A SEMINAR BEING ORGANIZED BY PEACE RESEARCH INSTITUTE OSLO (PRIO) AND SUDAN SUPPORT GROUP FOR PEACE AT PRIO
NORWEGIAN RED CROSS CENTRE ON THURSDAY THE 2ND NOVEMBER 2017
By Daniel Wuor Joak – SPLM/A-IO Representative to Scandinavia, Norway
Nov 4, 2017(Nyamilepedia) — On behalf of SPLM/A-IO, I would like to express my outmost gratitude for the invitation you have afforded to me to present a paper on the prevailing political crisis in South Sudan with the theme “HOW CAN SOUTH SUDAN EMERGE FROM POLITICAL CRISIS?”, and the way forward. The current political crisis in South Sudan started first and foremost with the SPLM internal crisis which began earnestly in May 2008, following the 2nd SPLM NATIONAL CONVENTION 2008, where the SPLM Chairman Salva Kiir Mayardit apparently attempted to dismiss both the 1st Vice Chairman Dr. Riek Machar Teny and the SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum from their positions. He wanted to replace them with his candidates of choice within the party line.
Following the Sudan General Election 2010, President Kiir began to consolidate his powers, where he created unhealthy working relationship firstly with his deputy Dr. Riek Machar. In early 2012, he unceremoniously stripped off some of the Vice President’s delegated powers and at the same time isolated him from participation in most important decision makings within the SPLM party.
After the declaration of South Sudan independence in July 2011, President Kiir exclusively consolidated his powers in executive branches of the government and SPLM party organ in which he amended the GOSS Interim Constitution 2005, in his favour. This is where he entrenched his position and began to work outside the party line only through the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE), and created a one-man rule in the country.
When the SPLM Political Bureau began to question his authoritarian style of leadership on how he ran the nascent country. President Kiir reacted vigorously by accusing some SPLM senior members including Dr. Riek Machar, Madam Rebecca Garang de Mabior, Pagan Amum, Kosti Manibe and Deng Alor Kuol among several others, that they wanted to take over the leadership of SPLM from him. He blatantly accused some of SPLM Political Bureau members for having grossly involved in corruption practices while still in the government. On July 23, 2013, President Kiir sacked the entire cabinets including the Vice President Dr Riek Machar and the SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum, leaving the country redundantly ungovernable for a period of 30 days, without appointing their replacements.
THE ROOT CAUSES OF THE SPLM INTERNAL WRANGLING THAT IGNITED THE FIGHTING IN JUBA ON 15TH DECEMBER 2013
The major concerns that ignited the December 2013, crisis are as follows:
- Rampant corruption in the government;
- Institutionalized tribalism under the banner of Jieng Council of Elders (JCE);
- The inability of the government to provide security to its citizens;
- Poor social and economic development;
- Constitutional crisis;
- Loss of vision and direction by the SPLM ruling party that resulted into division of the party to several factions and finally plunged the country into war;
- Unwillingness of the international community to fully cooperate with the newly created country as it previously used to do during the interim period from 2005 – 2010, before the independence in 2011. This was due to its poor human rights records and rampant corruption practices after the independence.
Finally, on 14 December 2013, the SPLM party hastily attempted to convene the National Liberation Council (NLC), meeting which eventually failed to bring different opposing groups together. In the evening of the next day, fighting ensued among Presidential Guards at Giada Headquarters between the SPLA loyalists from Dinka elements and SPLA Nuer soldiers who opposed indiscriminate disarmament being orchestrated by the head of Presidential Guard General Marial Cinoung, a Dinka and loyal to President Kiir. On 16 December, the Nuer Massacre began in Juba, where some 20,000 unarmed civilians were killed by the Dinka sponsored militias known as “Dut-ku-Bany”, and other Dinka units from SPLA, police, wildlife service, fire brigades and prison warders for a period of week. Many people began to wonder and ask; what was the reason for President Kiir’s militias to target specifically one ethnicity, the (Nuer) in the capital Juba, while the fighting was among the SPLA members of Presidential Guards? Because these militias were specifically recruited, trained and armed by the government. They were recruited from the two Dinka dominated states of Warrap and Northern Bahr el Ghazal with an aim to conduct such horrific indiscriminate massacre in Juba.
From 18 to 24 December fighting escalated to all state capitals of Greater Upper Nile of Bor, Bentiu and Malakal respectively. This is where the Nuer White Army – a band of armed civilians participated in their rescue mission to go to Juba. Their advanced to Juba was only stopped when the UPDF forces from Uganda entered South Sudan’s territory and engaged the white army in military combat at Jamaza and Bor in Central Equatoria and Jonglei States respectively.
The Juba Massacre was documented in “The Final Report of the African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan Conflict that was presented to UN and African Union by the former Nigerian President General Olusegun Obasanjo on 27/2/2015 and to the UNSC on 26/9/2015”, related the sad stories committed by the government of South Sudan against its own citizens in brought day light.
FORMATION OF THE SPLM/SPLA – IO AND ITS COMMITMENT TO PEACEFUL SETTLEMENT THROUGH IGAD MEDIATION
Following its formation at Nasir in April 2014, the SPLM/A – IO, with its defined political objective to advocate for federal system of governance and general reforms to be pursued through armed struggle and political negotiated settlement. The SPLM/A-IO seized the opportunity to restore peace and stability in South Sudan and therefore, signed the following agreements without any reservations:
- Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) and its Humanitarian Components, 23rd January 2014;
- Agreement on the Status of Detainees, 23rd January 2014;
- Recommitment to Humanitarian Matters of Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities (CoH), 5th May 2014;
- Agreement on Political Framework on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, 9th May 2014;
- Re-Dedication and Implementation Modalities for Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) Agreement, 9th November 2014;
- Agreement on the Reunification of the SPLM, 21st January 2015, and;
- The Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS), 17th August 2015.
In this regard, the SPLM/A – IO made all efforts to honor and implement these agreements in spirit and letter. Unfortunately, they were all dishonored by the regime in Juba due to lack of its political will and commitment to resolve the ongoing crisis in the country amicably.
However, the SPLM – IO would like to appreciate all those who have worked tirelessly and negotiated the ARCSS, particularly the IGAD, Troika (Norway, United Kingdom and the United States of America), African Union, United Nations, IGAD Plus member’s state, European Union, IGAD Partners Forum and international community for their endeavors to ensure that peace and stability restored in South Sudan.
VIOLATIONS OF ARCSS, FIGHTING AT STATE HOUSE J1 AND SUBSEQUENT COLLAPSED OF THE TGONU
These are the following violations of ARCSS agreement which resulted to the fighting at the State House J1, between the bodyguards of President Salva Kiir and that of the First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar:
- President Kiir unilaterally decreed the creation of 28 states on 2nd October 2016;
- As outlined in its list of 16 reservations, the regime in Juba deliberately violated the provisions of demilitarization of Juba and relocation of SPLA-IG forces to the radius of 25 km within 90 days from the day of signing the agreement;
- The regime embarked on militarization of Juba by deploying more forces and equipment. By 8th July 2016, Juba regime had a force of 25 thousand troops who were stationed inside and outside the capital;
- The regime resorted to intimidating, harassing and arbitration of CTSAMM members who were observing the ceasefire;
- A comprehensive report was submitted to the UN by the Chairman of JMEC President Festus Mogae on June 23rd, 2016, where he stated clearly that multiple violations of the ceasefire by the government of South Sudan‘s forces against SPLM/A-IO forces in their cantonment areas in Equatoria, Bahr el Ghazal and Upper Nile respectively;
- President Kiir went ahead with appointments of presidential advisers, state governors and senior government officials without due consultation with the First Vice President;
- The SPLA-IG and National Security organs mounted security checkpoints along the roads leading to residence of the First Vice President;
- The murder of two SPLM/A-IO officers by the regime’s military intelligent officers in Juba on 2nd July 2016;
- The assassination attempt in the life of the First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar and his colleagues in the State House J1, on 8th July, 2016; and
- Appointment of General Taban Deng Gai as the First Vice President while he had been dismissed from the SPLM/A-IO leadership following internal disagreement between him the chairman of SPLM-IO Dr. Riek Machar before the crisis in Juba commenced.
Since the resumption of the civil war in July 2016, the SPLA-IG forces in Juba systematically continued with its scorched-earth campaigns against unarmed civilians where it specifically targeted them along ethnic lines. The regime’s forces have been committing acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity particularly in greater Equatroria region, Western Bahr el Ghazal and Unity states, and Shilluk Kingdom. As a result of all this, over 2 million South Sudanese have so far crossed into neighboring countries of DRC, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan as refugees. Additional 250 thousand civilians have since the war started in 2013, fled into various UN Protection of Civilians sites throughout the country. Another 2 million are internally displaced within the country. Over 6 million are direly at risk of starvation. Virtually, the country is at risk of disintegration if nothing tangible comes to its recue.
SPLM/A-IO WITH IGAD/TROIKA, SPLM REUNIFICATION AND WITH OTHER SOUTH SUDAN MOVEMENTS, IGAD REVITALIZATION PROCESS AND THE SO-CALLED NATIONAL DIALOGUE
Since the current war started in December 2013, and again rekindled in July 2016, our position has always been clear and positive. The SPLM/A-IO has been advocating for a peaceful resolution of the conflict through a negotiated settlement. The use of arms by SPLM/A-IO is to resist the continuation of targeted and indiscriminate killing of civilians by Juba regime in different parts of the country and their persistence military offensives in our controlled areas.
The role of IGAD – although IGAD mediation was supported financially and morally by the Troika (Norway, United Kingdom and the United States of America), IGAD has been handling our conflict unfairly. Simply because the mediators in our conflict have shown interests in prolonging this conflict unnecessarily by treating the very victims of this war as criminals while honoring the killers. The 2015 ARCSS agreement was inclusively an imposed deal by the IGAD to the parties in the conflict. On other side, SPLM/A-IO had duly accepted the said agreement with all its reservations. This is because our immediate concern was to bring this war quickly to an end for the benefits of our suffering people who have been languishing at refugee camps in the neighboring countries and various UNMISS camps throughout the country. On his mission to Juba, Dr. Riek Machar was denied all the necessary protection when he and few of his soldiers went to Juba in April 2016. The agreed joint integrated units of 2910 soldiers which were approved during the signing of the agreement to be taken to Juba in advance were later reduced by Troika facilitators and IGAD to 1370. About 1540 SPLM/A-IO soldiers were deliberately rejected to be part of the integrated units while Juba regime had a force of over 25 thousand soldiers that were placed inside and outside the town.
When the fighting erupted in Juba on July 8, both IGAD and Troika equally failed to condemn President Salva Kiir and his army generals who openly declared war against SPLM-IO with sole intention to kill our Chairman Dr. Riek Machar. Thank God that our braved soldiers rescued his dear life. After he escaped assassination attempt at State House J1, and later followed by several thousands of SPLA-IG soldiers up to DRC border. These regime’s forces were fully supported with drone and helicopter gunships from South Sudan and Uganda governments with intention to kill him. The IGAD and Troika continued to play a passive role to actually condemn the aggressor. After he survived the government’s onslaught for forty days up to Congo border, where he was extracted by MONUSCO at Garamba Park to Goma for urgent medical treatment in Congo. When he recovered his wounds and exhaustion from long journey, Dr. Riek Machar traveled to Khartoum for further medical attention. By October 2016, he personally went to South Africa to consult with his personal doctor for further medical checkup. This is where he was later detained by South African government with advice from Troika and IGAD with an aim to dismantle SPLM/A-IO movement and also to groom new movements in South Sudan that would be favorable to them. Unfortunately, the IGAD and Troika miscalculated the South Sudan’s political equation altogether. Time has proven them wrong that without active participation of Dr. Riek Machar in any process, peace would hardly be achieved in the country. Hence, the SPLM-IO is a formidable movement that has massive military and popular support in South Sudan. It would be a grave mistake to bar its popular leader to participate in a peace forum. Therefore, am appealing to Troika and IGAD to lift the house detention and confinement of Dr. Riek Machar in South Africa and allow him to return back to South Sudan where he should be able to participate in the peace process. It would be difficult for outsiders to convince his followers without him and this war will undoubtedly continue for a longer period in which more lives and property shall be unreasonably lost.
With respect to the reunification of the SPLM Party, the position of SPLM/A-IO is definitely clear that the reunification of the party is not a priority at this moment while the war still raging in the country. Guns must be silenced first before the issue of SPLM reunification could be discussed in a free and transparent environment. There is need for SPLM factions to rebuild confidence and trust first and a common vision must be forged also before reunification is achieved.
Concerning the joint cooperation among the South Sudanese opposition’s movements, the SPLM/A-IO was the first body that had appreciated such cooperation. It started by forming a Standing Committee under the chairmanship of Hon. Henry Odwar, SPLM/A-IO Deputy Chairman to jointly work together with other parties opposed to the regime in Juba. In a press release signed by the six Political Parties on 30th April 2017, with the title “THE POLITICAL OPPOSITION FORCES”, whereas they agreed to work together to approach the government jointly in any peace forum. The parties who signed the said press release included SPLM/A-IO represented by Hon. Henry Odwar – Deputy Chairman, Hon. Kosti Manibe – for SPLM Leaders (FDs), Hon. Gabriel Changson – chairperson of Federal Democratic Party (FDP), Dr. Lam Akol – chairperson of National Democratic Movement (NDM), Governor Joseph Bangasi Bakosoro – Chairperson of South Sudan National Movement for Change (SSNMC), and General Thomas Cirilo Swaka – Chairman of National Salvation Front (NAS).
Unfortunately, things did not work well afterward. The SPLM/A-IO leadership later took some percussion and measures after realizing that some of the parties concerned have hidden agendas with the regime against our movement. For example, the SPLM leaders (FDs), some of their members are still participating in the government in Juba. Hon. Deng Alor is the government’s foreign minister and Hon. John Luk is Minister of transport. The National Democratic Movement (NDM) under leadership of Dr. Lam Akol had later engaged in skirmishes with SPLM/A-IO forces in Northern Upper Nile which resulted to the death of some senior officers from NDM’s side.
As for NAS under General Thomas Cirilo, since its formation in March 2017, their supposedly members had never shot a bullet against the enemy’s forces. Instead the leadership of NAS through its local agents have been trying to instigate internal rebellions within the SPLM/A-IO, where NAS was specifically targeting Equatorian sons to defect to it. This unhealthy move has brought strained relationship between the two movements. This was when SPLM/A-IO Sector Commander John Kenyi Loboroun was bribed by NAS agents and later declared himself to NAS while residing in an area liberated by SPLM/A-IO forces from the government’s forces. This brought the two movements into open military confrontation. All these issues needs to be ironed out first before a healthy working relations among various groups could commence.
Therefore, am appealing to the Norwegian Government to support financially an internal opposition’s reconciliation to urgently convene in a neutral country in the region, most importantly Ethiopia or Sudan. Kenya and Uganda have been actively involved in our conflict in favors of Juba regime. Uganda has been the main suppliers of military hardware and also engaged in military combats in South Sudan all these years against the SPLM/A-IO forces. And Kenya had deported three SPLM/A-IO senior members namely; Justice Dong Samuel Luak former deputy chairperson of SPLM Justice Committee, Hon. ‘Aggrey Idri – former member of South Sudan National Assembly and Chairperson of SPLM/A-IO Humanitarian Committee, and James Gatdet Dak – Press secretary in the office of the SPLM/A-IO chairman to Juba. The fate of the three is not known.
With IGAD Revitalization Process, our Chairman Dr. Riek Machar was contacted in the Republic of South Africa by the two IGAD foreign ministers, Ethiopia – H. E. Workneh Gebeyehu and Sudan – H.E. Prof. Ibrahim Ghandour on 4th October 2017, in which they exhausted three crucial points that included; (a) commitment to ARCSS peace agreement, (b) participation in the revitalization process and (c) ceasefire.
The meeting was positive and fruitful. Dr. Machar requested to be released from detention and be enabled to consult with SPLM/A-IO political leadership and senior military officers prior to the revitalization process.
On the issue of National Dialogue, the SPLM/A-IO position is very clear on that. Priority is attaining peace not national dialogue. National dialogue needs a peaceful environment before it is embarked on. The current national dialogue is monologue between supporters of the regime. This monologue can never bring any meaningful peace in the country while President Kiir is still pursuing war against the SPLM/A-IO forces.
Despite the lack of political will from the side of Juba regime and determination of President Salva Kiir to crash SPLM/A-IO through military means on one hand and isolation of the SPLM/A-IO by the region and Troika partners on the other, nonetheless, the SPLM-IO believes that a sustainable peace, comprehensive reforms and democratic transformation can only be achieved through a mediated peace process to review, revise and resuscitate the ARCSS agreement, where all the stakeholders are involved.