machar refused it and asked the leaders to give chance for a direct negotiation between the warring parties. When Salva Kiir was asked about his opinion on the matter, he agreed with Dr. Riek that the warring parties should be allowed to discuss the document. Unfortunately, the chair of the meeting insisted that the document is an IGAD position and the leaders must sign it as their unified position.

In a meeting attended by media houses, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia the Chair of the IGAD stated that the warring parties will not sign the document, because they requested time to discuss it, and the IGAD leaders will sign it as their position. The document was passed around for signatures. General Lazarus Sumbeywo took the last page of the document that bears names of the signatories to Salva Kiir and without asking about the text, he signed it. The paper was passed to Dr. Machar but he asked General Sumbeywo about the document being signed, he went back and came after few seconds and said “sorry you and Salva were not supposed to sign” and Dr. Riek replied, but Salva had already signed; but Sumbeywo said “I will cut Salva’s name and your name out of the document”.

The explanation given by the government negotiators later was that Salva had signed the document as head of State and not a warring party. It was very surprising to see the government delegation celebrating in Juba the same document and pushing for its implementation through the parliament. The worse scenario in this drama was the press conference held by the mediation, where Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin urged the SPLM/SPLA to sign the document, despite being knowledgeable of all the circumstances leading to rejection of the document by the opposition. It wasn’t a secret issue because the PM admitted publicly that the document is a non-binding paper on the warring parties. The SPLM/SPLA wants to make it clear that it has nothing to do with the 25th August document and distances itself from this document.

The Author is the head of foreign affairs committee with Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) and a member of its negotiation delegation with the government and other stakeholders.

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