Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 8 August 2016

Implications of Regional Protection Force for South Sudan


By James Okuk

After the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the IGAD Plus held a Summit meeting on 5th August 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to deliberate on the worrying situation of South, the communique that was issued finally released the "genie out of the bottle", the deployment of regional protection force to South Sudan with a mandate of:

1) Protection of vulnerable civilians including foreign dignitaries and nation’s political leaders whose security is not seen to be guaranteed by the state.
2) Protection of key installations (e.g., Juba Airport and Nimule Highway) to be conducted jointly with TGoNU authorised security units.
3. Revitalisation and reinforcement of permanent ceasefire and security arrangements as stipulated in the August 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS).
4. Collaboration and coordination with the UNMISS peacekeeping forces in order to accomplish the protection mission as effectively as possible.

The language expressed in the 21-points of Communique resolutions is very strong diplomatically. Core synopses are:

1) "Punitive measures" to be considered on those rejecting peace, especially when South Sudan has become "a serious threat to regional peace, security and stability" due to the big number of civilian population who got displaced to the UNMISS camps, to neighboring and other countries since December 2013 as they went fleeing from brutalizing gun deaths and wounds, from looting and destruction of their properties, from serious human rights abuses including rapes and torture, from economic and humanitarian hardship; and also due to "proliferation of illicit small arms and weapons".

2) "United stance" of the region to intervene with a military protection force into South Sudan against the intransigence of hardliners who want to dilute the ARCSS via fragrant violations for their power interest.

3) "Strong support" to JMEC’s Chairperson so that he could show his superior muscles to government in regards to oversight and remedial actions for smooth implementation of the ARCSS.

4) "The government bears a heavy responsibility" and it is advised to cooperate with the intervening foreign forces and honor the provisions of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) so as not to invoke confrontation with UNMISS and its regional allies in the protection or peacekeeping mission.

5) "Return to the status quo ante in line with ARCSS" by bringing together in Juba President Salva Kiir and the fired First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar so that they could sincerely recommit themselves to ARCSS implementation as they signed it.

6) "The Chairperson of the Commission to urgently transmit this communiqué to the UN Secretary General and, through him, to the UN Security Council for its action as appropriate and to engage all concerned Africa’s partners to mobilize their support and to report on her efforts to the Peace and Security Council" in South Sudan.

With these well-coordinated regional and international messages and undertakings, it could be foreseen that the August 12, 2016 UN Security Council meeting on South Sudan shall automatically vote for uplifting and extending the UNMISS mandate, given the IGAD-Plus communique and the above-mentioned directives given to the Chairperson of the AU Commission.

The Communique’s content and directives sum it all whether we rename the intervening regional force "protection force" or whatever diplomatic words’ manoeuvrings. This can tell how Juba has lost the sympathy of the region and the rest of the world while the common people are terribly disturbed by the high prices of commodities in the markets, which have now taken up more challenging arms to the detrimental of happy life of the people. What used to sale at one pound is now skyrocketing at ten pounds with government salaries kept at minimal bay to a poor purchasing power of the employees, who have now qualified to the decadent standards of "the working poor". What is the way out from this cornering?

The left option now is to negotiate the entry date and other details for the intervening regional protection force. Nothing much has been left to Juba except ceremonial sovereignty as far as security is concerned. Juba shall not be in a position to stop attack helicopters and drones hoovering over South Sudan and landing anywhere under the new mandate. No tanks and mounted Toyota Thatchers from warring parties shall be allowed in Juba to protect any South Sudanese leader in the city except pistols as it is a common practice in the civilised countries. But will the security of hearts and minds be there for those who are used to trusting the big guns for everything?

Perhaps the frontline states are now responding to President Kiir’s caution (when he signed the deal in Freedom Hall in Juba last year) that the ARCSS implementation shall be a nightmare if the guarantors fail to impose it by force after they have done it by diplomacy. This seems to be happening to the disbelief of hardliners and those who were not prepared for Juba’s shift of stance due to the intensified foreign pressure and massive civilian exodus. Juba has exhausted all the cards and there was nothing left in its power to reject the in-coming foreign protection force without being faced with dangerous consequences.

But we must know that no intervening regional actor is there innocently without some interests to secure:

1) The Sudan wants disarmament of its rebels as provided in ARCSS Chapter II.
2) Uganda wants to ensure that the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) and other opposition don’t find a base in South Sudan.
3) Kenya wants to secure its big investments and finance (e,g., KCB, Equity, Mombassa Port and other projects like LAPSSET) from South Sudan.
4) Ethiopia doesn’t want to anger its Nuer and Anuak population who can easily find tribal solidarity and support in South Sudan.
5) Rwanda is there to please the international community so as to continue assisting it with more economic benefits and infrastructure, and harvest the name of a successful post-conflict genocidal county in Africa that deserves international prizes and praises.

But where is the interest of South Sudan in all these self-help regional intervention? Perhaps it shall appear in ’restoration of peace’ whose sustainability is supposed to lead to exit of the intervening actors once their mission is accomplished even to a satisfactory level. Nonetheless, this usually doesn’t take less than five to ten years. The fashion has been a quick entry as the bad situation invites but slow exit even when the situation gets improved for a farewell.

The untimely call of the SPLM Secretary-General, Mr. Pagan Amum, for foreign trusteeship is outdated. Knowing him as one of the toughest propagandists and lobbyists the SPLM have had ever groomed, it can’t escape his nuance that ’UN Trusteeship/Protectorateship" per se is not saleable under UN Charter, Chapter VII articles 76 and 77 for an independent country that has a recognised UN membership and a flag with a diplomatic mission accredited in New York, though the contemporary definition of sovereignty is predicated on:

a) Protection of the population without discrimination,
b) Undivided loyalty of the citizens to the state.
c) Enforceability of government powers within the jurisdictional territorial integrity.
d) Cooperation with the UN and other international and regional bodies based on treaties and conventions and with mutual recognition.
e) Viability of the state and sustainability of its government among other nations.

May be Cde Pagan is using his "South Sudan Reborn" campaign for attracting other attentions to South Sudan, particularly leadership change for the old veterans who might not be willing to accept ’Generational Exit’ from power unless forced to quit by international powers so that the middle age leaders could get a chance of ’Generational Entry’ to top power positions in the country.

It is high time the country’s leadership reflects deeply on the sorry state of the internal affairs and revise the foreign policy accordingly, especially after the government in Juba lost the international respect and sympathy (unlike what used to be in the past). Dialogue with the intervening foreign force is now a must.

There is a need to repair the sour relations with many former friendly countries. There is a need to knock doors of some new countries for widening the horizon of friendly relations. This could be achieved through balanced and serious connections between political power, economic opportunities, people-to-people socialization and avoidance of tit-for-tat support for rebels or opposition groups, especially in the neighbouring countries. Good neighborliness is the safest way to adopt in order to reduce suspicious hostilities and conspiratorial tensions at fragile times like this.

The country’s leadership needs to start paying keen attention to both local and international public opinions so as to scrutinise the accurate truth for a prudent and timely decision-making within the recurring tough, contradictory and complicated unfolding situations. Succumbing to dangerous deadlocks and arrogant intransigence is not advisable now as the country needs to regain the lost goodwill of the region and the world at large.

The hot case in point here is how the First Vice President, General Taban Deng Gai, will get back to a junior position (i.e., a cabinet minister) when Dr. Riek Machar is back in Juba to assume his lost position as required by the ARCSS’ guarantors. Since Mr. Taban has been lifted by a tricky situation to the highest level of the Presidency how will he accept to fall lowest again in the SPLM-IO hierarchy? Perhaps by a miracle (which is too holy for power politics), or by total quitting to SPLM-IG’s side as he already declared his allegiance to President Kiir (but where there are no highest positions left), or by retiring from any ministerial position (but which is so rare a practice in Third World’s politics).

All in all, it is high time all of us should embrace and learn to handle foreigners without any deadly confrontation for the sake of peace and prosperity of our innocent young generation and posterity so that we don’t leave to them another Iraq, Somalia or Libya in South Sudan. Our government gave half of Juba International Airport to UNMISS from 2011 up to now and there have been no streets protest on that. Ugandan forces were guarding Juba and Bor Airports from 2013 to 2015 and it was not a big deal to the sovereignty since it was done in the name of good neighborly ’protection’. Our Airspace, especially for oil installations in Greater Upper Nile, had been under Khartoum surveillance and no question of sovereignty was raised on that. Ethiopian Airline used to shift from international to domestic flight by bringing passengers from Malakal to Juba from 2011 - 2012 and it was not an issue to our government. Why all the "downs-downs and dooms-dooms to the region and UN now"? Height of hypocrisy, isn’t it?

Our political leaders should learn that patience pays as Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere advised Southerners in Juba in February 1974 during his visit for celebration of the second anniversary of the Addis Ababa Agreement. When we are patient we shall all come out safer at the end. Dialogue and Cooperation!

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  • 8 August 2016 13:53, by Akol Liai Mager

    Taban Deng has already initiated his willingness to step aside for the sake of peace. The only three persons in our nation who will not afford to live normal life outside power are Kiir Mayardit, Riek Machar and Lam Akol. They have violently shown to the citizens of South Sudan, the region, international community, friends and enemies alike that they can do whatever it takes in order to be on top.

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