How Can The U.S. Exercise Leadership in South Sudan’s Peace Process?
By Dr Amir Idris,
April 1, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — In light of the recent collapse of the peace process and the resumption of the military confrontations between the Government of South Sudan and the SPLM in Opposition, the United States has to exercise leadership in South Sudan’s peace process by proposing a new policy and strategy. The new strategy should be based on diplomacy through engagement with all stakeholders, enhanced punitive measures, and effective multilateral efforts.
South Sudan is in dire need of an inclusive political settlement that addresses the underlying causes of the crisis and sets up a new inclusive political order. Recent reports estimate that tens of thousands of South Sudanese people have lost their lives, more than one million people have been displaced over the past 14 months, 112,840 people are currently sheltering at United Nations bases, and 505,300 people have fled to neighboring countries. In addition, nearly half the population of South Sudan needs humanitarian aid. It can easily be argued that South Sudan matters to U.S. interest on human rights, humanitarian, and security grounds.
South Sudan has two possible options to resolve its crisis: reforming the state and establishing a united democratic state or a fragmented nation. The first option of reforming the state is a desirable option. The second does not guarantee lasting peace and political stability. It might also threaten the security of the region with devastating human consequences.
We can learn from the strategies and techniques that led to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. The Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) can be used for African ownership of the peace process, but the U.S. should not forget that South Sudan is a U.S. interest that requires U.S. to act without regard to IGAD when necessary. Hence, without a dedicated U.S. commitment to lead the peace process, any new international coalition will be ineffective in its efforts to influence the parties.
The new policy and strategy can be guided by the following principles:
- Concentrate U.S. policy on the main goal of ending the war in South Sudan.
The main consideration for U.S. policy and strategy in South Sudan should be to end the ongoing war and achieve a lasting peace. This main goal provides the best means to advance positive change in other areas where U.S. interests are at risk: an end to mass human suffering; gross and systematic human rights abuses and the denial of democratic rights; economic decay; and possible proxy wars that might destabilize the entire region.
- Actively join with the UK, Norway, and South Sudan’s neighboring countries in forming an international coalition to press for credible and sustained talks between the Government of South Sudan and the SPLM in Opposition, and other key stakeholders.
The U.S. needs to maintain consistent focus on ending the war through new multilateral mechanisms. The agenda of the peace talks must be clear, consistent, and manageable. The United States should play a leading role in making the international coalition an effective actor in mediating the peace talks. Hence, in consultation with the IGAD mediators, the ongoing peace process should be strengthened by including the AU Peace and Security Council, the UN Security Council, and the Troika countries (Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Credible measures of sanctions should be adopted and imposed by the regional and the international actors if the warring factions refuse to commit themselves to political negotiations.
- The international mediating team should help the parties to agree on a Declaration of Principles as the basis of negotiations.
The new international coalition should encourage the parties to agree on a Declaration of Principles which outlines the core issues that must be addressed at the peace talks. The Declaration of Principles should support the reform of the state through a transitional government that gives priority to a united South Sudan under a federal system of government.
- Strive to reach agreement on the formation of an interim arrangement on a transitional government and security that reforms the state in South Sudan.
International coalition should conduct consultations with other key stakeholders in South Sudan, neighboring countries, Europe, and North America. Gathering suggestions and proposals from South Sudanese civic organizations and religious entities will be crucial for strengthening the legitimacy of the peace process and forming a transitional government led by a new generation of political leaders. To form a transitional government, South Sudanese opposition groups, civil society and other stakeholders must agree on its composition and program. The transitional government should be tasked with restoring law and order, returning the displaced, outlining an economic plan, reforming the army and the security forces, and writing a new constitution.
- Devise enhanced multilateral pressures that move both parties to participate in peace talks in good faith.
International coalition should seek immediate consultations with states whose oil companies are engaged in South Sudan regarding oil revenue and arm sales. Oil companies from China for instance have sizable equities in exploration and production activities in South Sudan. China also has other economic interests, including arm sales. South Sudan’s oil revenues should be put in an escrow account to be accessed by the transitional government once it is constituted.
- The Report of the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan should be released.
The African Union and the UN Security Council should make public the full text of the recent AU Commission of Inquiry Report, identify those who committed crimes against humanity and hold them accountable.
If the above-mentioned regional and international coalition led by the United States intervenes to develop such strategy and measures, South Sudan would be able to end the cycle of violence and embark on a prosperous journey towards peace and development.
Amir Idris is Professor and Chair of Department of African and African American Studies at Fordham University, New York City, USA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org