Contributor's Opinion

Opinion: The R- ARCSS was dead on arrival and it’s slowly but surely heading to its final destination- the grave!

By Peter Pal Chuol

South Sudan President, Salva Kiir, right, and opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar, left, signing a preliminary peace deal in Khartoum, Sudan, (File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)
South Sudan President, Salva Kiir, right, and opposition leader Dr. Riek Machar, left, signing a preliminary peace deal in Khartoum, Sudan, (photo: File/Supplied/Nyamilepedia)

August 22, 2020 (Nyamilepedia) – It is an open secret to the South Sudanese and the international community that, the peace accord that was signed almost two years ago has now stagnated and regrettably stalled. In international political studies, when agreements have stalled and parties are deadlocked, it signals some worrying signs and an alarm bell needs to be rung.

South Sudan is a very strange country particularly its leaders. They signed what they don’t mean and don’t sign what they mean. This is a very sad irony indeed. It is hard to imagine how delightful the South Sudanese were when they signed the latest peace agreement in Khartoum in September of 2018. People were euphoric and ecstatic, understandably so because they were and are affected by continuous civil wars and hence they needed a break. Little did they know that the peace agreement was a “disagreement in form of an agreement”?  The agreement is destined to solve nothing but in fact furthers the long suffering of our people.

Right from the word go, the R-ARCSS was a political powering-sharing and an accommodation to the old faces and their protégés, people who brought South Sudan up to this terrible and bitter end. It was a serious blunder seeing people penned down an agreement that empowers the bourgeoisie and the thieves of the South Sudanese resources. South Sudanese politicians deserve nothing less but hell. The world should not have allowed this broad daylight robbery of our resources in term of power- sharing agreement. It is a mockery to expect development in terms of social services delivery in a country of 5 Vice Presidents and 550 Members of Parliament. For sure, even China, a country of almost one and half billion people has 3,000 Members of Parliament. Let alone a South Sudan of approximately 12 million people. This is a joke of the century. Social services are at stake here at the expense of maintaining all those political scavengers; this does not require a special revelation to figure it out.

The Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) was a bad agreement because it lacks the edge to solve the fundamental problems and the root causes of our problems. Instead, it is a platform of the goons to negotiate their ways back to the political landscape of South Sudan so that they continue to selfishly enrich themselves and their families. I recall reading a post lamenting how the politicians in South Sudan have become a thorn in the flesh to the poor masses. “When they disagree, they kill us, but when they unite, they loot us”, read the post. The R-ARCSS depicts unification for the politicians and prominent military figures to loot the South Sudanese resources after having killed us.

Bad peace agreements are most oftentimes worse than wars, and the 2018 Khartoum peace agreement is not an exception. It was not negotiated in good faith and seriously lacks in reform agenda.

I stand to be corrected; almost all the political leaders in South Sudan before the 2013 crisis were in one way or the other guilty of corruption and malpractices in the public offices. In legal fraternity, it is a common knowledge that one is presumes innocent until proven guilty, however for South Sudanese politicians, it is correct to say that they are guilty before any proof.

The division among them led to the 2013 crisis, unfortunately, the government of Salva Kiir committed atrocities against the innocent Nuer, people who have nothing to do with the power struggle within the SPLM party. So, the conflict in South Sudan is genuine depending on where you stand. The tribalism, corruption, theft, rampant insecurities, food insecurity, poor infrastructure, poor education system, not forgetting the horrible healthcare services in the country. All these call for drastic changes.

Regrettably, the opposition groups tried their best to paint the incumbent of Salva Kiir devilish and occupied the moral high ground as written by the famous classical writer Robert Greene in his book entitled the 33 Strategies of War. These opposition groups described and portrayed the reigning government of South Sudan as if they’re different from it. Even during the civil war, the practices within the opposition camps were no different from that of the government they were fighting. Corruption, nepotism, looting of civilians’ wealth and all sort of bad practices were rampant. This raises an eyebrow as to what reform agenda they were up to. It is healthy to conclude that oppositions and the government are made of the same stuff; the different between them is that, the opposition groups hid behind the killing of the Nuer in Juba to mobilize support. But in real sense, each one of them just desperately wanted to get back to the system in Juba.

We don’t need to look far behind the horizon to confirm that fact, I will have no space wasted to write all those that have abandoned what they once described as “a genuine undertaking” and went back to the system they once portrayed as “rotten”.

Back to my point, I strongly believe that the R-ARCSS was dead on arrival. This is based on the knowledge that, the agreement restored the status quo of the political elites and their ill-fated policies of systematic and proliferating looting of our resources. There is no way a genuine opposition group fighting for the reform of South Sudan would sign an agreement that empowers so much the pre-existing system that have killed, looted and underdeveloped the country. Genuine liberation struggles manifest the spirit of persistence and resilience. The socialist revolutionary in the person of Che’ Ernesto Guevara once said, I don’t care getting killed, my only worry is whether someone is going to pick my gun and continue to fight the just cause after I am killed”. That is the spirit of reforms; you don’t need to sign bad agreements to empower the oppressors if you are not one of them, something in politics called “the negotiated surrender”. In my own terms, the leaders in South Sudan are “a divided yet united camp”.

This is confirmed by the fact that even the principal of the main opposition group (SPLA/M-IO) Dr. Riek Machar Teny violated the agreement he signed. He turned a blind eye to the implementation of the crucial part of the R-ARCSS, the Security Arrangements. He surprisingly went to Juba without first implementing what the agreement stipulates. Comprises are made in peace negotiations not after agreements are signed, that is some common sense, but needless to say, common sense are not common.  Awkwardly, Dr. Riek Machar now finds himself between a rock and hard a place but on the other hand, he is now part and parcel of the system he once bitterly opposed and fought. What else was his reform agenda if not getting back to the system?  That is something left for deliberations.

Straightforwardly, the R-ARCSS was never meant for the people of South Sudan but the political class and the elites. Just look at the appointments made so far, be it the opposition or the government. Astonishingly, the SPLA/M-IO appointments were a mockery, a pure political accommodation without considering the person’s competency. Now that the R-ARCSS has hit a dead end, it is becoming apparent that nothing will be solved by it.

Conclusively, one sad fact is that, the latest reunion by the political elites in the item of R-ARCSS will continue to empty the state coffers through corruption but on the other hand, South Sudan is a ticking time- bomb that can and will explode anytime considering the negative dynamics like hunger, communal violence, diseases, land disputes and other serious ones. No problem is solved until it is solved right!

The system of governance in South Sudan needs an overhaul whether by hook or crook. Any peace agreement need to put in place accountability for the past crimes committed, transparency, serious development agendum and handing power back to the masses. This can be done through other options but the most notable one is the option of armed struggle that is people-agenda based. Malcolm X once said, sometimes you need to pick up a gun to put down a gun. In case all other options failed, armed resistance to democratize South Sudan will be a necessity.

In the current setting, neither R-ARCSS not our current leaders has the potent to solve our predicament. R-ARCSS is another tool that empowers and cements the position of the bourgeoisie to continue looting us but on the other front killing us en masse.

The writer is a student of Human Rights Activist and can be reached through palchuol47@gmail.com

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