ANALYSIS: Khartoum Peace Agreement, a Fall For Status Quo
July 26th, 2018(Nyamilepedia) — Cognizant of the fact South Sudan’s man-made catastrophe – an unspeakable human suffering that was engineered by leaders who claim to have liberated a country – has displaced nearly half of the country’s population, exterminated hundreds of thousands of lives, annihilated the economy and destroyed property and infrastructure worth billions of dollars, it is non-negotiable that a lasting peace and tranquility must be salvaged today, and not tomorrow.
South Sudan is longing for peace and stability; however, the current elites have proven once again through the Khartoum-Kampala peace mediation that they are not interested in a lasting peace, unity and reconciliation of the fiercely divided populations more than they are interested to slice one another’s throat. In the simplest terms possible, the recently signed “Agreement on Outstanding Issues of Governance” has not resolved any outstanding issues but politically circumvented resolving the outstanding grievances and placed such responsibilities in the hands of a civil population that is already logged in tribal feuds. It is also worth mentioning that the Khartoum Agreement is giving Salva Kiir leadership a 100% chance to groom and maintain both civil and military dictatorship, and hold the SPLM/A(IO) leadership and other dissident groups accountable for the civil war and all the atrocities committed. I will explain!
Briefly, this article will revisit how the Khartoum Peace Agreement allocates power ratios in the presidency, Transitional National Legislative Assembly(TNLA), Council of States, IBC and RCNBS, and how each organ of governance will makes its decisions. The analysis will be thorough and also succinct.
1. The Presidency
As stated, the presidency will be shared by president Salva Kiir Mayardit and deputized by a record-breaking five Vice Presidents, one of whom will be Dr. Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon and the remaining four will include Machar’s politically-contrived rivals Gen. Taban Deng Gai, James Wani Igga and possibly Dr. Lam Akol, and Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior. In other words, the presidency will be comprised of 6 members and decision making will be by a simple majority or through a presidential decree.
Although Dr. Riek Machar will be designated as the First Vice President, the proposed Khartoum Peace Agreement shifts political rivalry from president Salva Kiir and Riek Machar to Riek Machar and four other little bubbles, two of whom would be remote controlled by President Kiir to castigate Dr. Machar. In this sense, the contention will no longer be directly between President Kiir and Dr. Machar but more or less between Dr. Machar on one hand and Gen. Taban Deng Gai and James Wani Igga on the other hand. This arrangement puts President Kiir at a supreme level and leaves Dr. Machar depraved. This article per se is a deal breaker; however, the SPLM/A(IO) licensed it for a reason best known to the leadership.
Apart from power wrangling in the presidency, it is not a rocket science to admit that a small country like South Sudan does not need one president, five vice presidents, ministry of presidency and many political, military, traditional and religious advisers to be stable. By numbers, the presidency of South Sudan alone has the figure to form a legislative assembly, council of states or any organ of government for a small country of South Sudan’s population. If this agreement goes into implementation, history will dictate that it is only in South Sudan where you would find such type of presidency.
Economically, it is not feasible for a small country that cannot feed her own citizens to be governed by such a manpower but what exactly motivated the leaders to sign such an agreement?
a). Share The Cake and Maintain the Status Quo,
On one hand, President Salva Kiir and his advisers have long redefined the civil war as a political scramble for power. To cover up the root cause of the conflict, ill-intent and to maintain the bloody dictatorial status quo, President Salva Kiir wants South Sudanese and the international community to believe his narrative that Dr. Riek Machar and other dissident groups are all fighting to snatch the cake from him. To resolve the issue, Kiir has shown willingness to accommodate his rivals and give each of the opposition leaders a tiny piece of cake and in return they would silently work under his leadership or retire from politics. This is the pitfall many opposition leaders, who are tired of war, are falling into.
On the other hand, the opposition groups are compromising with hope that Salva Kiir would return a similar gesture and cooperate to implement their grievances one of which has been the call for federalism; however, that expectation hasn’t materialized so far. Based on the past 10 years history, Salva Kiir does not compromise or honor his agreements. As demonstrated in the past agreements with Gen. Paulino Matip Nhial, David Yau Yau, Johnson Olony, Matthew Puljang, Taban Deng Gai, Bapiny Manytuel and recently with Dr. Machar, among others, the short term compromises or agreements never meant anything other than just one-time accommodations that are suppose to be followed by accountability and subsequent disintegration of the rival group(s).
The two latest groups, for example that of Taban Deng Gai and Matthew Puljang, are not fully integrated into Salva Kiir’s administration. These groups operate as private entities in a political spectrum with controlled resources and under maximum supervision. In other words, one would say they have formally “compromised” or surrendered but they are never pardoned. This created the scheme of “unconfirmed” in the SPLA between 2005 and 2013, which is now likely to be continued if this Khartoum Peace Agreement materialized.
In term of decision making in the presidential palace, out of 6 members of the presidency, Salva Kiir and his current deputies, James Wani Igga and Taban Deng Gai, will always form the majority. While the two puppets will never oppose any decision presented or accepted by Salva Kiir whether from the Jieng Council of Elders or from President Yoweri Museveni, the three other rival vice presidents may never agree on one issue and this will always give Salva Kiir an upper hand to impose or object any decision without giving it a second thought. In sum, Kiir may never have to lift a presidential decree if he can cheaply secure a free rubber stamp from his main rivals and especially a well accredited rubber stamp from learned rivals like Dr. Riek Machar, Mama Rebecca and Dr. Lam Akol or whoever the other two Vice Presidents would be. In the best case scenario, the three opposition Vice Presidents may agree to cooperate to support one another’s proposal, however, Kiir would still have an option to break the tie through a Presidential decree among other options.
It suffix to say the opposition leaders either initialed the document under duress or had unexplained motives to sign what they won’t implement to completion. If the argument of such oppositions was to bring peace to the people of South Sudan, then it is equally important to consider that the civil population would be worst off should the presidency trigger another J1 dogfight and return the country to war again. In sum, the argument to bring peace to the people cannot be substantiated given the evidence we have on the ground and lack of commitment from the parties.
2. The Transitional National Legislature,
Notwithstanding economic constraints and sustainability, Juba decided to maintain its current parliament of 332 members and proposed to accommodate 218 new members of parliament(MPs) from other opposition groups. Out of 218 MPs, 30 members will be appointed by other opposition parties(OPP) that are affiliated to the regime in Juba. It is possible that all the 30 members from OPP could currently be residing in Juba and are likely to support any motion that favors president Kiir’s camp during the parliamentary sessions.
This number(30) was strategically fixed to ensure that the regime gets its two-third (⅔) majority, which in this case would be approximately 368 members, to pass any bill in the parliament. With such a number, the SPLM/A(IO) and other dissident groups will never pass any bill of their choice and in this regard Kiir will “democratically” ensure that no reforms or any other reasonable bill will be passed into law without his consent and approval from his advisers.
In addition, the agreement has ensured that the Speaker of the TNLA and one of his three deputies will be appointed by president Kiir. This means that in any scenario where the decision is to be made by the speakers, Kiir’s camp will always has an upper hand to get the lion’s share.
3. The Council of States
The Council of States shall comprise of 35 members of which 20 members will be appointed by the TGoNU leaving all the opposition groups with only 15 members. Out of 15 members the SPLM/A(IO) gets 9 members and the rest of the opposition parties will share the remaining 6 members.
As stated in article 3.5 of the Agreement on Outstanding Issues of Governance, the Speaker of the Council of States shall be from SPLM-IO, Deputy Speaker from TGoNU, who shall be a woman, and Deputy Speaker from SSOA. For the purpose of regional inclusivity required in a body representing the States, each of the Speaker and Deputy Speakers shall come from a different region.
Despites that the speaker of the council of states will be from the SPLM/A(IO), it is self-explanatory that the government will maintain simple majority in the Council of State and therefore the defunct speaker will be forced to ride with the majority. Hence choosing the speaker from the SPLM/A(IO) or from the SPLM(FD) will not make a difference in term of decision making.
4. IBC, the Number and Boundaries of States
To resolve the controversy over the number and boundaries of states, the IGAD Executive Secretariat will form the Independent Boundaries Commission(IBC) within the first two weeks following the signing of the Revitalized ARCSS. The commission will be composed of 15 members, ten of which will be South Sudanese and five from the C5 countries which include Algeria, South Africa, Nigeria, Chad and Tanzania.
From the 10 South Sudanese members of IBC, President Kiir will again appoint 5 members leaving the other half to be shared by the oppositions. From this cluster, the SPLM/A(IO) will end up with 2 members leaving the FDs, SSOA and OPPs with one member each. Given that the OPPs are more loyal to the government more than they are allied to other opposition groups, there are high chances that the OPP member of IBC will cast their votes in favor of Kiir’s camp. Since the daily decision making in the IBC will be based on simple majority or by at least 7 South Sudan members, Kiir’s cluster will again have an upper hand to impose decisions on behalf of all South Sudanese.
Nonetheless, as state in article 4.13 “in the unlikely event of the IBC failing to make its final report before the end of its term, the IBC shall be automatically transformed on the 90th day of its term into Referendum Commission on Number and Boundaries of States (RCNBS) of the Republic of South Sudan.” Given its carefully crafted composition, the IBC will not fail to make its final report before the end of its term; however, if it does, a referendum will not be feasible, at least, within 2 years due to insecurity. In addition, almost half of South Sudan population has been displaced to the refugees’ and IDPs camps, and therefore the population that would vote in such a referendum would be mostly from Bhar el Ghazal region and areas that are controlled by the government. In either case, whether through the IBC or through a referendum, the regime has a higher probability to impose its 32 states against the will of what would be the majority in a peaceful, stable and democratic South Sudan.
Based on a well informed cost-benefit analysis and mindful that South Sudan needs a lasting peace and stability, the author would recommend that:
- The parties to the conflict continue to commit themselves to dialogue to exhaust all possible avenues in order to bring a genuine peace and tranquility that will not only last but will reconcile and unite the people of South Sudan,
- The parties to the conflict, and especially the opposition parties, be mindful of the victims of the conflicts, their needs of reparation, compensation, justice and rehabilitation.
- The parties to the conflict establish clauses in this or future peace agreement that would prevent, eradicate or mitigate senseless killing of civilians to ensure that the incident of December 15 or any similar massacre never repeat itself.
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