By Beny Gideon Mabor
“Our detractors have already written us off, even before the proclamation of our independence. They say we will slip into civil war as soon as our flag is hoisted. They justify that by arguing that we are incapable of resolving our problems through dialogue. They charge that we are quick to revert to violence. They claim that our concept of democracy and freedom is faulty. It is incumbent upon us to prove them all wrong. President Salva kiir Mayardit on South Sudan Independence Day, 9 July, 2011”.
Following what President Salva Kiir, said on Independence Day of 9 July, 2011 as quoted above, has to some extent answered whether South Sudanese in general and leaders in particular are capable to resolve their problems through dialogue or quick to revert to violence. Did South Sudanese prove their detractors wrong or right when they senselessly fight in mid-December 2013 and again on 8 July 2016 after the peace agreement on the resolution of conflict in South Sudan referred to herein as the peace agreement was signed? Indeed, South Sudanese being currently led by leaders whose personal interests are above public interest seems to have failed the test of wise leadership to resolve problems amicably.
In the book of “Getting Past No: Negotiating Agreement With Difficult People, the author professor William Ury, provided what is called best alternative to a negotiated agreement or BATNA which is always a last resort to be kept in mind in the event the peace agreement fails. In South Sudan peace process, there was no BATNA mechanism, not because such techniques were not known by the negotiators at the time, but the peace agreement was negotiated based on too much assumptions and unrealistic structural functionalities. Instead, the BATNA by default or arrangement has now been a perpetual conflict after another that killed innocent lives and destruction of properties.
Besides this messed up of public affairs in a broad day light, there is no voice to correct the wrongdoings. The fact that majority of citizens are uneducated to know their rights and duties, gave a blank cheque to leaders to hold the whole country ransom for their selfish political gains every time and again. Chief amongst citizenry’s rights and duties is a principle of social contract, a covenant that exists between them and their leaders as provided for in the constitution and the laws.
Citizens owe a duty to government to provide taxes and vote them into public offices and in return deserve provisions of security, basic services and development of all forms in an equally distributive manner. These were the core values and national vital interests upon which South Sudanese waged war against successive Sudanese regimes in order to become an independent county.
Two years after independence, South Sudanese leaders who acquired political and economic power at all costs either forget or deliberately compromise the very values and vital national interests that shaped peoples’ historical revolution. The happiness for the birth of a new nation and expectations for prosperity were all turned into a nightmare exactly as South Sudanese flag was hoisted. Again, the world newest state did not only appear on all media outlet for corrupt practices worth of billions of US dollars, but acting entirely outside the legal framework. This is evident in the dismissal of elected officials in a manner not warranted by the law. It is a direct threat to principles of constitutionalism if it was there in the first place.
In my honest prediction of a likely failed state in April 2012, I said the achievement of independence alone without launching the process for state and nation building may risk turning the Republic of South Sudan into a failed state at foundational stage. Since July 2011 up to now, South Sudanese leaders and people were not and still not prepared to develop the important components of a functional state including but not limited to: national defence and security, economic development, foreign policy strategy and equitable political settlement. All these elements constitute firm basis for stable government and governance. Yet, they are being forsaken for reasons best know to the political leadership of the belligerent parties. The peace agreement was the only hope to rejuvenate these projects for state and nation building, but to no avail as of now.
The total breakdown of central command and order in the security systems which was apparently brought about in unrealistic security arrangements was seen on 8 July, 2016 when the joint presidential guards fought in the presidential palace. Subsequently, a full scaled war was sponsored by the principal parties to the peace agreement and South Sudanese were returned to square one again. Indeed, citizens are still in square one up to now despite desperate measures taken supposedly intended to save the peace agreement.
However much the international community tried their best now to bring back the belligerents to status quo, as provided by the recent communiqué of the IGAD plus Heads of state and government, yet one must be left with no option but to say it will exacerbate more warlords to form their tribal militias for the protection of the status quo and their bellies. The act of violence has taught South Sudanese leaders that it is only through which you can speak a reasonable position in the business of politic and power.
On the issue of accountability, the SPLM-led government is entrenching on ruling clique basis and kleptocracy. The national army and other law enforcement units together with ruling SPLM party are almost faces of the same coin. So far evidence shows that army officials are as well leaders of ruling SPLM party including the current Chief of Staff of the army Gen Paul Malong who doubled as chairman of SPLM party at sub national level in Northern Bhar el Gazal State. There is no check and balance right from domestic laws to the regional and international legal instruments on social, economic, political and legal accountability to which South Sudan is a member state.
Last but not least, I would briefly remind South Sudanese citizens and the world that 18 July, 2016 mark one year after peace agreement was signed last year and the country is now broiling in yet another civil war. In the implementation matrix, every substantial part of the peace agreement is behind schedule by more than five months.
The following thematic areas have to do with little or not being done at all namely: transitional security arrangements comprise of ceasefire and transitional security arrangements monitoring mechanism, strategic defense and security review, join military ceasefire commission, the establishment of new institutions and subsequent reform agenda in all public sectors and transitional justice mechanisms amongst others . All these slow progresses are caused by total lack of political will to implement the peace deal.
The government should understand the concept of state sovereignty cannot be exercised in the vacuum, but people are the supreme organ of government, and if there are reasons to believe that the government has failed to implement the peace agreement and protect citizens and their properties, the concept of responsibility to protect R2P shift in and this must be understands in the spirit of cooperation.
In light of the above findings, read together with the regional and international community intervention approach as a result of UN Security Council Resolution 2304 (2016) and IGAD plus Heads of State and Government, it must be made loud and clear that South Sudanese are not alone in this crisis and there is no usual business anymore. Let the transitional government in accordance with the recommendations of the regional bodies and desire for peace unconditionally resumes the implementation of the peace agreement in latter and sprit.
Beny Gideon is South Sudanese private lawyer and a member of Strategic Defence and Security Review Board. He was part of the IGAD plus peace process for South Sudan representing civil society organizations. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org