IGAD Peace Process: The Way Forward
By Peter Mabior Riiny
June 22, 2018 (Nyamilepedia) ——- Albert Einstein once defined madness as doing the same thing over and over again and expect a different result. IGAD High Level revitalization Forum (HRLF) was first initiated in December last year as a way to resuscitate what most of the people considered a dead Agreement on Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS) after deadly war in July 2016.
The ARCISS was forced down throats of both President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar. Salva Kiir with his reservations later signed peace grudging on 26 August 2015. If IGAD has changed anything in how it is managing this peace process, then it was the change of mediators but the formula remains the same.
After back and forth negotiations and Intensive Interlinked Consultations (IIC), IGAD announced that President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar must meet face to face to thrash out some contentious issues, but least we forget these are the same protagonist who loath each other’s face. These are the same leaders who after pledging to work together in 2015, fought vicious war on 8th July 2016. Dr. Riek lost his son in J1 dog’s fight that sent him across Equatorian forest to DRC. Arranging such quick face to face meeting reflects ignorance from IGAD and Ethiopian Prime Minister. The sardonic smirk on Dr. Riek Machar’s face and cold look from President Salva Kiir is a quick reminder that these two men are not ready to work together. Michael Makue Lueth did not mince his words in his yesterday press statement saying Kiir is not ready to work with Dr. Riek. After forcing Kiir and Riek to lazily hug, Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed precipitously announced with mirth “peace is coming to our region…….”. A lot of work needs to be done.
The IGAD selected peace mediators seem to lack experience in conducting peace process. They are only window dressing the problems of South Sudan. But most importantly regional vested interest in South Sudan political affairs is hampering HRLF. Khartoum and Kampala are pulling strings behind us and both sway opposition and TGONU decisions alike. Kenya and Ethiopia prefer go-in-between. Other influential party in our peace is TRIOKA. TRIOKA (US, UK and Norway) has great influence on this peace process. After the US midwifed South Sudan independence, it was expecting South Sudan to be thankful and pay back in terms of US companies doing business in South Sudan. The US wants South Sudan to be a good example of Western exported democracy and be a show case to the rest of the world. South Sudan is a great disappointment to US expectations, and US is expected to get South Sudan back to its feet. Until we meet United States of America’s interest, peace will remain elusive.
Important and seems to have been overlooked is this gargantuan political interest of Gen. Taban Deng Gai and his group. Taban and his team have great influence on President Salva Kiir’s political behaviors. President Kiir tried to short change Dr. Riek Machar with Taban Deng as a quick solution to treat what he sees as Dr. Riek’s menace, but this has backfired and Salva Kiir is stuck with Taban on his neck.
First, we have seen enough of IGAD’s helter-skelter peace processes, it is time parties to the peace agreement demand exit of IGAD from mediating this peace process and we choose a third party or an organization far away from the borders of South Sudan such as ECOWAS, SADC or AU if we want African solution to African problems. This organizations will not operate at the whims of President Museveni and Omar Hassan Al Bashir.
Second, let us stop wishing the West away from our political affairs, The US was responsible for the secession of South Sudan from the North, and it is American responsibility to see a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan that it would use as a showcase for American democracy.
Third, Gen. Taban Deng Gai and Dr. Riek Machar reconciliation must precede face to face meeting between President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar. Gen. Taban Deng and his team wield great influence on President Kiir and they will not see Riek return hands down. Their resistance behind the scene is derailing peace in Addis Ababa.
Fourth, opposition group (IO, FDs and ASSOA) approach this peace pell-mell. Their unity is hindered by lack of consensus and jostling for who was to lead the united opposition front. Those opposed to the government should unite and face TGONU as one entity. This way, once there is peace, it would be a long lasting one.
Finally, President Salva Kiir fears his fate in the event peace returns. Kiir spoke about his “INCENTIVE”. This must also be in the back of mediators’ minds. We should borrow from Zimbabwe, President Mugabe was given a ‘good’ package when he accepted to step down and let Zimbabweans go. First, he was given blanket amnesty with his family and given living allowances until he dies. All his assets, looted or otherwise would be free from expropriation by the state. President Salva Kiir, after spending his youth life fighting for independence of South Sudan believes South Sudanese owe him incentive. We must start thinking on how we can approach his incentives. This should be part of peace negotiation.
Peter Mabior Riiny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org