South Sudan civil society group withdraws from civil society forum

South Sudan Civil Society Consortium Logo (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)

August 5th 2019 (Nyamilepedia) – The South Sudan Civil Society Consortium, a diaspora-based civil society body has said in a statement extended to Nyamilepedia on Saturday that it has withdrawn its membership from South Sudan Civil Society Forum, a higher body serving as umbrella for civil society organizations. Below is the full press release issued by the group. 

 

SOUTH SUDAN CIVIL SOCIETY CONSORTIUM FINAL RESOLUTIONS ON ITS MEMBERSHIP STATUS IN THE SOUTH SUDAN CIVIL SOCIETY FORUM:

WE the members of the South Sudan Civil Society Consortium(The Consortium)1 in South Sudan and diaspora, after consulting ourselves to determine the membership status of the Consortium in the South Sudan Civil Society Forum(The CSO Forum);

RECALLING the Consortium original acceptance of the invitation to join the rest of the civil society groups meeting to form the CSO Forum at Entebbe, Uganda, December 2017;

AWARE of the designed and imposed challenges which have been facing the CSO Forum and having carefully followed the affairs of the CSO Forum since its inception;

HAVING participated in the making of the March 2019 press conferences held in Juba by over 150 member organisations of the CSO Forum to publicly unfold the mess within the CSO Forum;

GRATEFUL to the colleagues who championed the press conference to reform the CSO Forum;

COGNISANT of our participation in the recent Entebbe meeting held on 15 to 17 July 2019;

CONSIDERING the impartial role the civil society plays in shaping the affairs of the society without any external control;

ANALYSING the contradictions and the conflict of interests within the CSO Forum and the manner in which matters are managed since its inception and how its future is tuned to look like at recent Entebbe meeting;

NOTING that civil society is a watchdog whose work must be based on values of independence, honesty, fairness, heart to serve ordinary people without ulterior motives among others;

HAVING FURTHER GIVEN without any success the benefit of doubts to other CSO Forum members to prove an independently inclusive CSO Forum which was originally meant to unify the civil society voices on peace and other issues affecting ordinary South Sudanese citizens; from all the three Greater Regions constituting South Sudan;

CONSCIOUS of the fact that civil society represents the republic of vulnerable and harmonious partnership is the key in coordinating the vital role instead of being in false union;

CONSCIOUS FURTHER of our right to freedom of association to join any other civil society group whose objectives are similar to ours and leave it when it doesn’t any more uphold such objectives;

DO HEREBY ON THIS 31ST DAY OF JULY 2019 through this public statement, based on the reasons provided hereafter, make the following resolutions:

  1. The Consortium immediately fully withdraws its membership from the CSO Forum.
  2. The Consortium dully informs the public that it recognises no more the CSO Forum as having wholesome significance in the representation of the Civil Society at any forum and communication to the Consortium through the CSO Forum shall be regarded invalid.
  3. Urges the donors to check into it that some of their representatives supporting civil society, do not divide civil society into factions and must observe ‘principles of do no harm’.
  4. The Consortium recommits its efforts to cooperate with all civil society networks and partners whose interests are to improve the lives of the ordinary people and nothing more.
  5. The Consortium further remains fully committed to advocate for peace, justice, social cohesion and healing among all South Sudanese people from all three Greater Regions of Equatoria, Bahr El Ghazal and Upper Nile without any discrimination as provided for in the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, 2011 and in the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, 2018(R-ARCSS 2018).

SSCSC Secretariat

Cc: General public and the media.

Cc: RJMEC, parties and other mechanisms and partners.

Cc: All other civil society members including the CSO Forum.

Cc: File.

SOME REASONS FOR THE CONSORTIUM’S WITHDRAWAL FROM THE CSO FORUM: 31/7/2019:

The CSO Forum has been messed up by combination of factors. These factors are based on unfolded multi-pronged interests, which include the following, some of which were publicly revealed by the civil society in March 2019 Juba press conference:

Departure from the objectives and Pre-determined discussion:

The main objective of the CSO Forum was to have a unified voice. But recent Entebbe meeting shows that some members of the CSO Forum in collusion with some representatives of the donors pre-determined the outcome. The Consortium members sent representatives, thinking that there would be independent discussion to resolve the crisis that caused the press conference in March 2019. This was not the case. There was no spirit of reconciliation and compromise to have a unified voice and even what was really was a merely agreement convenience. The CSO Forum is more of a profit-making entity other than a Forum for civil society to speak with one voice. The recent Entebbe meeting was pre-determined by both some of the representatives of the donors and some civil society resisting unified CSO Forum. This assertion was evident from the way discussion was organised marked by factional attacks on individuals who were critical on the manner the meeting was conducted and previous refusal to accept reforms by having institutionalised CSO Forum.

Hate speech, mistrust: and humiliation of others:

The CSO Forum is marred by mistrust and absence of cooperation among its members. Any institution without any trust cannot progress. Mistrust is largely demonstrated during the discussion of issues and the secrecy of its management. The language used by most of the members who think they regionally own the CSO Forum against others is hateful and demonstrates the CSO Forum’s shaky foundation. This contradicts the values of the Consortium, one of which is mutual cooperation and valuing of different groups.

Absence of the Constitution or Charter:

The CSO Forum has operated without any charter or constitution governing its members since 2017 until in July 2019 Entebbe meeting which thinly came up with some sketchy guidelines being still in draft. The Consortium long advocated for the CSO Forum to have clear guidelines. Few individuals frustrated our efforts. This combined with other factors, gives us reason to leave.

Regionalised discussion, dominance and marginalisation of other members:

Some of the members within the CSO Forum, behave as though the CSO Forum is their entity and therefore, mercifully on humanitarian grounds, accommodate other coalitions and organisations to it. Some of these members as a result, harass other members through words, gossiping with partners. They portray other members as less important within the CSO Forum. For example, the CSO Forum is dominated by civil society members hailing from Greater Equatoria mostly Central and Western Equatoria. As a result, some of these members behave as though the CSO Forum is their own entity. This is one of the main reasons why nothing is implemented in the CSO Forum in the interest of all its members. Further examples show that those who think they own the CSO Forum selected themselves to the extent of sending representatives to some mechanisms against the criteria set by the Agreement. They manipulated everything and make others especially the civil society members from the Consortium appear as ‘bad guys’ before the eyes of the Peace Partners and donors.

Conflict of interests and external control:

The CSO Forum is to some extent controlled by some of the representatives of its partners supporting it financially. They use the financial support to befriend others, intimidate others, consult with others hence categorising other civil society into ‘bad’ and ‘good’ ones. It is hard to imagine the kind of interests which some of these partners have attached to the CSO Forum other than nurturing a unified civil society Forum! Some of these donor representatives are both civil society members and at the same time representatives of the donors. For example, one of them is sitting on the RJMEC2 representing civil society on youth ticket while remaining an international staff member and no one among these civil society Forum members talks about it instead of demonising those who seek for a reformed civil society body. Unfortunately both the donor representatives and some CSO Forum members have regional links hence fortifying the bonds to run the Forum the way they want it. These colluded regionalised divisions polarised by conflict of interests and external control, have created factions within the CSO Forum. Those who are honestly critical to that control have been targeted and regarded as violent, political agents and uncommitted civil society members. This is contrary to the values of civil society as an independent entity. The Consortium tried much to voice this out but it failed and therefore, it has to leave the CSO Forum as it contradicts its values, one of which is being a Network of non-profit entities and fair thinkers.

Absence of leadership structure:

Supported indirectly by the financial partners’ representatives, the CSO Forum has remained without any clear leadership structure to manage its affairs. The Consortium has been very vocal in urging the partners and other members of the CSO Forum to have a formal institutional structure that defines the roles and responsibilities. This was resisted by individual members and this was one of the reasons that forced the Consortium to join other discontented members to conduct a press conference in March 2019 in Juba. The recent Entebbe meeting that came up with some leadership and management structures remains shaky and regionally controlled. It is just a cover-up to show to donors that the challenges within the CSO Forum have been resolved but nothing will work unless the Steering Committee is controlled in favour of those who have been resisting institutionalisation of the CSO Forum

Failure to implement all resolutions:

No single resolution has ever correctly been implemented by the CSO Forum since its inception. All its meetings held in South Sudan, Kenya and Uganda have always come out with resolutions but after the meeting, the individuals tasked to follow up resolutions frustrated implementation. no single resolution is ever implemented inclusively.

Lack of transparency and accountability in managing its resources:

The CSO Forum’s resources have been managed by a few members as they wish and without any accountability to members. They are fully supported by some of the representatives of those supporting the CSO Forum while knowing there is no accountability to members. This is contradictory to the values of civil society which tries to urge political elites to manage the country’s resources transparently. There is no also transparency in communication. This contradiction alone amounts to one of the reasons for the Consortium to leave the CSO Forum for if it remains, it can drown in shame.

Use of resources to intimidate and divide civil society members:

Instead of ensuring the CSO Forum as for a unified voice of the civil society, resources such as money is used by few members with blessing from the representatives of the donors who issue it out to divide civil society they consider strong in their areas of operations. The Consortium has been a victim of this plan though the members played it cool for the sake of civil society appearing united during the peace negotiations. For example, some members which the Consortium has dismissed from its membership were given money by the CSO Forum to conduct some activities in the Consortium’s areas of operation. Neither the leadership nor the members of the Consortium was informed. This unfolds the intention of some members and those who issue money to divide civil society instead of unifying their voice.

Besides, the use of resources to intimidate during the discussion includes also the presence of donors who before or currently giving grants to some civil society organisations critical to the mess in the CSO Forum. This is to intimidate in order to ensure uncritical discussion. Due to these contradictions, it clearly shows that the CSO Forum has nothing to do with wider interests of the civil society though it appears a credible body in its public statements but internally, it has sharp contradictions. This makes the Consortium to leave it and maintains its independence than being compromised financially.

Past experiences in using CSO fora for different reasons:

Some of the individual members have been destroying civil society coalitions when they are not dominate in such coalitions. Ironically, they are scared by others when those they despise unite on their own yet they do not want to unite with those they despise. What do they really want? The logical conclusion would be that they form civil society coalitions with their own interest which is not a unified voice of civil society but to garner dominance for self interests.

CONCLUSION:

The Consortium members guided by their values which include independence, fairness, justice for all, among others, decide to finally stand up against humiliation of its members. It doesn’t make sense when some civil society members criticise political elites of messing up public affairs while the very civil society members do the same. Such contradictions must be exposed hence; the Consortium rejects such double face, intimidation, coercion through resources, humiliation and manipulation of its members. It therefore, ultimately leaves the Forum. It will however, continue to cooperate with like-minded civil society coalitions which treat all South Sudanese from the three Greater Regions on equal basis and not at the mercy of accommodation as the CSO Forum portrays.

The Consortium members express their gratitude to some civil society leaders with whom they issued the March 2019 Juba Press Conference and as they remain within the CSO Forum, the Consortium will continue to cooperate with them individually and in their respective organisations as well as other CSO Forum members who treat our members with respect.

END


1 The South Sudan Civil Society Consortium(SSCSC), which was formerly known as Civil Society Peace and Humanitarian Development Consortium(CSPHDC), is a Coalition of South Sudanese civil society organisations operating in South Sudan and at refugee camps in the neighbouring countries. SSCSC was founded on 20 June 2017 in South Sudan by veteran South Sudanese civil society leaders. The main focus of SSCSC includes; coordinating civil society efforts to advocate for sustainable peace and justice, reconciliation, social cohesion and delivery of humanitarian services to conflict-affected communities. SSCSC participated and contributed views in the negotiations that culminated into the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan(R-ARCSS 2018). For more information about SSCSC, contact the Secretary-General and official Spokesperson on: E-mail: sscivilsocietyconsortium2017@gmail.com.

2 Revitalised Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, a body task

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