By Dr Lako Jada Kwajok
August 28, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — The completion of the signing of the compromise peace agreement has given South Sudan a golden opportunity for a fresh start. If this chance is managed in the spirit of patriotism and selflessness, then people may later look back at the previous period as a nightmare that befell the country. It was a relief to many peace loving South Sudanese who constitute the overwhelming majority of the population. However we must not forget that the government in Juba was against the very thing that it was compelled to comply with.
The birth of peace was never easy and went through difficult labour that lasted for months. Like any newborn that came to life through difficult birth, it will be fragile with the risk of failure to thrive hanging over it unless it gets adequate nurturing and care. It is now the responsibility of the South Sudanese people to make the agreement work. There is no such thing as ” just peace ” as the government would want us to believe when it is an effort to bring peace to the people of the same country. They want a ” just peace ” for themselves so that the corruption could continue unabated and the criminals could be let off the hook. We also must keep in mind that total peace is not achievable as long as there are other groups fighting the government. Therefore the would be formed transitional government of national unity ( TGoNU ), should strive to establish dialogue for peace with REMNASA and any other fighting groups. There are those who entertain the idea of spending heavily on weaponry with the naive belief of crushing the rebels. It will not work and we have an example in David Yau Yau group which is formed of members of a small tribe, the Murle. As everyone knows, the government had to make a deal with them in the end.
The compromise peace agreement however ushered in new dynamics to politics in South Sudan. There has been a lot of talk, movements and efforts towards SPLM re-unification in recent weeks and months. As it stands, the efforts have not reached fruition yet despite the fact that some members of the G 10 have already joined the SPLM in government. Thus when the TGoNU is finally formed it will be in essence a coalition government comprised of different parties with different agendas. We hope the politicians would put national interests above party, personal and tribal interests. Unfortunately there is already bad blood between the parties even before the conflict. If people don’t rise above personal grudges and personal interests then the going will really be tough. Salva Kiir has expressed his dissatisfaction openly and that he would sign the agreement against his will. Army chief of staff, Malong is one of the driving forces against signing the agreement. The world have seen how the government organised demonstrations against peace with some ministers participating in them. It was weird demonstrations as people worldwide are used to demonstrations against war but not against peace. On the day he signed the peace agreement ( 26/08/2015 ) in the presence of the regional leaders, Kiir was visibly angry and clearly signed the document against his will. He went further to hand the regional leaders a list of reservations about the agreement.
It would have been more preferable if a neutral person was made to be president in the transition. A member of the clergy like our Archbishops or Bishops would have been more acceptable to all parties and more appropriate to preside over the transition. That person would likely have a good chance of running a government composed of people with different views and antagonistic agendas. There is a lot on the table that could be an impediment to cooperation and the smooth running of the government apparatus. For example, how will the TGoNU refer to the events that took place in December 2013 ?! Would president Kiir and his camp maintain their line of argument that it was a coup d’etat ?! And should they do that , would it not trigger conflict within the cabinet bringing the TGoNU into a standstill ?! On the other hand if Machar’s camp calls it rightly a massacre against the Nuer civilians, would it not lead to confrontation between the two rivals ?! So with all this antagonism, how will the TGoNU work ?! Only God knows !
Security during the transition is a worrying issue particularly to SPLM/A-IO. Despite the demilitarization of Juba, the SPLM/A-IO leadership would still be vulnerable. This is because contrary to what was stipulated in the original proposed compromise peace agreement, the government can keep its military hardware and as many soldiers it wants inside Giyada or Bilpham provided they don’t come out in uniform or armed. As you can see it will be too easy for Kiir to deploy his forces should he opt for a show down. Machar would be in a precarious situation to face up to the onslaught as he would have insufficient forces. It will all be down to the foreign forces ( guard force ) that would be tasked with being a buffer force between the two sides. Its composition, number and level of armament would be crucial in deterring any thoughts of dishonouring the agreement. It will be desirable if the UPDF is left out of the buffer force, after all they have been there for 20 months and will not function as a neutral force. The total number of the force should be comparable to the number of Kiir’s forces in the barracks. The force should be armed with modern weaponry lest it will be helpless in standing up to a force armed with tanks and armoured personnel vehicles. All that being said, we should not forget that some elements in the proposed force could be complacent. We have at hand the example of what took place in Abyei, when citizens were massacred by the Bashir’s forces in the presence of the UN and the Ethiopean forces.
Policing Juba city is another difficult and tenacious issue to deal with. With the current crime rate, Juba would rival cities like Johannesburg in South Africa or Medellin in Colombia, South America if population size is taken into consideration. What will be happening in Juba will not be confined to ordinary crimes only but will include political assassinations. We have already seen the assassination of the speaker of the western Equatoria assembly, Late James Bage Elias and the young journalist, late Peter Moi Julius, let the almighty God rest their souls in eternal peace. With the bitter dissent and heightened rhetoric coming out from the Kiir’s camp, one can only expect the worse to happen. There is no doubt, the assassins would be in business unless a major security shake-up is implemented in the transition. Juba has never been a safe place to live in since Kiir took office. Before that people used to walk the streets at night without fear. In the hot season, families used to sleep outside their rooms or huts without worrying for their safety. Those exercises are now something of the past because you are not even safe within the confines of your room. The reason is that due to tribalism and nepotism, the police force in central Equatoria state has always been under a Dinka chief of police. Even the small police stations in the residential areas are being led by Dinka officers. They are not in those positions because of qualifications, in fact a significant number of them have no qualifications at all, some carry fake certificates and others could barely read or write or not at all. This is why policing of Juba has been a total failure and a disgrace for the regime.
It is time that policing Juba city should be handed over to the Equatorians. Firstly, it is their ancestral land and they have every reason and enthusiasm to work hard and keep it safe. Secondly, they are well educated, better trained and well disciplined than many in the present police force. Thirdly, there is a clear lack of etiquette among many in the ranks of the current police force. Policing is not all about beating people up and being a bully in the community. It is all about establishing good relations with the local community that will help the police in performing its duty. The current police force is tainted with unruly behaviour and brutality towards the civilians. Primitive behaviour is also an issue that is unbecoming of the police force of our capital city. The police force in Juba is supposed to show the good face of South Sudan therefore should be a well disciplined, well educated and civilized. All those attributes are in abundance among the Equatorian police officers. There is no reason at all that can convince us that the Police chiefs in the Equatoria states, should not be Equatorians. The Equatorian politicians and populations have a duty to prevent and reject the imposition of anyone not from Equatoria to take up the post of police chief. In fact the bulk of the police force in Equatoria should be Equatorians. The same should be applied to the other states, for example the police chief and the bulk of the police force in Lakes state should be from the indigenous population. This will go a long way in cutting down the current crime rates and would allow the police to regain some lost grounds. Also it will help in restoring trust in the police as people tend to be careful when dealing with their own communities.
The peace agreement has prescribed general elections to be held 60 days before the end of the transition. It is hoped that the 30 months which is the life span of the TGoNU, would give all the parties ample time to prepare for the elections. Preparation entails establishment of a campaign organisation and mobilization of the grass roots. This will all need field work among the local population in all the states in South Sudan. It is clear that campaigning would be a risky business for SPLM/A-IO in the states that it was allocated 15% power sharing. The issue will still be how could the opposition campaign freely without, intimidation, coercion or even risking their lives. Expansion of the demilitarized areas to include major towns would have been more conducive to a peaceful campaign for all the parties. Air travel using the government helicopters would pose a particular risk to the leadership of the opposition. They should not underestimate Museveni’s regime expertise that has been extended to the government. What is clear is that assassination of any of the opposition leaders, God forbid, will witness the rapid unraveling of the whole peace process.
Signing of the compromise peace agreement has produced winners and losers.
- The South Sudanese citizens who have been yearning for peace over the past 20 months.
- Dr Riek Machar who earned the position of a peace seeking leader in the eyes of the world by signing the compromise peace agreement without hesitation or reservation. His willingness to work with someone who tried to kill him only 20 months ago, exhibited his statesmanship.
- The IGAD-PLUS peace mediators who are to be commended for perseverance.
- President Salva Kiir as his signature earned him legitimacy. However his reservations have not been recognised by the international community.
- Paul Malong, the SPLA Chief of Staff, as he was very vocal against signing the agreement.
- The Jieng Council of Elders ( JCE ) which has sent a letter to the peace mediators opposing the compromise peace agreement.
- President Museveni of Uganda who tried to introduce changes to the agreement document in the Antebbe meeting of the so-called front line states. His lucrative deal with president Salva Kiir is coming to an end as the UPDF will have to go home.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org