By Cpt. Mabior Garang de Mabior,
August 1, 2014(Nyamilepedia) — The Intergovernmental Agency for Development (IGAD) after having unnecessarily and indefinitely postponed the South Sudan Peace Process on the 23/06/2014, informed the parties to the conflict of the resumption of Peace Talks in Addis Ababa. This is a good development as the only way to resolve the conflict in South Sudan is through the peace process. However the double standards used to apply to the Government of the Republic of South Sudan, and to the SPLM/SPLA (which is unfair to the latter), threatens to undermine the peace process.
This application of double standards has been evident from the start of the talks as the mediators have constantly yielded to unreasonable demands from the government. The conflict has now entered its eighth month, and the peace talks that commenced almost concurrently have borne little fruit. This is partially due to the fact that the mediators, fearing to anger the government of South Sudan’s delegation have refuse to delimit the problem we proclaim to be resolving. This scenario has led the two parties to a protracted peace process with little light at the end of the tunnel, it has been labeled by some as: ‘talks about talks.’
The School of Social Sciences teaches us that there is (always) a relationship between the problem as far as it should be analyzed, delimited and/or defined and the solution. It is unfortunate; however, that the mediation has opted to follow a method that omits definition of the problem in the name of moving forward and not dwelling on the past. This is unscientific, and it will be very difficult for such an approach to yield any concrete results.
What is the Problem?
The Government of the Republic of South Sudan has defined the current conflict as arising out of a failed coup attempt, orchestrated by the former Vice President and other senior SPLM Political Bureau members. The SPLM/SPLA on the contrary, defines the conflict as arising out of a massacre of innocent South Sudanese men, women, and children, targeted on an ethnic basis; and, this has caused the cycle of revenge killings that has continued unchecked and threatens to engulf the country.
The coup narrative has since been dismissed by the courts in South Sudan, when the Chief of Military Intelligence testified in court that he could not connect the accused with any coup plot (as reported by Global Voices on 29/03/2014). The massacre of innocent men, women and children (that followed) on the other hand, has been confirmed by several rights groups; including International Crisis Group (ICG) whch puts the figure of the murdered at 10,000 killed from the 15 – 18 of December, 2014. The communities have also documented those killed by name and county and their figure is over 20,000.
The region, Africa and the world have failed to decisively condemn a well-documented massacre that took place in the Republic of South Sudan on the eve of marking the twentieth anniversary of the horrific Rwanda Genocide. In doing so the world gives the government of the Republic of South Sudan an incentive to continue its genocidal plan against its own citizens, all in the name of sovereignty and legitimacy. This in turn, can only add to the indignation of the opposition forces for fundamental change in the country.
The Government of the Republic of South Sudan has never been for peace and their insincerity is shown by the recent purchase of arms from People’s Republic of China’s arms manufacturer – China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO). This can only mean that the objective of the government is to use the peace process to pin down the SPLM/SPLA politically, while they seek a military solution in the field. The SPLM/SPLA has maintained from the beginning of the conflict that there is no military solution, the solution can only be political.
The SPLM/SPLA despite all these double standards and other challenges, have given many concessions for the sake of peace, allowing the process to sluggishly crawl forward. This has led to the signing of two preliminary agreements; the Agreement on the Status of the Detainees and the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoH). The SPLM/SPLA was in Malakal, in Bentiu, in Nassir, and in Bor on the eve of signing the agreements. The government have constantly been attacking SPLM/SPLA positions (from) hours before they were to sign the agreements, as admitted by the Chief of General Staff of the South Sudan Armed Forces in a 21/07/2014 interview in Juba (as reported by Sudan Tribune on 24/07/2014).
The Government of the Republic of South Sudan managed to reverse the situation (in violation of the CoH Agreement) thanks to the efforts of the Ugandan People’s Defense Force (UPDF) with their superior air power and use of banned weapons. The use of cluster bombs is well documented by the innocent civilians (the victims of these bombs); it is also documented by SPLM/SPLA fighters and by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), which found evidence on the Juba Bor road (as reported by the Daily Monitor – Uganda on 11/05/2013).
The decision to postpone the IGAD Talks on 23/06/2014 was widely reported in the media as having been due to an SPLM/SPLA boycott; however, the motive for refusing to participate is never addressed. The SPLM/SPLA after championing the cause of inclusivity was erroneously portrayed as denying inclusivity. The motive was that inclusivity was at the risk of being undermined through its misapplication. The IGAD process for selection of stakeholders had not include the victims of the conflict displaced regionally and internally. The SPLM/SPLA considers this to be unfair.
The latest adjournment has lasted for approximately a month, and no sooner were the talks scheduled to commence, than they were again postponed. The IGAD Office of the Special Envoys to South Sudan (IGAD – OSESS) as mentioned earlier, issued a press statement announcing the resumption of the talks on the 30/07/2014. This would have been a good development because there was no need to adjourn the talks originally. The two parties to the conflict had been willing to continue direct talks as the IGAD – OSESS continued their consultations to correct the exclusion of victims.
The IGAD – OSESS then sent another email: “as per the request of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan because of the long Eid El Fitr holiday they will not be able to start the peace talks on July 30, 2014. The Office of the IGAD Special Envoys for South Sudan is therefore forced to reschedule the resumption date of the IGAD peace talks for South Sudan” – the statement read. The email goes on to say: “This communication, is therefore, to advise you to put on hold your travel schedule to Addis until further notice.” This is a delaying tactic by a government that is not sincere about peace.
The SPLM/SPLA has been fighting a war of self-defense against the onslaught of government troops that have not stopped their offensive since that fateful day, the 15/12/2013. The current upheaval being felt across the country was triggered by a mass murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children, all in the name of a coup that has since been disproven. The objective of the political movement that has arisen out of this chaos has always been to transform this appalling situation into an opportunity for the Republic of South Sudan to rise out of the ashes of destruction.
What is the solution?
In conclusion, the solution is for the IGAD – OSESS to stop applying double standards and treat the parties to the conflict equally. The Government of the Republic of South Sudan has continually been undermining the peace process without castigation from IGAD, Africa, or the world. The success or failure of the current peace process shall depend heavily on the correct definition of the problem. As long as the government insists on the coup narrative, which has been rejected by the region, the world and more recently by their allies; then, it will be difficult to reach a negotiated settlement.
Cpt. Mabior Garang de Mabior
Nairobi, Kenya – August 1, 2014