By Samuel Atabi
Feb 14, 2017(Nyamilepedia) ——- It is difficult to criticize a man of Festus Gontebanye Mogae’s stature. As many readers might by now know, Mr Mogae was the President of Botswana from 1 April 1998 to 1 April 2008. He was appointed Chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) following a recent peace agreement for South Sudan. JMEC is an institution created by this August 2015 Agreement and is tasked with the oversight of its implementation
The brief biography of Mr Mogae, to which I have had access, confirms him as one of the most distinguished African statesmen. He has string of awards, prizes and accolades from equally distinguished organizations on the continent of Africa and beyond. The one I will single out is the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, conferred in 2008. The prize has a monetary value of US$ 10million paid over ten years and US$ 200,000, paid every year thereafter for life.
These accolades were attracted by his impeccable records in governance while he was the president of his country, Botswana. He, voluntarily, relinquished his presidency by announcing his intention to quit several months before the event. Previously, Mr Mogae worked with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as an alternate director. He was also the Governor of the Botswana National Bank.
For those who did the headhunting for the position of JMEC Chairmanship, such an array of qualifications might have been crucial in making their mind about their choice for the job. It is, thus, clear that Mr Mogae is a satisfied man and therefore cannot be accused of seeking or hanging onto any job nor can be seen to be vulnerable to any financial blandishment; the operational environment in South Sudan is such that a person of lesser mean and integrity can easily be compromised. And yet if this is true, Mr Mogae’s current subservient attitude towards the dictatorial regime in Juba tends to contradict this assumption. (More of this later).
I can speak for many South Sudanese when I say that after his appointment to JMEC, there was a sigh of relief in the country: a relief that a level headed and a distinguished personality had accepted a seemingly difficult and thankless job to be our alternative center of power. But this sense of relief was short-lived because after Mr Mogae assumed his position toward the end of 2015 his actions were seen to be contrary to expectation. In a calculated move to stymie the expected referee’s role of this son of Africa, the Kiir regime had resolved to block any move that would facilitate the smooth implementation of the agreement. The following are some of the early steps that were blocked by the Kiir regime and to which Mr Mogae largely acquiesced:
- The agreement required that political prisoners in both camps should be released as a part of confidence-building measures. Practically, rebels all over the world, as people who are on constant move, have few prisoners. The few prisoners that SPLA-IO had in custody were freed. (I remember a Director of Statistics was one of those set free). The regime, despite its additional declaration of amnesty for all political prisoners on 1 January 2016, has failed to release the prisoners as required. Mr Mogae was provided with a list of 41 prisoners who are housed within the compound of the national Security Service in Juba. More disappointing was the failure by Mr Mogae even to visit these prisoners who were naturally looking to him for their freedom. These unfortunate people are still languishing in appalling conditions in jail;
- The agreement stipulated that the Juba capital should be demilitarized. Instead, the regime was continuing to ferry, by trucks, in daylight and in full view of the public, thousands of the militia known as Mathiang Anyoor, into the capital. The officials SPLA soldiers and those of the various national security organizations were equally deployed within Juba. This was a blatant violation of the agreement. Yet, there was not a word from Mr Mogae. Granted, he could not have been able to enforce any evacuation of soldiers from Juba to sites outside because he lacked the means and authority. But South Sudanese expected him to, at the very least, report this to his employers for action; there is no evidence that he did. These are the same soldiers who attacked the SPLA-IO in Juba in July 2016 (see below); and
- Earlier, President Kiir, as if anticipating the timidity of the JMEC Chairman and the “guarantors” of the agreement, increased, by fiat, the number of the administrative states in South Sudan, from 10 (on which the agreement’s power-sharing clauses were based) to 28. As expected, Mr Mogae’s reaction to this major violation was lukewarm, to put it charitably. As we write, the number of states has now reached 32 as Kiir rampages through the now moribund agreement with abandon and without fear of sanction.
But one single violation, by the regime, that has really brought it home to most South Sudanese that Mr Mogae is not a friend of the agreement, was the calculated violence aimed at the person of Dr Machar and his entire entourage in Juba, in July 2016. As everyone who cares now know, President Kiir and the Chief of Staff of the SPLA, Paul Malong, ordered their armed forces to attack the leader of the SPLA-IO and his forces with all possible military materiel. These included tanks, aircrafts and helicopter gunships. The intention was to kill Dr Machar and then draft his erstwhile negotiator, Taban Deng Gai, a con artist and a stooge of Kiir, in his place as the First Vice president. Taban now has morphed into a criminal who orders abduction of South Sudanese from the neighboring countries to be taken back to South Sudan for incarceration, torture and extermination.
To the dismay of many South Sudanese and those in the international community, the JEMEC Chairman had no opinion to express on this fatal violation of the agreement nor has he a word against Taban’s new deadly pastimes of kidnappings and abductions. Instead, we keep on hearing from Mr Mogae that the agreement is alive and is being implement nicely, thank you very much! This, of course, is a big lie.
Since the intention of killing Dr Machar had failed, JMEC with IGAD and others have now abandoned all pretexts to impartiality and have thrown their lot with the Kiir regime in excluding Dr Machar from entering the IGAD countries and South Sudan. The purpose of this “Heath Robinson” type of project was ostensibly to deprive the SPLA-IO of leadership, thereby stopping the war and ushering in, peace. Because there was no grand invasion in December 2016 by the “White Army” as expected by Mr Mogae and his new company, the decapitation of the SPLA-IO has been deemed to have worked! But has it?
The Deputy Chairman of the SPLA-IO, Mr Henry Odwar, has recently listed some grim statistics to which I invite the Mo Ibrahim Prize laureate to consider whether the figures support his “peace without Riek Machar” thesis:
- Before the attempt on Dr Machar’s life, the intensity of the war was on downward trajectory and was restricted to Upper Nile and Unity states; but after the incidence, the war has spread to Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal regions. The intensity of the war has now risen to genocidal proportion;
- Before the “Riek Machar” ouster, 200,000 South Sudanese were displaced in various locations in the country; after the ouster over 500,000 are now displaced;
- There were 100,000 South Sudanese refugees across the region; but after the rupture, the number is now over 2,000,000;
- 2,000,000 South Sudanese were famished before July 2016, and now the number has climbed to 6,000,000; and
- The US$/SSP rate was 1:30 before the ouster, now the rate is 1:1000.
Mr President Mogae, the figures speak for themselves and so your thesis is clearly indefensible.
As a distinguished personality, Mr Mogae is expected to be knowledgeable about many things, including military and conflict resolution issues. Above all, this knowledge is germane to his mandate as an overseer working in a country trying to emerge from armed conflict like South Sudan. But we are further dismayed by Mogae’s apparent willful ignorance about matters military. He is quoted as calling the ongoing defensive war in Equatoria as being perpetrated by “criminals”. This is the same language being used by Kiir’s propagandists to tarnish the Equatorian resistance fighters.
Mr Mogae, it is a tradition of all governments facing insurgency to refer to any new guerilla force as “criminals”, “bandits” or “terrorists” in the initial phase of the war. Government language changes as the insurgency intensifies and develops until the government is put on the defensive and then the bandits, or whatever, becomes partners at the negotiating table. We are greatly disappointed when you gratuitously decided to adopt this derogatory abuse aimed at insulting our forces who are responding to extreme provocation of rape and scotched earth tactics against the civilians. Your intervention is uncalled for. We leave it to others to judge what effect this unacceptable behavior will have on your reputation.
We in South Sudan, at least those who are opposed to the tribal Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) regime in Juba, feel that you have reached the end of the road in this journey that we have been making together. We kindly ask you to honorably resign your position immediately. Based on the latest report, the SPLA-IO has now officially withdrawn their cooperation with your office. In addition, some of your bosses (e.g. Mr Omer el Bashir of Sudan) in IGAD are now of the opinion that Dr Machar is indispensable to attainment of peace in our country; the opinion directly contradicts your thesis of “peace without Riek Machar”. It further makes your position untenable.
Other distinguished leaders like Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi, who were envoys to the Syrian conflict, resigned when they realized that their effort was not being appreciated by the protagonists to the conflict. They left with their integrity intact. Why can’t Mr Mogae emulate these giants by extricating himself from the gangsters (with apologies to Olusegun Obasanjo) in the Juba regime and quit?
In conclusion, below is a quotation of a fragment of Oliver Cromwell’s speech (1653), an English Political and Military Leader, which as an Oxford-trained statesman, Mr Mogae should be familiar with:
“You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately…Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
Samuel Atabi is a concerned South Sudanese and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org