September 6, 2016
By Pa’gan Amum Okiech for South Sudan Reborn
The United Nations Security Council, with all of its strength and power, is now being challenged by a diplomatic rope-a-dope, directed to evil ends by a scheming practitioner. An African American boxer, Muhammad Ali, invented the rope-a-dope style in an African boxing ring in Kinshasa almost 42 years ago. For those old enough to recall, the entire African continent and African descendants across the globe relished the popular Ali’s use of rope-a-dope to defeat the much more powerful George Foreman, in the “Rumble in the Jungle”, a boxing match recalled and much discussed even in South Sudan when Ali died on June 3 of this year.
The rope-a-dope strategy, of course, is one of fakery and delay, where the weaker of the boxers huddles against the ropes, covering up, pretending injury, and hoping his stronger opponent will “punch himself out”. The attacker uses all of his energy trying to hit an elusive target who refuses to directly engage, and lets the ropes absorb the bulk of the force used against him. The ultimate goal is to allow the rope-a-dope practitioner to fight more aggressively in the later rounds against a tired and distracted adversary, and eventually win. In Ali’s case, the world, particularly the African world, loved Ali for his brilliant strategy, and many still do.
What an abomination and a disgrace to Ali’s memory and to all of Africa, that Salva Kiir would seize upon exactly the same rope-a-dope strategy to prevent our regional neighbors, the African Union and the United Nations from creating conditions for peace, stability and transition to a true democracy, which will benefit every deserving citizen in Africa’s newest country, South Sudan. The wheels were hardly up on the UNSC flight leaving Juba before the Kiir rope-a-dope and flip-flopping began. Kiir operatives claimed the right to dispute almost every element of the joint communiqué, read to the world in the presence of President Kiir.
The Regime’s spokesperson engaged in obscure semantics, claiming the government “consented” to the deployment of the Regional Protection Force, but did not “accept” its deployment. In a classic rope-a-dope the government embarrassed itself by stating the long accepted number of troops, 4,000, was only a “ceiling” and that the number could be as low as 10. The Kiir spokesperson also said his government had to approve the type of arms the troops were carrying, the countries they would come from and a range of other issues already long settled. To the Kiir Conspiracy, the hard and fast September 15 deadline for agreement set by the Secretary General of the United Nations, will be nothing but a routine bell ringing, signaling the end of an early round in a lengthy and indecisive match.
Meanwhile, Kiir and his palace guard continue to systematically loot South Sudan. These same people are causing the armed conflict in the country to continue and then sending ill prepared and poorly led troops out to kill or be killed for no defendable cause.
The Security Council’s Plan A appeared seriously threatened even before the delegation’s plane had cleared South Sudanese air space. They cannot be blamed for trying. However, trying too long plays into the hands of Kiir’s rope-a-dope strategy. September 15 must be the deadline for the Government of South Sudan’s unconditional acceptance of the 4,000 troops. Otherwise, for the sake of the people of South Sudan, IGAD-Plus, AU and the UNSC will have to prepare quickly for Plan B.