Analyses Contributor's Lotole Lo Luri Opinion

Unmasking the politics of collusion and double standards in South Sudan (Part 1)


By Lotole Lo Luri 

President Salva Kiir wipes his face in public with a pink handkerchief(Photo: file)
President Salva Kiir wipes his face in public with a pink handkerchief(Photo: file)

May 19th, 2019(Nyamilepedia) — A week or so has elapsed since we witnessed the dropping of two bombshells over the political sphere in South Sudan. First, the South Sudanese were baffled by the revelation that the government had hired an American private firm in a bid to block the establishment of the Hybrid Court of South Sudan (HCSS). As we know, the formation of the HCSS is one of the crucial provisions stipulated in the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS).  It should logically precede the implementation of all the provisions as those responsible for war crimes and crimes against Humanity; need to be apprehended and brought to book sooner than later. An omission would hamper justice delivery to the masses and curtail the trust bestowed on the new administration. It’s inconceivable that reconciliation and healing would ever happen in the absence of accountability. The damage inflicted on the social fabric by the regime would make reconciliation minus accountability a Herculean task. Well, what is being seen at present is not only that the perpetrators of the atrocities are left unscathed; but are indeed in the driving seat in the so-called Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS).

The government attempts at undermining accountability started as early as June 2016. Many would remember the joint letter authored by the President and Dr Riek Machar, which was published in the New York Times pushing for accountability to be dropped. It transpired at the time that the government paid an American public relations firm millions of Dollars for clandestine dealings aimed at obstructing justice and accountability. The National Dialogue that was launched by the government may appear on the surface as a noble endeavour. But in reality, it’s nothing but one of the regime’s many gimmicks to water down accountability and rehabilitate the perpetrators of the conflict.

Gainful Solutions Inc. is an American lobbying firm headed by Ambassador (ret.) Michael Ranneberger, former US Ambassador to Kenya. The infamous deal between the firm and the government of South Sudan states that the Consultant services will include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following:

  1. Open a channel of communication between President Kiir and President Trump with the objective of persuading President Trump and his administration to expand economic and political relations with South Sudan, and supporting American private sector investment in South Sudan in oil, natural resources, energy, gas, mining, and other areas.
  2. Improve bilateral relations between the United States and South Sudan.
  3. Persuade the Trump administration to reverse current sanctions and further block potential sanctions.
  4. Delay and ultimately block the establishment of the hybrid court envisaged in the R-ARCSS.
  5. Mobilise American companies to invest in oil, natural resources, and other sectors.
  6. Persuade the Trump administration to open a military relationship with South Sudan in order to enhance the fight against terrorism and promote regional stability.

“The Consultants will act as agents of the GOSS, Office of the President, to facilitate and negotiate with American and Western companies for investment in South Sudan”.

It’s evident that the deal goes a long way in breaching the sovereignty of South Sudan. The regime in Juba has just given a foreign firm the right to negotiate and strike deals on behalf of the government of South Sudan. The step taken by the government is unprecedented even by the standards of deals struck by non-governmental bodies like private companies and individuals. Contracts are usually made between a product owner, a middleman, and a buyer. In this case, Gainful Solutions Inc. is combining the roles of a product owner and the middleman. The question that comes to mind is; where does this arrangement leave the Ministries of Petroleum, Mining, and Trade and Investment in carrying out their Constitutional duties? Would Gainful Solutions Inc. be more dedicated to safeguarding the interests of South Sudan than our respective ministries? And how would the firm be held accountable if things turn awry?  The money paid to the firm (3.7 million USD) would have made a difference in the current economic downturn in the country. One would have thought that something like this shouldn’t have happened in a country where government employees are not paid their wages for 6 or  8 months. It’s a slap in the face for the oppressed people across our homeland.

What has been revealed is probably the tip of an iceberg. The regime is so desperate to avoid accountability for the crimes it committed that it wouldn’t hesitate to spend a fortune from the coffers to achieve its goals. We have reasons to believe that the oil revenues and other natural resources had been used to buy political support from influential entities across the world. The Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) is instrumental in implementing the regime’s policies. Some of its members have been used by President Kiir as emissaries to a selected group of foreign entities to influence the decision-makers in their countries in favour of the government.

It has been disclosed that South Sudan spent 2.1 million USD on Washington DC, lobbying PR firms from 2014 to the end of 2015. The aim is to improve its image, ensure that US aid is kept flowing, and stave off any attempts to impose harsher US-backed sanctions in response to the regime’s atrocities. Among the beneficiaries of the South Sudanese cash were former Republican US Rep. J.C Watts and R & R Partners, the firm famous for the “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” campaign. More South Sudanese oil cash found its way to the coffer of the lobbying giant, Podesta Group, headed by the high-profile Democratic Party fundraiser Tony Podesta.  His brother, John Podesta, was Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign Chairman. He also led President Obama’s transition team and worked as President Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff. The above line-up was truly formidable and could partly explain the discrepancy between the veiled threats and ultimatums against the regime during the Obama administration and what eventually materialised.

“Sanctions only serve to weaken peace efforts and demoralise ambitions of the elected government.” The above is a press release prepared by R & R Partners for the South Sudanese government. Along the same line, the former Republican Governor of Colorado, Bill Owens, was among those who worked on contract for South Sudan. He wrote, I quote – ” I believe it is in our national interests to be engaged and support the elected government of the world’s youngest nation”. It was a known fact that the South Sudanese government paid Owens 50,000 USD for his services. But Owens’ comments were quite misleading. The part about an “elected government” was inserted deliberately rather than out of ignorance. The world knows that Kiir is an unelected President leading an unelected government. As such both are de facto and illegitimate.

 It’s hard to believe that such activities haven’t been picked up by the Western intelligence community. It’s said that the actions were legal, and members of the public could access details. Then by the same token, it’s unbelievable that the Western powers were entirely in the dark before the lobbying scandal was unearthed. They must have known all along what the government of South Sudan was doing in their backyards. Therefore, the revelations and God knows what other secrets, are old news to the Western powers.

The policies pursued by the UN and the Western powers in South Sudan seem to be full of contradictions and inconsistencies. For example, David Shearer, the Chief of the UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) stated the following regarding the R-ARCSS; I quote: “I want to stress: there is no Plan B. There is only Plan A – this agreement- and for it to have a chance to work, it needs to be supported”. But in November 2016, Adama Dieng, the UN Special Advisor on prevention of genocide rang the alarm bells for an impending genocide in the Yei river area of Central Equatoria. He said: “I am dismayed to report that what I have seen and heard here has confirmed my concerns that there is a strong risk of violence escalating along ethnic lines, with the potential of genocide”.

Adama Dieng conclusion was echoed by Priti Patel, the former UK Secretary for International Cooperation in April 2017 following a visit to South Sudan. She said: “The fighting in South Sudan is absolutely tribal, so on that basis it is genocide”. The situation in the Yei river area had since gotten worse. Therefore, David Shearer’s call for support for the R-ARCSS with the perpetrators remaining in power is akin to offering the culprits the tools to evade justice.

You can reach the author through his email at lo.luri007@gmail.com

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