By James Nguen
August 8, 2018 (SSNA) — Today, 5th of August 2018, the South Sudanese warring parties signed Outstanding Issues on Governance and Security Arrangement Agreement in Khartoum, Sudan. The signing was witnessed and guaranteed by President of Uganda H. E. Yoweri K. Museveni and his Sudanese counterpart H. E. Field Marshall Omar H. El-Bashir.
It was also witnessed by Kenyans’ President H. E. Uhuru Kenyatta and some IGAD’s heads of State and Government and representatives from the Africa Union and the United Nation Security Council.
Essence, the agreement received mixed reactions from South Sudanese and some international Community around the global. Evidently, many South Sudanese expressed hope, jubilation and optimism that this peace deal might finally end suffering and war in South Sudan.
While other received the accord with obscene cautions and reservations owing to lack of confidence and trust on the leaders. In some instances, some South Sudanese have gone as far as called this peace pact a political charade informed by ill-intended agenda by Khartoum to occupy and control South Sudan’s oil fields.
Both arguments are substantive on the fact that all agreements are never free from misconception and misconstrued facts. As Martin Luther King Jr once said, “true peace is not merely the absence of tensions.” In my view, this is exactly what is happening among South Sudanese from different political viewpoints. From a humanistic viewpoint, it makes sense that some of our people are euphoric and while others are sceptical about what really this peace is and would bring or change for that matter?
Personally, I am for the argument that people of South Sudan should be happy and greet this agreement with unwavering hope and optimism. For one, our people have suffered enough, and far too long. They were subjected to harsh brut forces and inhumane conditions and treatments. Thus, it makes logical sense that they are euphoric and look forward to rebuilding their lives after so many devastations.
As for those who ‘re so concern and sceptical about this peace, their concerned rings some truth because it was informed by historical mistrust and war between people of the two sister countries (Sudans). Also, such a mistrust and scepticism were revived by the recent side oil deals signed by the government of Sudan and Salva Kiir’s regime. In this regard, it’s good to mention that these oil deals were not part of the agreement and have nothing to do with it whatsoever.
However, whatever the circumstance is, this article isn’t to justify what is wrong or right. Its core objective is to reaffirm that H. E. Field Marshall, Pres. Omar H. El-Bashir is the man of the hour when it comes to dealing with South Sudanese’ affairs. Pres. Bashir is well placed and has strong leverages to arms twist South Sudan warring parties to signing any peace agreement, good or bad.
Today development proved that Pres. Bashir is the only credible figure in East Africa who could bring lasting peace and stability to South Sudan if he’s genuine, honest and serious. This was my argument 3 years ago and still is, today.
On March 15, 2015, I wrote an opt titled, “IGAD-led peace has failed: It’s about time to invite Pres. Omar Bashir to bring lasting peace to South Sudan.”
In that article, I argued that “President Bashir is the only hope … with paralyzing influence required to curb the rampage and intransigence of the warring parties” in South Sudan. With today signing of the agreement, I must say that I was right and justified. Pres. Bashir has teeth and can bite harder.
To illustrate this point further, when the last round of High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) of the ARCSS talks collapsed on June 21 in Addis baba, whether in conformity with my proposal of March 15, 2015 or not, the IGAD’s heads of State and Government resolved that Pres. Bashir takes over the “face -to -face” talks between President Salva Kiir and SPLM-IO’ leader, Dr Riek Machar Teny.
Subsequently, when Pres. Bashir took over the face to face talks between the warring parties, there was a sudden positive change of tone within the confine of less than a week, especially on the government side. Evidently, one could say there was no more wild intransigence informed by unhealthy cheery picking and forum shopping.
Notably, the domineering position of Salva Kiir’s regime not to “accept or sign” any peace agreement that requires him to work with his arch-rival Dr Riek Machar disappeared like morning dew, in a blink of an eye.
In one a week time, Salva Kiir accepted the cantonment of all armed forces from all civilians’ centres and the integration of all forces on one -to- one ratio – aimed to avoid certain tribal denominations.
In this regard, it’s good to recall that Salva Kiir’s regime said these provisions were “red lines” and cannot be crossed. But, it appears, with Pres. Bashir in the lead, no more “red lines.”
With this change of hearts and attitudes, it can be attributed to the fact that Pres. Bashir is a key and lifeline of Salva Kiir’s political and economic survival. Salva Kiir must listen, behave and conform to Pres. Bashir’s demands or else.
For example, Pres. Salva and his regime survival depend on the oil almost 100% and Pres. Bashir holds the key to this important asset. He decides when and how South Sudan’s oil would reach the international markets.
For Dr Riek Machar Teny and his SPLM-IO leadership, Pres. Bashir is like a big brother to them. Evidently, Pres. Bashir did things a “big brother” would do at the time of needs. First and foremost, Pres. Bashir was the only head of State and Government in Eastern Africa and the world at large who extracted Dr Machar and his SPLM-IO leadership, deep in and from the DRC’s jungle.
Similarly, when peace talks failed in Addis Baba on June 21, 2018, and while IGAD’s heads of State and Government decided that Dr Machar would be released from his illegal house arrest in South Africa but be relocated to another country not bordering South Sudan. In this defining moment, Pres. Bashir took charge. He came in at the eleven-hour and arrest the circumstance by sponsoring the continuation of face to face talks in Sudan.
Thus, the condition that requires Dr Machar to return to South Africa and continued detention while his fate for new prison was being decided was subtly removed, and instead, Pres. Bashir granted him a visa to enter Sudan for further peace talks.
Therefore, with today signing of the peace agreement, it could be argued that the condition for which Dr Machar would be relocated and reside in any country not bordering South Sudan is obsolete. Dr Machar and the SPLM-IO have signed an agreement with Salva Kiir. Therefore, there’s no logical reason why Dr. Machar could not reside in any country of his choice in East Africa.
More importantly, it was rumoured that the SPLM-IO’s top leadership resides in Sudan. If this rumour happened to be true, it would, therefore, be a deadly mistake for Dr Machar and his SPLM-IO leadership not to listens and conforms to Pres. Bashir’s demands. Contrary to this in my view is risky and could produce severe consequences for the SPLM-IO.
Considering these reasons mentioned above, it’s therefore imperative that Salva Kiir’s regime and the SPLM -IO leadership must behave, listen and conform to Pres. Bashir’s demands. Essence, it must stress that Pres. Bashir has strong and lethal political and economic leverages over the warring parties in South Sudan.
As a matter of fact, these strong and deadly pollical and economic leverages are absence in the IGAD’s toolbox to broker a peace deal in South Sudan. In my view, this explains why IGAD and the international community have struggled for the last 5 years. They were unable to arms twist the warring parties in South Sudan to sign a sustainable peace.
Back to my previous article, with resounding confidence, I am justified to conclude that I was right 3 years ago. IGAD has no teeth and would never bring peace to South Sudan with its soft hand approach strategy. The guys they were dealing with, are armed Generals who came out right from the bush and some of whom know nothing about “carrots” alone approach. They can only listen and pay careful attention to ‘carrots and sticks approach.”
Regarding the sustainability of this peace or whether this peace accord would be implemented and sustained, I think, this is a different ball game altogether. However, I must say though, this would be proven with time, underpinned by Pres. Bashir’s genuine course of action should the warring parties failed to follow through.
With an advancing undiplomatic behaviour and tribally charged sentiment, we have witnessed from Pres. Salva Kiir, I must say that this is not the first time the president has embarrassed himself and the nation.
For example, President Salva has lied before the watchful eyes of former United States President Barrack Obama and the UN Secretary General in New York, over the issue of the SPLM-North. Similarly, Pres. Salva did similar embarrassing behaviour during the IGAD’s heads of State and Government meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
As an analyst and South Sudanese concerned citizen, who studied Pres. Salva’s behaviours and attitudes for the past 5 years, I am not concerned by his inconsistent behaviours and tribal sentiments.
However, I urged H. E. Field Marshal, Pres. Omar El- Bashir to remained resolute and truthful to his words, especially when he has said: “I have a moral duty and obligation to bring lasting peace to the people of South Sudan.”
Nguen is a South Sudanese advocate, political commentator and analyst living in Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.