IGAD Has Abandoned its Original Role as a Mediator in the South Sudanese Peace Process
By Riang Yer Zuor Nyak,
Jan 12, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — When the Peace Process began in January 2014 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, IGAD began by trying to play conflicting roles. While it was acting in Addis Ababa as a mediator, some of its members, especially Uganda, was engaging the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) in some of the most brutal battles on the side of the regime that was carrying out genocide. Others were playing their own other roles by either supplying the regime with arms and ammunitions or by allowing their ports to be used for the import of arms and ammunitions.
These conflicting roles and contradictions only came to an end when IGAD Member States which were then supplying Juba with arms and ammunitions came to learn from the SPLM/A that Salva and his group had actually manufactured the story of a coup attempt. At the same time, Uganda was stopped from trying to be part of the mediation. Dr. Riek Machar only gave Museveni the option of taking part in the negotiations as part of Salva Kiir’s government, if he wanted to play a direct role.
Now it seems that stopping arms supply and pulling out the Ugandans from playing an active role in the mediation did not actually end the IGAD’s propensity to playing conflicting roles. As things began to unfold, it became very clear that IGAD was (and is) set to do whatever is available at its disposal, ranging from active participation on the battle fields to playing tricks to being mediators to being negotiators and to being arbiters. In addition, it has as of recent resort to issuing threats of different types. This propensity to mixing roles is a sign that IGAD Mediators are not fair and credible, and that they are bound to fail the peace process. If this continues, then the collapse of the Peace Process is just around the corner.
Since the beginning of the peace process, IGAD has made it very clear that it has its own demands besides the demands made by the warring parties. Three of these demands include signing of a peace agreement, forming a transitional government of national unity and Salva Kiir to remain as the leader of that transitional government.
On the issue of peace agreement, IGAD is not the only one demanding; many, including the SPLM/A in particular and the people of South Sudan in general make similar demands. The difference is that the SPLM/A and the people of South Sudan in general want a peace agreement that identifies and addresses the root causes of the war, and that does not maintain the status quo in the country. IGAD does not see the need to address the root causes. Its leaders want just a peace agreement of any quality. This is the problem. One cannot expect to succeed in uprooting a tree by just cutting off its apex.
On the formation of a transitional government of national unity, again, there is no objection so long as there is an agreement that identifies and addresses the root causes of the war to the satisfaction of the people of South Sudan. The whole problem that is now before the IGAD is simple to tackle. It only demands the willingness on the part of the mediator to be fair and impartial with the commitment and courage to get into the fundamentals of the problem. It is a matter of following a very simple sequence of things, such as identifying and addressing the root causes of the war, agreeing on who was responsible for the Juba massacres and on, agreeing on the reforms to be made, agreeing on the transitional security arrangements, agreeing on the system of governance as the current system has proven to be a failure, agreeing on how to form and divide a transitional government that could be tasked to carry out the reforms during the transition and agreeing on the leadership of such a transitional government. Following such a sequence would bring a lasting peace in South Sudan.
Instead, IGAD, as of late, has resorted to giving threats as a strategy to bring an end to the war. Each time a threat is issued, no tangible result is realized. This should be enough to inform any reasonable, right-thinking human being that unjust threats cannot work, especially when the war is fought on genuine people’s issues. People’s issues must be genuinely addressed. It is better that way than issuing threats.
The last Summit was a disaster. IGAD leaders showed their ultimate disrespect for the great people of South Sudan. The threats of war which were uttered at the end of the Summit were based on the wrong assumption that the people of South Sudan can easily be scared. The country is currently at war between a genocidal government and a people resisting the genocidal policies of that government. How can one think of effectively ending a war by uttering threats of war? It should be expected by now that the people have made a decision to die for their cause, and that threats of death would not disarm them. IGAD has gone as far as referring, in their power-sharing proposal, to the president (Salva Kiir) as a symbol of national unity. That is artificial, insensitive and insulting. The man has divided the country as never before. He embarked on genocide, killing members of one tribe for nothing other than that they come from that particular tribe. And you call him a symbol of national unity? There is nothing more insulting than referring to such a man as a symbol of national unity.
Anyway, IGAD does not have a legal ground to wage war against the people of South Sudan. This can be understood by taking a quick glance at the document that established this Authority in March of 1996.
First, Article 6A tells us about IGAD’s six guiding principles. Article 6A (b) clearly talks about “Non-interference in the internal affairs of Member States.” It is followed by paragraph (c) which talks about “Peaceful settlement of inter- and intra-State conflicts through dialogue”. Paragraph (c) can be read together with Article 7 (g) which provides that the aims and objectives of the Authority shall be to, inter alia, “Promote peace and stability in the sub-region and create mechanisms within the sub-region for the prevention, management and resolution of inter and intra-State conflicts through dialogue.”
The Articles cited above do not give IGAD any authority to militarily interfere in the current war in South Sudan or any other Member State for that matter. It is only commanded to use and encourage dialogue between the warring parties to bring about a peaceful settlement of the war. It would be unlawful to take up arms against South Sudan.
Article 9 (2) (c) provides that one of the functions of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government is to “Give guidelines and monitor political issues especially on conflict prevention, management and resolution. Again, this does not hint any use of force, such as the one that the IGAD Heads of State and Government threatened during the last Summit in November 2014. The guidelines being talked about by the Article can never be interpreted, in any way, to contradict the provisions of Articles 6 and 7, which advocate for a peaceful settlement of the conflict through dialogue.
Article 18A (a), which talks about conflict resolution provides that Member States shall “take effective collective measures to eliminate threats to regional cooperation, peace and stability”. This provision has four important elements: (1) collective measures, (2) effectiveness of such measures, (3) elimination of threats and (4) regional cooperation, peace and stability. It is true that the war in South Sudan threatens regional cooperation, peace and stability due to involvement of others. The question is how to eliminate such a threat. Is it through the military use of force, as IGAD Heads of State threaten? Collective measure has already been taken by calling the parties to the war to sit at the negotiating table, as opposed to one Member State doing the same. Where does the idea of collective military measure come from? They could collectively decide to use military force as much as they could. But, would that be effective?
First of all, IGAD does not have a legal ground to conduct a war of occupation in South Sudan. Second, IGAD does not have what it takes to win a war of that nature. IGAD countries can pull themselves together with all the heavy weapons and thousands of troops currently at their disposal. But, they can never have the hearts and minds of the people of South Sudan. And that is the most important weapon. Any army, of any size, lacking this can never win a war. It can win battles. But, at the end, it would lose the war. Imperial Japan in China had that experience; American in Viet Nam had that experience; and many more examples. There is no reason for one to think that it would be any different in South Sudan. For these two reasons, unlawful use of military force to eliminate threats to regional cooperation, peace and stability would never be effective. There must be a different way to bring the war to an end. And that is a genuinely conducted mediation that does not shy away from the causes of the war.
As tragic as this war is, South Sudanese have come to see it as a blessing in disguise. Ten years of tyranny have to end; the tyrant at the helm has to be uprooted before it is too late. As such, they will never allow IGAD to return their country to the business as usual. If use of force is the magic strategy, then IGAD leaders should also, at the same time that they are planning to go on with the war of occupation, prepare the citizens of their respective countries for a very long, painful and expensive war. This way, their citizens can approve of the plan knowing exactly the grave consequences—both local economic and human tragedies that would be involved for their would-be occupying countries once boots touch the soil of South Sudan. They (citizens of the IGAD countries) also need to understand that all of these tragedies would be for a narrow interest of the leaders who are bent on keeping in place an anti-people government in a sisterly African state.
IGAD’s demand that Salva Kiir must lead the transitional government is without a good justification. He has already led two governments since 2005. The current war was mixed and brewed under his command; he took a decision to commit genocide against a section of the population of the very people whom he claims to lead. He failed to lead the country before the war and he has failed to show any signs of readiness to lead this country after the outbreak of the war. In fact, he wants chaos, for it gives him an opportunity to blame his failure on instability of the country. Yet, IGAD sees incumbency as the only qualification and justification for him to continue leading the people to hell.
Since IGAD is interested in only three things, namely, peace agreement that does not address the root causes of the war, formation of a transitional government and Salva Kiir as the leader of such a transitional government, it is obvious that it is not ready for a genuine solution to the war. It is ready only for window dressing. It prefers a short process that can only produce a bad peace over a long process that can produce a sustainable peace. IGAD leaders would even be happy if they get a one-sentenced peace agreement that reads as follows: ‘We, the warring parties, agree to make peace and form a transitional government to be led by Salva Kiir’. I believe that such an agreement would be good enough for them. On the basis of how the IGAD leaders have been behaving (naked exhibition of partiality that does not address the roots of the war), it is clear that they would see such an agreement as an amicable solution to the war and deserving of a celebration.
IGAD’s partiality has become a real problem. And this problem has manifested itself in a number of ways, including shifting of roles when certain interests are suited. But, the whole business of shifting from role to role is a sign that IGAD Leaders no longer believe in their ability to end the war. They have virtually resorted to such a dancing exercise, hoping to accidentally stumble on a solution. So far, IGAD has become a party to the war, a mediator, a negotiator and a biased arbiter at the same time. It should and must commit to one of them.
IGAD as a Party to the War
At first, many IGAD members took part in the war in their own different ways. Ethiopia and Sudan provided arms and ammunitions to the Juba regime. This only stopped when the coup story was discredited by the SPLM/A. Kenya provided a conduit through which arms flowed to Juba, and still provides that to this day. The fact that the Kenyan Government has accepted that there was never a coup attempt has not stopped that government from continuing with its support of the regime. What could be the reason? All of us can only guess it.
As for Uganda, it has been actively fighting alongside Salva’s loyalists. Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces (UPDF) and Salva’s army are now one and the same regardless of whether or not there was a coup. They are simply partners in crime. This partnership has recently been strengthened when arms embargo was imposed on South Sudan. The two countries have now, as the result, entered into an agreement where Uganda will buy arms and ammunitions for South Sudan. As partners in crime, won’t they equally share punishments and other responsibilities emanating from such a partnership?
IGAD as an Impartial Mediator
Between January and August 2014, IGAD’s role in the peace process was to facilitate the talks between the parties, especially after the Ethiopian and the Sudanese governments stopped their arms deals with Juba and Uganda was successfully dropped as part of the mediation. But all of this changed suddenly on August 25, 2014 when IGAD Heads of State and Government signed a protocol that imposed Salva as president and commander-in-chief of the envisioned transitional government without giving room for the warring parties to negotiate. Both the SPLM/A and the Government in Juba were not for such a prescription, and refused to sign on to the Protocol. Salva only signed after a trick was played on him. Even then, his signature was only used on the document as one of the Heads of State and Government—not a signature representing a party to the war.
IGAD as a Partial Negotiator
The August 25th Protocol completely changed the attitude of the IGAD leaders in a drastic way. It was the conspicuous end of impartiality. Most, if not all, of the IGAD leaders have decided to side with their colleague—“…the elected, incumbent president…”, Salva Kiir. To them, the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians savagely murdered in Juba by Salva using state power became irrelevant. They saw (and still see) their murders as a normal exercise of state power by a Head of State and Government.
During the Bahir Dar negotiations, IGAD seemed to have been embarrassed by the widespread regional and international criticisms that it had received as the result of the August 25th Protocol. In those negotiations, the Mediators allowed the parties to negotiate without IGAD’s usual heavy-handed interference. It was only after a number of deadlocks that consultations with the IGAD Heads of State and Government were made, and a mini Summit was recommended. In fact, the deadlocks can still be blamed on the IGAD. It was their August 25th Protocol that became the stumbling block, as the Government (which did not have a position of its own prior to the negotiations) adopted it as its position and never wanted to concede anything from that document.
During the IGAD 28th Extraordinary Summit in November 2014, IGAD Heads of State and Government exhibited a bizarre mediation behavior. This badly conceived Summit was supposed to be convened between Dr. Riek Machar and Salva Kiir as the two principals. The two were brought together to negotiate the issues which had become difficult to resolve in Bahir Dar. In attendance, as facilitators, were Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya. Instead of facilitating the negotiation between the two South Sudanese leaders, the Ethiopian and the Kenyan decided to do the negotiation for Salva. Up to now, not many people know whether or not the whole thing had been cooked prior to the meeting in consultation with their other colleagues who were also in Addis Ababa, but not in the room, for the Summit that day. The two were actually the ones who rejected the position presented by Dr. Riek Machar on power-sharing arrangement, arguing that the proposal would make Salva a ceremonial president.
IGAD as a Biased Arbiter
It can be seen from the above observations that IGAD started as a party to the war, a mediator, and then a negotiator. After they attempted to negotiate on behalf of Salva Kiir, and after they completely rejected the proposal presented by the SPLM/A in regard to the power-sharing arrangement, IGAD Heads of State and Government appeared to demonstrate that their position was final and should not be altered for any reason. Instead, it was a leave-it-or-take-it position. The position had been designed to favor Salva as Head of State and Government. No negotiated agreement between the warring parties on power-sharing was needed. IGAD had arbitrarily decided for them. It appeared that the idea of sending the parties to their constituencies for consultations was just an after-thought.
If this is the case, then IGAD has become a biased arbiter.
SPLM/A’s Concessions in Search for a Peaceful Solution
In the spirit of peace, the SPLM/A has gone through a series of concessions throughout the Peace Process. But, for one reason or others, IGAD which has been working hard to see to it that Salva Kiir remains in power, does not see these concessions as big enough to warrant corresponding concessions from the opposing party. Instead of putting pressure on Juba to positively respond to the concessions, IGAD wants just the stopping of the war and formation of a transitional government to be led by Salva Kiir.
The SPLM/A’s initial position was that Kiir had committed genocide by using his personal militia to carry out the Juba massacres of the Nuer civilians, targeting them solely on the basis of their tribal origins. In addition to that, he launched such a violent attack on civilians to further his political goal of unconstitutionally staying in power through violence. The SPLM/A felt (and still feels) that Kiir had lost his constitutional legitimacy as the result, and that he had to go and face justice immediately. No need to negotiate with him. However, for the sake of peace, the SPLM/A changed its position and expressed a willingness to talk with him so that he could negotiate his safe exit from power.
When it became clear that peace was not going to come soon enough, the SPLM/A went ahead and dropped the demand and took the position of accommodating him as a ceremonial Head of State. In such an arrangement, the office of the Prime Minister could be created, and the Prime Minister could be the Chief Executive Office of the government. That again was rejected. IGAD maintained that Salva remained both Head of State and Government.
The third concession concerns the sharing of executive powers between the President and the Prime Minister. The SPLM/A took a position that while the President should take all the ceremonial powers, the Prime Minister should take all the managerial powers. Then, the two leaders should jointly exercise all the executive functions. The SPLM/A further conceded that the President, in this joint exercise of the executive functions, could chair the Council of Ministers and may only delegate it to the Prime Minister when he is absent.
Some of these executive powers normally exercised by the Chief Executive Officer of the government that the President and the Prime Minister should share during the Transitional Government of National Unity include, but not limited to, the following:
- being the Commander in Chief of the armed forces.
- declaration of the state of emergency.
- the power to make treaties and receive ambassadors and work with leaders of other nations.
- the power to nominate and appoint the heads of governmental departments and judges to courts and justices to the Supreme Court.
- the power to issue executive orders.
- the power to issue pardons for offenses.
- the power to convene the legislature for special sessions.
- the power to veto legislation approved by the legislature.
- the power to deliver a State of the Union address annually to the legislature.
This kind of arrangement would create a middle ground where any of the two, the Prime Minister and the President, would never claim to be more executive than the other. The SPLM thought that this position was fairer than the IGAD’s. Yet, it was rejected.
The SPLM/A believed (and still believes) that the two Principals, without deputies, could use the above power-sharing formula to jointly and responsibly move the country from where it is now to a qualitatively better future. In such an arrangement, a clumsy leadership structure with too many non-responsive role players could be avoided. For example, IGAD proposed a structure which includes the President, Prime Minister, Vice-President and two deputies to the Prime Minister. The Government has also proposed a structure which appeared as follows: President, Vice-President, Prime Minister and three deputies to the Prime Minister.
For the sake of smooth implementation of the peace agreement, the SPLM/A believes in a simple structure that includes only the President and the Prime Minister. IGAD opposes this simple structure, arguing that it does not reflect the principle of inclusivity. SPLM/A thinks and believes that the principle of inclusivity has nothing to do with deputies. It can easily be achieved in the allocation of ministerial portfolios. These portfolios shall be allocated in accordance with the power-sharing ratios to be agreed in the final peace deal. Therefore, the principle of inclusivity can be taken care of without deputizing the two principal leaders.
Unless there is a change in the attitude of the IGAD Heads of State and Government in how they approach the war taking place in South Sudan, IGAD-led Peace Process in Addis Ababa is bound to collapse. One cannot pretend to be a peace-maker, while at the same time one is sitting on one side side-by-side at the negotiating table with one of the parties to the peace negotiation. There have to be three parties at the table: the two negotiating parties and a third party as a mediator.
IGAD as a party to the war, a mediator, a negotiator and an arbiter can never make any progress towards a peaceful resolution of the war. If it is to succeed, it has to detach itself at once from whatever interest that it has in Juba, and stay as a genuine mediator.
SPLM/A has made too many concessions with the hope of reaching a speedy peaceful solution to the war. These concessions have not yet been matched by the other side. Instead, IGAD has stuck to its position that it needs only a peace agreement, formation of a transitional government and Salva as the head of that government. To them, other issues do not seem to exist. To the government in Juba, there is no reason to concede anything so long as the Mediator is on its side, demanding handsomely for Salva.
This is the current picture of the IGAD-led Peace Process. Its past was wobbly; the present is wounded, and the future can be seen seriously limping. Without the change of attitude on the part of IGAD, its collapse is just around the corner.
The author is a South Sudanese. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org