An open letter to International Community
By Akol Ayom Wekdit
January 23, 2014 - The international community runs the risk of docking South Sudan in an imposed, fake and cohesive peace as talks between the government and rebels in Addis Ababa are at snag following core differences. To expose this stark antagonism to more external pressure and tension is as bad as the root cause of the violence. I would therefore call upon the international community to try other tools that contribute positively to negotiated settlements.
One would say the international community’s response to this stalemate is exaggerated and unacceptable. The world helped in bringing about South Sudan’s independence as some countries contributed immensely long before the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The Norwegian People’s Aid, Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), Oxfam, among other international humanitarian aid agencies, did commendable work during the war; they reached out to save the lives of the most vulnerable people at difficult times. We have shared both the good times and bad times with them. To Norway and the United Kingdom whose selfless sacrifices have made an important bearing on humanity, you are great nations. Also, you do not have any major imperial or economic interests in our country – your help is true help.
However, political dynamics are subject to change depending on prevailing circumstances. I do not believe there is any shift in the international community’s perspective on South Sudan. The issue in our country today is nation-building which primarily consists in establishing strong public institutions. This is essential in laying the foundation of this country; it instills a development process that rests on true democracy and rule of law.
With capacity inadequacies posing a big challenge for a country recovering from decades of war, you the international community should encourage us in building democratic institutions. But as we slowly apply our democracy, do not push us too forcefully and do not poke your nose into our affairs. If that happens, there will be inevitable opposition to you. Stand by us to support our growth into full potential without any much constraint. You should know that we reserve the right to cease accepting your assistance if you attach very tight strings. We do not expect to be strained just because we have eaten your cake. Right?! Mutual interests of both world community and South Sudanese citizens should be the guiding principle of our relationship. No less, no more. The Bible says ‘do to others as you would have them do to you’. It is as simple as this.
We are mindful of the fact that democracy must be accepted without hesitations, which comes along with the burden of ensuring transparency and accountability. By accepting to be a democracy, albeit the challenges, we have the right to see accountability and transparency done on our land; otherwise, the democracy the international community is bringing to South Sudan is the wrong handout.
There are two particular issues worth making clear to the international community. These are:
Political detainees and threat of sanctions
The Obama administration has threatened to impose sanctions on South Sudan if the government fails to release the eleven political detainees linked to the December 15 foiled coup. This is the least South Sudanese people expected of the United States, and has raised concern among citizens. For the US to sanction an elected, legitimate government because of the demand of a few fugitives is the least thing we expected of a country of high morale integrity. It appears this is a clear case of evil defeating good.
It is advisable that instead of meddling with the domestic affairs of South Sudan and mounting undue pressure on the government to release these detainees, the US – and the international community – should rather look at the administration of justice and ensure that all judicial proceedings for the detainees are fairly done. Through the many human rights institutions in South Sudan, including the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), the international community should ensure that the political detainees have good defense while facing prosecution. Successfully monitoring the judicial process while calling for fair prosecution is the confirmatory test for the international community to approve or disapprove of the so-called dictatorial tendencies of the South Sudan government as opposed to inclination to the incoherent coup story. The US’s criticism of the South Sudan government is merely reinforcing the detainees without ascertaining whether they are innocent or guilty. It is a highway to everlasting impunity, unless the government clearly maintains its stance not to release the detainees before trial. Given the consequences of the hostilities, South Sudanese are safer with the detainees in prison and their release must cause unnecessary inconveniences.
In addition, reliance on a rebel version of the December 15 narrative is a sign that the US will not deliver good judgment on this case. Therefore, the threat of imposing targeted sanctions on South Sudan if the detainees are not released is not only misplaced but an indicator of a hidden interest in favor of the rebels, unless it could be proved that the rebels had exhausted all remedies to bring about democracy were frustrated by the government so much that warfare was the last resort – and thus justified. To say the least, imposition of sanctions will not bequeath a way out of the trouble, but is likely to add more fuel to the conflict.
Political detention is not synonymous with persecution. The government of South Sudan’s detention of the suspects linked the crisis is consistent with best practice of good governance and rule of law. In any country, suspects of treason are detained until they are convicted or acquitted in fair prosecutions. The government has also put it point blank that the whole matter will be handled in accordance with the constitution and laws in the country. In any case, this should not cause alarms as long as these detainees are South Sudanese. No pressure should easily brush off the constitution.
Since the start of the rebellion, there has been immense suffering, displacement and killing of civilians across the country. Genuine concern is to revert to the peaceful days before the violence erupted, but this urge must not outweigh efforts to assure full recovery after the conflict. By threatening sanction, the US is not leveraging on the peace process but creating a clumsy atmosphere that may burst once again with outrageous outcomes.
To this day, there are many terrorists in Guantanamo Bay who have not been released until their trial in courts of law. Although the US has been releasing some of these detainees, terrorism has not come to an end. News of attacks and threats masterminded by terrorists in the Middle East and the world at large continue to pop up. The South Sudan crisis is similar to this scenario. There is no single evidence that once the detainees have been released there will be no more violence in order for the US to make their release a big deal.
Why should US be concerned about South Sudanese coup plotters detained in Juba when it has a bunch of terrorists detained in Guantanamo Bay?
To put it straightforward, the devil behind the ongoing South Sudan crisis does not lie in the detained coup plotters but in Riek Machar’s ability to parade his tribal militias to fight the government and execute reprisal attacks against other nationalities in rebel-controlled areas. With their mental picture of their usual inter-tribal war, militias go for unconventional warfare, killing innocent civilians and orchestrating atrocities instead of targeting army bases with the intention to overthrow the government.
The Western media’s presumption that the war has taken an ethnic course is only evident in the rebels’ acts. The rebel invasion of UNMISS compound in Akobo to kill all the Dinka who had sought refuge their shows a revolution gone wrong. But this has not been echoed by either the Dinka civilians or the government forces and currently more than 10,000 Nuer displaced by the fighting in Unity State are seeking refuge in Warrap State (inhabited by the Dinka). Therefore, the international community pressure on the rebels to unconditionally accept cessation of hostilities and commit to peaceful resolution of the conflict may bear fruits as compared to pressure on the government.
The story of 75 corrupt officials
At such critical times as this revisiting the past to invent a solution becomes indispensable. The story of 75 top government officials allegedly owning huge money in foreign banks was so famous that it once caught the attention of the president. The nerves of the BIG MEN were touched and what appeared to be general uneasiness seemed to have ruled, and subsided at least after some time. An urgent demand at present is for the international community in collaboration with global watchdog Transparency International to freeze the accounts of these officials. It is stupid for politicians to aimlessly undermine the status quo for lack of service delivery when they held the country hostage during the years, diverting government money to personal accounts instead of delivering services.
President Kiir should once again be advised to rewrite the 2012 letter with clear intention to recover this much-needed national treasure. The formation of a lean government in July 2013 that lay off the present rebels earned him good recommendation. An impending recommendation is in recovering the lost money. This goes with saying there is no more time for enticement. And the international community should help the government in effecting this request.
Last but not least
At this point, we acknowledge the positive contribution of the international community to the betterment of South Sudan. With the collaboration and goodwill seen over the years it is possible that a solution could be forged to remove the country from the current war. However, it is important to note that South Sudanese can no more afford the cost of an imposed peace that could hatch into an all-out war.
The majority of our people also elected Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit by more than 90% as President of the Republic of South Sudan.?Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit is the legitimate President of South Sudan. He was democratically elected under the supervision of the entire World. The regional, continental and international Communities have declare many times their reject of any change of democratic governments by means of military force. This was the official position of the IGAD, the AU and the UN.
Those who are fighting against SPLM / SPLA and Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit are trying to oust a democratically elected government by means of military force. What they are doing is a crime. It is a violation of the will of the regional, continental and international organs.
It is the task of the international community and mainly the five permanent members of the Security Council of the United Nations to act urgently and strongly to stop this crime committed against the will of our people. The United States, Great Britain, France, Russia and China should and the other members of the security Council should adopt as quickly as possible a resolution obliging the rebels to stop their military action against our legitimate government and our democratically elected President.
All means should be used to stop the bloodshed in our country. The international community must seize this opportunity to confirm its solid will to prevent any toppling of an elected government by military force. Only such a firm political will is able to oblige the rebels to put down arms and engage a peaceful dialogue with the government to solve all other question.
The author is a columnist of www.modernghana.com an electronic newspaper based in Accra, Ghana. He is reachable through firstname.lastname@example.org.