By John A. Akec*
Could South Sudan be on her way to becoming another Iraq or Libya of Sub-Sahara Africa? I can’t help asking this most vexing question every time I reflect on what has been going on in our country in the past three years. And most specifically in relation to the heightened international intervention in our domestic affairs, and the political instability that preceded this intervention as a result of the civil war that erupted in December 2013 in Juba. This international intervention led to the signing in August 2015 of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan(ARCISS), notwithstanding its many problematic clauses. The agreement’s implementation was delayed until April 2016 when a transitional government of national unity (TGNU) was formed, and which did not last for long but imploded under its own heavy baggage, resulting in a nasty shoot out at the State House (J1) on July 8th, 2016, between the government forces and opposition’s leader forces, unleashing in its wake 5 days of incredible carnage.
And to add salt to injury, following the outbreak of the new hostilities and the ceasefire in July 2016, South Sudan’s well-intentioned African neighbours in the form of IGAD’s block of nations, backed by a number of veto-wielding members of UN Security Council, have been pressing our government to accept the deployment of 4,000 strong regional protection force (as articulate in the UNSC Resolution 2304). This Resolution gives the ‘protection force’ wide-ranging mandate that includes unimpeded access to and control of strategic infrastructural facilities such as transport routes in and out of capital Juba, highways, airports, and communications facilities. The protection, force acting under United Nation Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) command is also mandated to disarm any actor or actors involved in any attacks directed against each other or are preparing to launch attacks against any target group (irrespective of whether or not the actor is the government of South Sudan or an opposition force).
In brief, the objectives of UNSC Resolution 2304 could be summed up as ensuring that citizens and humanitarian personnel in the country are safe and free to go about their daily chores unhindered; and that the UN’s Secretary-General, after assessing the implementation of this Resolution, consults with the stakeholders and government of South Sudan on further “options for increased engagement, including on governance, by the United Nations in collaboration with regional organisations.”
It is a short, innocently-sounding resolution with 7 clauses. Yet, understood correctly, it has implications of immense gravity for the sovereignty of South Sudan as an independent 193th member state of the United Nations with all the rights and privileges. Small wonder, our government has been reluctant to give an unqualified consent to the deployment of the proposed UN protection force.
Furthermore, much could be said (and desired) about the limited understanding, even misrepresentation by the international community, of the roots causes of the political crisis that is now engulfing our country; the challenges of literal implementation of ARCISS with all its minefields, as required by the mediators; and the contribution of various actors and stakeholders in aggravating the political and economic crisis facing our country.
In a previous article entitled: “The Economic Consequences of Peace in South Sudan,”(see Sudan Tribune, May 16 2016 at: http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article58976), this author warned the readers that insistence by the peace mediators on the literal implementation of every clause of the ARCISS, while failing to recognise and reward the progress already made by the parties to the agreement; and that the total disregard by those concerned to the worsening economic situation in the country, could culminate in a premature unravelling of Transitional Government of National Unity (TGNU). With no financial resources to deliver vital services and execute plans, it turned out that the first attempt at forming TGNU was almost an exercise in futility. And by the time TNGU imploded, many coalition ministers were talking like opposition figures who were outside the government, disillusioned and ready to call it a quit.
What’s more, re-examining ARCISS itself, one would not fail to notice that its clauses do contain the seeds of its own destruction (See author’s article published on the Global Observatory entitled “Square Pegs in Round Holes? Doubts Remain Over South Sudan Peace Talks”, March 2015 at https://theglobalobservatory.org/2015/03/south-sudan-peace-talks-kiir-machar/). In that Observatory’s article, this writer cautioned against abandoning the Arusha SPLM Reunification Agreement in favour of subdividing SPLM party into factions such as IG, IO, FDs, which could potentially fragment the party, thus defeating the very purpose of making peace through reunification.
Moreover, instituting two separate armies with two commanders-in-chief as appeared in the peace agreement, in the persuit of the philosophy of “two equal partners with equal powers,” has had the theoretical effect of giving neither of two main coalition partners the right to declare war or peace. It implies that none of the two armies could exercise the monopoly of violence without being accused of masterminding the other.
That is why many would agree with the Information Minister, Mr. Michale Makuie Lueth, who was quoted as saying that the battle at the State House (J1) on 8th July 2016, and those that followed it, represented watershed moments in the realisation of sustainable peace in our country. It is a logical observation because the government was able to bring the situation under control in a few short days by using national army which is more resourced to push the dissenting opposition forces out of Juba and restore tranquility to the city. Here, St. Augustine and Thomas Hobbes, two intellectual giants of Western political thought who lived in 5th and 17th century respectively, would rejoice to see their political theories concerning the importance of a strong state, stand the test of time. Thinking of St. Augustine and Hobbes brings me to my final point in this article: the proposed UN protection force, and how it would undermine the sovereignty of South Sudan.
In the City of God, St. Augustine argued that the immense power of Rome (the superpower of his day) was necessary in order to keep under check men’s lust for domination (libido dominandi). Here, we would find Augustine’s view to be in stark contrast to the current push by our well-meaning “friends” in the UN Security Council to impose an arm embargo on South Sudan, the consequences of which would be to diminish our nation’s ability to defend itself against our enemies from without, and subduing rebellious and sedition prone citizens from within.
Likewise, Thomas Hobbes, in Leviathan, describes the State (CIVITAS) as an artificial man of monstrous power whose sovereignty is its artificial soul, and peoples’ safety (Salus Populi), its business. Not only that, according to Hobbes, restoration of peace after war is also the sole prerogative of a sovereign power.
Now then, if peoples’ safety and restoration of peace after war are the business of a sovereign state, why is the UN Security Council and our neighbours in the IGAD block of nations deny that they are taking away our sovereignty by insisting to take over the protection of our citizens and restoration of peace in our country?
It would thus appear to this writer that South Sudan being the new kid in the block of murky international politics, and therefore, still doesn’t know what she doesn’t know, is currently being sold poison as panacea for nation’s political challenges. And far from relenting to these illegitimate international pressures, our government and citizens should be mindful of Hobbes’ wise counsel that any type of government, no matter how iniquitous it might appear to outsiders or to its subjects, is far better than the absence of government or the reign of anarchy.
So let’s describe UN’s protection force by its true colours: trusteeship by another name. And to respond accordingly if we do not like the sound of its music.
*The author is the vice chancellor of University of Juba in South Sudan and publishes a personal blog at www.JohnAkecSouthSudan.blogspot.com.