By Beny Gideon Mabor
The President of the Republic of South Sudan Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit is keenly observed as a man of peace. History tells us of his records and that is what made him different from others. He is so patient and generally certain that patience always matters in resolving any outstanding issue. However, there are exceptions to patience where a swift action is only an available option at hand to apply. I am not very sure whether President Kiir has ever practiced the later or nothing yet prompted him to do so.
With current presidential amnesty granted to rebel groups, the simple question comes for how many times these rebels caused havoc and atrocities to innocent lives and properties in South Sudan? How many times the President subsequently grants them amnesty to rejoin ranks and files of SPLA for reintegration regardless of the crimes committed? Yet the come and go for reasons best known to them. This entrance and exit of rebels’ unit made an ordinary citizen to ask again whether the general amnesty to renegade commanders will really bring peace in South Sudan. President Kiir is in search of peace and stability but this chance is being exploited by rebels and enemies of peace wherever they are instigating instability.
During the CPA signing ceremony speech of late Dr. John Garang de Mabior, at Nyaio Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya, on 9 January, 2005 he said “peace will bless us once more with hearing of happy giggling of children and the enchanting ululation for women who are excited in happiness for one reason or another”. This statement is great and President Salva Kiir strongly followed the food step of late leader Dr. John Garang. President Kiir clearly promised that he will not return a country back to war. These two statements should have been reflected by all of us and convince our brothers and sisters who are continuously causing unhappy giggle, wailing of women and children in their pains and seeing of blood and tears in their own country after independence. God forbid!
In the interest of peace and security, one must explore all causes of such unrest. Therefore, research shows that some rebel leaders have many wives and children and they cannot afford to cater services for such extended families and therefore decided to cross over to secure bread and wine through committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the name of democracy. This prompted a legitimate question whether polygamy is prohibited by law or not in South Sudan; and if the answer is in negation, then these children randomly born out of appropriated budget deserves right to life. The government must provide them with services in order to ease their guardians from looting public resources, stop robbery and contract killings in the name of democracy to feed their families. Morally, it is a shame on the rebels and the blood of martyrs whose sacrifice brought South Sudan will curse you, your children and generation to come in your genealogies!
For the benefit of doubt, it is not too late to repent before God and rethink why the people of South Sudan unanimously took up arms and fought against monolithic Arabs regimes in the Sudan. It is high time for all rebel groups to listen to the voice of the church as Sudan Catholic Bishop Conference call on “all parties, factions and ethnic groups to end violence and to unite for the common good”. This is summary communiqué in an extraordinary plenary session of SCBC in July 2010.
What is that so difficult you and I cannot directly debate with President Kiir and his leadership circle from within if we are not contended with any questionable matter at hand. Remember we are all equal stakeholders in South Sudan through democratic principles laid out in our Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, 2011 and the subsidiary legislation. That is why I always describe these militant groups as coward, greedy and visionless. South Sudan does not belong to SPLM party or Salva Kiir and associates. It belongs to the people of South Sudan who overwhelmingly voted 98.83 % including these rebels who are today fighting the country to which they are partakers.
Second, some voices all over are not happy with general amnesty granted to rebels who have seriously inflicted unforgotten harm to the people. A clear example is people reactions to the Presidential Order in the social media, and the live discussion on radio miraya on date 27/04/2013 at 6:30 PM hosted by radio journalist Mr. Ali Surur. Others bluntly requested the SPLA leadership to use maximum military campaign against such insurgency, and others welcome the amnesty. The voluntary surrender of rebel factions in greater Upper Nile led by senior officers has already shown commitment to the call of President Kiir for peace and reconciliation.
In related development, the colorful visit of the Sudanese indicted President Omer Hassan Hamed el Bahsir to Juba on 12 April, 2013 made a U-turn position in harboring sponsored militant groups against the Republic of South Sudan. According to a close source who knows them properly said these rebels owned villas and large pocket money given to them by NCP-led government in order to buy peace and stability in the then Sudan and much importantly to advance further agenda of destabilizing South Sudan which was a major partner in the Sudanese politics and governance. Now the game is over and their sponsor made a gentleman agreement with SPLM-led government in Juba two weeks ago not to harbor rebels either side. This to the majority opinion, somewhat indicates their conditional acceptance to the amnesty now, but not a choice of real peace.
2. Healing, Peace and Reconciliation Exercise Underway
The Republican Order No: 05/2013 for the formation of the national reconciliation committee for healing, peace and reconciliation process in South Sudan is a significant benchmark for achieving peace in South Sudan. The President started to forgive and reconcile with rebels still operating against the Republic of South Sudan by issuing Republican order No: 6/2013 dated 25 April 2013 to six rebel commanders inclusive of their officers and NCOs who took up arms against the Republic of South Sudan. In practice, peace must engulf us all with no stone left unturned. Unfortunately, the continuous denial of renegade David Yau Yau to respond to amnesty is still a critical step in the peace making process.
In military doctrine, no rebel movement can accept pardon or direct negotiation with the government if it has military stronghold. Most rebel movements come to the negotiating table only when they are at the verge of collapsing, something the SPLM-led government must critically look into when dealing with rebels. The circumstances surrounding the voluntary reporting of the militant groups operating in the greater Upper Nile is questionable and I do not want to conclude that they were at the verge of collapse. They could not come since President Kiir issued several general amnesties sometimes back. They are welcome and we expect them to know their remnant colleagues in the bushes including renegade David Yau Yau and convince them to come back home.
On the other hand, the credibility of the national healing, peace and reconciliation process in South Sudan is something different to be addressed in a different policy review, but this summary highlights through cloud of doubt in the process. The general public is afraid that little is expected to be achieved in the said national healing and peace process. The dissolution of the former committee led by Vice President Dr. Riak Machar was widely seen as a political ploy and indeed it was an impossible mission to politicized peace and reconciliation processes.
History tells us that Vice President Dr. Riak Machar and the likes may be party to the reconciliation process and it was unwise to directly involve him in the design of the process. Now with the church, a neutral body without political interest nor accused of bloody hand on innocent lives, and led by eminent figures is still going to face difficulties. There remain questions of what to be done first: Justice or peace and vice versa. Procedurally, people cannot be reconciled without indentifying who has committed which atrocities against whom? And then it is up to the living survivors to decide whether to bring such perpetrator(s) to justice since opportunity for justice prevails or literally forgive them? This is how it was done in, Liberia, South Africa, and Rwanda to mention but few. It is one-way traffic and South Sudan cannot be an exception to this general rule unless it is not a credible process.
3. Strategic Recommendations
After careful analysis of the cause of these rebellions, it is crystal clear that there are different rebel factions who took up arms against South Sudan for various reasons. Some were cheap political interests caused by controversial 2010 general elections; others are disputes over land ownership and others are honestly lacking feeding to their families. The following strategic recommendations may help political and military leadership to design mechanism to bring these rebels on board.
- Chart out a clear map of the rebel factions and explore causes for such defection. If the cause falls within one of the above findings, then address each case based on its own merit accordingly. As I said earlier, this is how NCP-led government managed to maintain peace and security by appeasing some radical South Sudanese militant groups to bring up their children and families during the war. I hope it is not shame to buy peace when situation necessitates in South Sudan and President Kiir is fully supportive of this initiative when it brings peace to our people.
- Call on the national government to negotiate with renegade David Yau Yau and others who has now turned down call for peace. There is no doubt that military campaign against renegade David Yau Yau and the likes is no longer a durable solution but rather inflicting more harm on South Sudanese and the international community at large as we witnessed the tragic incident involving 12 people including five foreign nationals under UN Mission in South Sudan. The stereotype understanding even from the general public that the government cannot sit face to face with renegade David Yau Yau doesn’t hold waters at all. We must change the table if we fail to win the game.
- Call on the national government to move closer to the conflict affected areas by providing basic services to them including road, drinking water, health centre, agricultural activities if it is cultivatable land and established presence of law enforcement agencies. These ethnic groups sometimes feel they are isolated and this can be used by opportunist like renegade Yau Yau to advance their interest.
- Last but not least, I call on the national government to adopt the plan of cash transfers to South Sudanese who are immediate dividends of these resources. This will convince poor South Sudanese men and women in the rural areas to believe in the government for services delivery and social accountability. They will continue enjoying peace dividends to stop inhaling hatred and culture of war on daily basis as a result of poverty. However, a cash transfer is a new idea to the beneficiaries, but I would like to encourage the intellectual argument around cash transfers in a broader public forum to acquaintance our people on how it is done.
Beny Gideon Mabor is a Human Rights Activist and work at South Sudan Human Rights Society for Advocacy (SSHURSA). A civil society organization with vision geared towards building an enlightened human rights abiding South Sudan. The organization is tasked with mission to monitor, document human rights violations in South Sudan and train general public on the respect and importance of human rights, fundamental freedoms of an individual, democracy and rule of law to creating responsible, justice and good governance oriented South Sudan. His research interests include governance, human rights and social accountability. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org