Contributor's Opinion

The Crumbled Political Marriage in the World’s Babiest Nation: What the Region and the International Friends of South Sudan Should Understand

By Matai Manuoi Muon.

US President, Barack Obama, meets regional leaders over South Sudan conflict(Photo: file)
US President, Barack Obama, meets regional leaders over South Sudan conflict(Photo: file)

August 20, 2016(Nyamilepedia) —— In the diplomatic corridors, political deadlocks are best solved through a “soft diplomacy” i.e. using the skills of mediation, negotiation, and arbitration etc. The art of soft diplomacy dictates that every conflict, political or social in nature has to be addressed by engaging the two or more aggrieved parties in an amicable, and conducive atmosphere so that a compromise can be reached upon, and possibly the conflict at hand be brought to a dead end. That is what South Sudan with the help of her regional, and international friends engaged in for two and a half years to try to make sense of the underlying political problems facing the young nation. Determined they were, an attractive peace deal was reached upon in the summer of 2015.

The accord if fully followed, would by all definitions, change the South Sudanese’s political landscape for better. In spite of the beauty and the inclusiveness of the deal, the South Sudanese government under Salva Kiir did not sign it wholeheartedly but with reservations annexed. Through its confused peace negotiating representatives such as Michael Makuei, Elias Lomuro and the rest, the government had been intoxicated beyond medicine with wrong messages about the looming peace accord. The deal carries with it some of the best fundamental reforms across each sector in the country. These reforms serve an eminent threat to the regime in Juba however. Fully implemented in letter and spirit, the criminal economy would cease to exist, and as a consequence, the cliques benefiting out of this would go zero.

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It’s been a tough moment for the SPLM/A IO as a champion for such reforms in the country. Using all their might, the regime of Salva Kiir had employed every obstacle they saw fit to frustrate the successful implementation of the accord. This, they did while the international friends were watching. When Salva Kiir issued an executive decree of expanding the number of states from 10 as stipulated in the agreement to a mind-boggling 28 states, the international community through its toothless office, JMEC commented that all was going well, and the issue shall be deliberated on when the national government was formed. The TGONU came to light.

The regime was still busy operationalizing the 28 states whose budget was drawn out of the starving South Sudan, to do nothing than feeding its governors in lavish hotels in Juba. Then the issue of security arrangements, cantonment of the Opposition forces in Greater Bhare El Ghazel, and Greater Equatoria became another test. The regime despite the clear presence of the forces allied to Dr. Riek, continued to play against the organization of these forces claiming the Opposition had no presence in such territories. These among other pressing issues proved beyond reasonable doubt that the agreement was not going as planned. This should not have happened if the regional and the international friends of South Sudan really meant to arrest the conflict.

On July 8, Salva Kiir, Paul Malong with the help of their young kid on the block Taban Deng, finally achieved their long aspiration. The TGONU, borrowing a line from Hon. Mabior Garang De Mabior, “was overthrown.” Employing the coward’s tactic of winning a political objective, they created a very hard atmosphere for Dr. Riek, a beacon of hope for the young nation. Aware of the number of troops, ammunition that Riek Machar had at the time, Paul Malong, the Chief of General Staff who takes no orders from no one except JCE, drove into Machar’s residence with armored tanks, while sending its attack helicopters to bombard Machar’s place with a clear intention to eliminate him out of the political equation. STD as famously known on the social media platforms would then assume the powers of the FVP. This however, did not happen as planned. Dr. Riek resisted the invading force for more than four days until he finally decided this was going nowhere than risking the lives of the innocent population. He then evacuated his force outside Juba, called for international intervention force to come in, and restore the little left of the deal.

The regional countries through the IGAD, answered the call, proposed a regional protection force with a clear mandate to make sense of the failing situation in the country. This decision has been adopted at the UN with an overwhelming yes vote. Less than a week following the military confrontations between the main two warring parties, and with the endorsement of Taban Deng, Salva Kiir rushed in to fulfill the long aspired for political conspiracy. Taban Deng became the new boy on the block in what most international analysts and political experts in the country refer to as “controversial circumstances.” One of the best international friends of South Sudan, the United States, registered its disappointment through its top diplomat for African affairs, Thomas Greenfield who commented, “We do not understand why such appointment was made in the first place, we however, hope for the immediate return of Dr. Riek Machar to continue the peace accord as it was before the events of July 8.” All the indicators show that the agreement is dead. Salva Kiir, and Taban Deng are just two men of the equal measure. The region and the world need to understand that with them in power, the issue of reforms cease to exist. It’s very difficult to draw a line of distinction between the two. In other words, it is the government now in Juba working alone. And if this assertion is correct, what are we talking about here? Can someone reform a system in which he feels comfortable?

Enough with the soft diplomacy, now is the time for hard diplomacy. The use of force to enforce the peace deal. This diplomatic concept carries with it so many downsides however, in situations like this, it can make sense. Suffering for short-term while chasing a long-term national goal can be a brave way to go. The Protection Force as usually referred to by the regime in Juba must go in ready to strike. The status quo will not survive once again in South Sudan. If Salva Kiir, JCE and their new girlfriends cannot implement the agreement through soft diplomacy, experiences and common sense have taught us that, where the opposite fails, try the contrary. Destructive engagement policy with Salva Kiir is the only option left to save the deal as argued by the practiced diplomat, Amb. Stephen Par Kuol. Destructive in a way that, any intervening force to Juba must be more robust, aggressive to act, and with clear military mandate. There is need to change tactics to approach this matter.

It’s been three years since the war began. Every effort has been exhausted. The region needs to work harder than ever to avoid a full political decline in South Sudan. The steps employed so far look promising if they are followed through to the implementation stage. International community, and the UN in particular, should change their engagement policy in Juba. They have to understand that dealing with the persons of Salva Kiir, and now Taban Deng does not only require diplomatic phrases such as “we condemn, we urge the both sides, or there will be consequences….. it requires a two ways approach. Pressure the regime diplomatically while having an adequate defense system to enable them perform accordingly. It is without doubt that, with these two in power, South Sudan has the capability to slip off, and potentially become another Mogadishu in the region. Th problems in the country arose due to lack of institutional reforms. And Albert Einstein, one of the most respected scientists the world had ever known, said, “You cannot solve the problem by using the same techniques that caused it.” As a conclusion, let me leave the reader with this important line by JMEC’ Fostus Mogae, “In this nation, it is not what one can actually deliver, it is how many generals one has.”

The author of this article, Matai M. Muon, can be reached for further inquiry and comments at mataimuon@yahoo.com

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1 comment

Deng Matot August 21, 2016 at 7:06 am

A very hard line should be taken to one of the chief instigators of unrest Lueth.
he is the one undermining any efforts for peace. he did his level best to undermine UNMISS. He is behind attacks on freedems of press.
Malong is a loose cannon also who should be locked up and disposed of for peace to have a chance.

get rid of the hardlibers and peace has a chance.
rember the genocided people.
remember the AU report. the government had planned the killings, but not anticpiated the collapse of the nation.


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