Opinion Peace Process

Opinion: Shame on IGAD for arresting Dr. Riek Machar

By Dak Buoth,

Members of The Senior Youth of South Sudan holding a media press briefing in Nairobi, Kenya, in December 2017(Photo: supplied)
Members of The Senior Youth of South Sudan holding a media press briefing in Nairobi, Kenya, in December 2017(Photo: supplied)

Dec 22, 2020(Nyamilepedia) In the afternoon of the 21st December, 2020, social media front liners heard the breaking news that South Sudan First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar is now a free man. I was somewhere in Nairobi when this news entered my phone via news channel, 40062. 

I eagerly read and passed it to Benjamin Unyang whom I was sitting with. I mentioned Benjamin’s because he is one of the Senior Youth who are on record for calling on the immediate lifting of Riek’s confinement at the onset. 

In the 38th Extraordinary meeting of IGAD Heads of State and Government held on 20th December 2020 in Djibouti, they stated ‘‘that currently there are no travel restrictions of any kind imposed by IGAD on the First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan, Dr. Riek Machar Teny.’’ 

This is an ambiguous statement that has not addressed three fundamental questions, one, when was Dr. Riek Machar’s movement restricted? Two, when exactly was the restriction lifted, and third, what are the reasons behind this restriction? 

I perused their statement and found answers to these questions missing. IGAD must have ignored the weight of this matter. They are certainly taking it slightly. Unbeknown to them, the arbitrary confinement of Machar was an issue that has elicited a lot of heat in our country. 

The six years confinement of South Sudanese opposition leader cannot be mentioned in one paragraph. I think they are taking us for a fool. We need an elaborate explanation on the same, because it is a matter of public concern. 

On 26th December 2017, the Senior Youth of South Sudan (SEYOSS) asked in a press conference held in Chester house, Nairobi: who was behind Riek Machar’s arrest? By then all groups including IGAD kept silent.  However, now that IGAD has come out to confess that they were behind his arrest, we shall keep pressuring them to give reasons for their conspiracy, with a view of making sure they are exposed and ashamed, so that no opposition leader faces this injustice in future. 

Yesterday it was Dr. Riek Machar, today it can be Deputy President, Dr. William Ruto of Kenya; tomorrow it could be Bobi Wine of Uganda, and next time it might be South Africa’s Julius Malema. The current Presidents of the East African region have failed us. Imagine if they cannot defeat locust invasion, flood and coronavirus, do you think they will manage persistent youth unemployment and food crisis? 

I believe the bright future of Africa and South Sudan in particular lies in the hands of opposition leaders whether you like it or not. The people must stand up and protect the future leaders from merciless dictators and traitors whose sole interest and intention is to remain in power by force of arms.  I’m of the view that the less visionary opposition leader is better than a dictator like President Omar El Bashir whose hands are full of blood. We shall continue brainstorming on this plot by dictators against opposition leaders in Africa. 

IGAD fell short of stating the rationale of their uncouth action and what it has achieved in as far as the peace in South Sudan is concerned. And by failing to give reason/s for Dr. Riek Machar’s arrest, it means it was an unlawful decision that they cannot explain and defend in the court of public opinion. It was an empty decision devoid of wisdom and justice. Thus, I would like to say and repeat here and now that shame, shame on IGAD heads of state and government who made this unlawful decision at the time. 

Their decision has achieved nothing but status quo in South Sudan. However, we are still confident that IGAD will not gag the revolutionary South Sudanese forever. An old African proverb says ‘‘you cannot change the win, change the scene.’’  The quest for change in South Sudan must go on for it is unstoppable. The change in itself is natural. Thus, the few South Sudanese and IGAD that are teaming up to delay change will be exhausted by proponents of change in South Sudan. They might have forgotten that the country of South Sudan came through the wind of change. Therefore, those who are out to twist change will face a humiliating defeat sooner than later. 

Moreover, I think IGAD is behind the news that the era of house-arrest is over. The Political detentions have been overtaken by events. We are in democratic Africa of Human Rights where everyone must fully participate and enjoy his fundamental human rights without hindrance and interference. The restriction of Dr. Riek Machar’s movement violated his rights and freedom of movement in and outside South Sudan. We are in the new era where everyone must be accountable and answerable for his or her action before the competent court of law.  Dr. Riek Machar could have been allowed to move and participate freely, and if he is found culpable of any wrongdoing he will face the music. 

The Keen observers and active participants of the prevailing events in our country would agree that his arbitrary detention has had negative impacts in the quest for peace in South Sudan. One of these negative impacts was the unexpected delay of the signing of the Agreement dubbed Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan R-(ARCISS). His confinement did start and prolong the war in South Sudan. Perhaps the peace could be signed in 2016/ 2017 if he was not arrested by order of IGAD. 

Nonetheless, they say it is better late than never. I applaud the current IGAD membership under the chairmanship of Sudan Prime Minister Dr. Ahmed Hamdok who finally quashed Dr. Riek’s detention. I hope the First vice President will now move around in speed like a jet in preaching peace and reconciliation in South Sudan. In fact if I were him, I would begin visiting the most war affected regions like Unity State, Jonglie State, Upper Nile, Eastern and Western Equatoria states, to give people tangible assurances that the war is about to end. So far President Kiir has visited his parts of Bahr El ghazal regions and stopped there. I think this should be Machar’s turn to move around and have a glimpse of the angry and hungry South Sudanese faces that are yearning for peace in and outside South Sudan.

The Writer is the Chairman of Liech Community Association in Kenya, the views expressed here are his own, and he can be reached for comments via eligodakb@yahoo.com,

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