By Riang Y. Z. Nyak
March 30, 2018 (SSNA) — Since the outbreak of the war in South Sudan in December 2013, IGAD, as a regional bloc, has been prominently on the forefront for one reason or another. Initially, the reaction of the individual IGAD countries was to assist the regime in Juba by either selling arms and ammunition or combat engagement on the side of the regime. Either way, the justification was to help a sisterly government to bring down an alleged coup attempt as narrated by Salva Kiir to justify a genocide. Others went in purportedly to prevent genocide when they knew very clearly that they were going in to help in committing genocide.
After some weeks, especially when the opposition got the chance to state its side of the story, it became clear that there had not been any coup attempt. Instead, Salva Kiir himself was the one who was carrying out a coup against the constitution by unconstitutionally recruiting and training a personal tribal militia, committing genocide by attempting to exterminate the Nuer ethnic group in and around Juba, and interrupting a democratic political process within the SPLM Party such that he could maintain power by force of arms. From then, those who had been sending arms and ammunition to Juba stopped. But, those who rushed in to physically fight alongside the regime’s forces stayed put. It was then that the IGAD’s role began to go on a rollercoaster ride by taking on one role after another when it suits its interest at the time.
When the coup story began to be unsustainable, IGAD decided to take up the role of a mediator. Throughout the peace process, IGAD was on a tendency to favor the government. IGAD insisted that there was no need to address the root causes of the war. It was only in Arusha that the root causes of the war were addressed in a separate agreement that was intended to reunify the SPLM Party. It got to the point where some IGAD Heads of State and Government, in addition to turning IGAD into regime’s chief diplomatic agency, put themselves in a position to negotiate on behalf of Salva Kiir when he was supposed to be negotiating with Dr. Riek Machar on sticky issues that the delegations were unable to reach any agreement on. That changed their role from being mediators to being negotiators. And a negotiator is partial as opposed to an impartial mediator. This was in addition to the fact that some of its members were on the field fighting alongside the forces of the regime against SPLM/A (IO). After July 2016, IGAD exiled Dr. Riek Machar and placed him under a house arrest in South Africa. In this case, IGAD has added on the roles of an accuser (prosecutor) and a judge at the same time. So, IGAD has been doing six things under one umbrella.
Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS)
IGAD’s attitude in favor of the genocidal regime of Salva Kiir did not prevent the SPLM/A (IO) from committing itself to the peace process facilitated by IGAD. Dr. Riek Machar himself made a point to stay in Addis Ababa most of the times to see to it that the process got expedited. Eventually, an agreement was signed by Dr. Riek Machar and other stakeholders even though the security arrangement prescribed by the agreement had dangerous defects. IGAD insisted that Dr. Riek Machar got 2,900 bodyguards against Salva’s 5,000 bodyguards. Salva Kiir whom the agreement favored in many ways refused to sign. It was 9 days later that he relented to pressure and signed the agreement. Even then, he attached a number of reservations that had not been negotiated by the parties to the agreement.
As the agreement demanded, the first thing to do was to form a Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) that would implement the agreement. For that government to be formed, the two principals had to be in Juba working together toward this goal. The SPLM/A (IO) forces that were allocated for the protection of Dr. Riek Machar had to go before their leader could arrive in Juba. The government refused to transport these troops citing lack of money. But, the truth was that Salva Kiir never wanted Dr. Riek Machar in Juba. He used the money issue as a delaying tactic. Others volunteered and transport 1,370 out of 2,900 members of the protection force. It was less than half. Then, the process stopped there. It turned out that it was a conspiracy to lure Dr. Riek Machar to Juba by trapping his force and the political leaders who had gone first in December of 2015 as an advance team. Because of his desire to see to it that peace prevailed in the country, Dr. Riek Machar felt that he had to go to Juba despite the facts that more than half of his protection force was not in Juba, and Juba was not yet demilitarized.
Before the formation of the TGoNU, Salva was supposed to lift the state of emergency. He refused to do that, and the state of emergency remains in effect to this day. In fact, more have been stacked on top of the first declarations of the state of emergency. Instead of taking the first steps toward implementing the agreement, Salva Kiir began his series of violations of the agreement by issuing a presidential decree in October 2015 that saw the number of states in the country increasing to 28 from the 10 states that the agreement demanded.
Nevertheless, the TGoNU was formed in April 2016. The expectation was that Salva Kiir was to lift the state of emergency and revoke the 28 states so that the implementation process could go smoothly. He refused. Other implementation issues such as cantonment of forces, selection of the Speaker of the National Legislative Assembly, demilitarization of Juba, and so on were brought to the table.
IGAD, Juba and Others Conspired against Dr. Riek Machar and SPLM/A (IO)
As the discussions on some of the issues mentioned above reached a deadlock, an effort was made to forward the issues to Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) for assistance in the interpretation of the provisions of the ARCSS dealing with the selection of the Speaker, 10 states, cantonment of forces and so on. JMEC sat on the request. While JMEC was being waited on for its response, other new violations began to come up. Among them were targeted shootings of SPLM/A (IO) vehicles, firing guns over the SPLM/A (IO) sites at night to provoke the SPLM/A (IO) to respond, targeted killings of SPLM/A (IO) officers, attacking SPLM/A (IO) forces around Wau in Western Bahr al Ghazal, setting up roadblocks on the roads used by SPLM/A (IO) vehicles to and from the sites, attempting to disarm the bodyguards of Dr. Riek Machar at such roadblocks—leading to the shooting incident in Gudele on July 6, 2016, and so on. All of these were forwarded to the JMEC with the hope that JMEC would also forward them to the guarantors of the ARCSS. No result came out from the JMEC. All of these were crowned with the assassination attempt on the life of Dr. Riek Machar on July 8, 2016—plunging the country back to a renewed violence.
When the fighting initially broke out in Juba on July 8, 2016, Salva and his officials denied that they knew what was going on. But, a ceasefire was declared anyway by both sides. However, it became very clear soon afterward that Salva knew what was going on. He issued an order to Paul Malong, his Chief of Staff, to carry out an aerial bombardment of the SPLM/A (IO) sites, including Machar’s residence, at Jebel Kujur right before the public eyes. After withdrawing from the bombed sites, Dr. Riek Machar and his small force left for the forest so as to take cover. The regime’s forces pursued him into the forests of Central and Western Equatoria all the way to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The pursuit was conducted both by land and air, including drones which Juba is not even close to owning. This was an indication that others got involved on the side of the genocidal regime. That explains the silence of the IGAD and the International Community at the time regarding the matter.
The extent of the conspiracy crystalized when IGAD and John Kerry decided to endorse the illegal replacement of Dr. Riek Machar as the First Vice President with Taban Deng. The conspiracy had been there all along. It began as follows:
- The strategy to cover up atrocities and violations made by the government from time to time by blaming both parties to the conflict for acts that were clearly government’s;
- During the peace process in Addis Ababa, IGAD and its friends wanted an agreement that would keep Salva in power;
- IGAD adhered to the idea that the position of the First Vice President would be filled by a person nominated by the SPLM/A (IO) while the position of the President would be occupied by the incumbent. The rejected the idea that the position of the First Vice President would be occupied by the Chairman of the SPLM/A (IO). This showed their intent to replace Dr. Riek Machar from participating in the transitional government;
- When it became very clear that the SPLM/A (IO) was not in any position to nominate someone else other than the Chairman, IGAD came up with the idea that the protection force for the First Vice President would be much less than that for the President—just in case anything happened, the First Vice President would easily be taken out of action;
- When the time came for the protection force to be transported to Juba, less than half of it was transported. The idea was to lure Dr. Riek Machar to Juba so that he could easily be killed. None of these worked the way it was intended. When fighting actually broke out in Juba, it was thought that Dr. Riek Machar would not make it out of Juba alive;
- When he got out of Juba, he was pursued so that he could get killed on his way to Congo;
- Since he was out of the country, the conspirators thought that they could create a new leadership for SPLM/A (IO) and that Dr. Riek Machar would be without a constituency and, therefore, irrelevant;
- They began to deny that the ARCSS had collapsed. That never worked;
- The final strategy was now to exile Dr. Riek Machar, thinking that his absence on the ground would render the SPLM/A (IO) leaderless. As people without a leader, they would go into disarray—some of them would surrender to Taban and, therefore, to Salva;
- An effort was exerted to make sure that the remaining elements would not get any military assistance from any one of the neighboring countries;
- Then when the dry season of 2017 came, the SPLM/A (IO) would be crushed at a blow by the government. Then, the war would militarily come to an end in favor of the regime that has committed genocide; and
- At the same time, an attempt was made at the UN Security Council to place sanctions on Dr. Riek Machar—wrongly lumping him together in a proposal with such criminals as General Paul Malong and Michael Makuei, and leaving Salva Kiir off the hook.
High-Level Revitalization Forum
The High-Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) is an opportunity for the realization of peace in the country. It is an admission on the part of IGAD and others that the ARCSS has collapsed ever since the regime renewed violence in July 2016. However, it seems that the conspirators are taking it as another scheme to prolong the suffering of the people of South Sudan by seeing the process as an opportunity to find a way for the oppositions to surrender to the regime by merely getting accommodated. They still want to think that the problem is about power and positions, and that when positions are provided by expanding institutions, then the problem is solved.
IGAD thinks that the other oppositions are weak and if accommodated in a revitalized ARCSS, they can easily accept whatever thrown their way. IGAD thinks that it is the SPLM/A (IO) that has the capability of demanding. As such, IGAD decided to invite SPLM/A (IO) to the revitalization talks without its leader freed. They think that this would put SPLM/A (IO) in a weaker position to negotiate while the leader is not freed. IGAD thinks that this strategy can render SPLM/A (IO) desperate and it would accept any nonsense thrown its way in exchange for its leader’s freedom. So, IGAD has not learned anything yet.
IGAD Council of Ministers Decision
The IGAD Council of Ministers sat on March 26, 2018 to deliberate on the reports of the IGAD Special Envoy to South Sudan, Ambassador Ismail Wais, on the progress (or lack thereof) made during PHASE II of the High-Level Revitalization Forum.
In its Communique of its 61st Extra-Ordinary Session on March 26, 2018, the IGAD Council of Ministers made several decisions. One of them relates to the condition of the house confinement of Dr. Riek Machar Teny, the Chairman and Commander-in-Chief of SPLM/A (IO). The provision talking about the release of Dr. Riek Machar states that “…the house arrest of SPLM/IO leader Dr. Riek Machar be lifted as soon as possible, on conditions that ensure he will renounce violence and not obstruct the peace process and he be allowed to relocate to any country outside the region and are not neighboring South Sudan; designated IGAD Ministers will propose and decide a possible location.” This is an unfortunate lack of fairness. What is violence in the context of what is happening in South Sudan? What is obstruction of the peace process?
Any skilled observant has so far known that IGAD has been behind the house arrest imposed on Dr. Riek Machar in South Africa. But, IGAD wasn’t admitting publicly prior to March 26, 2018. This time, things are clearer. IGAD placed Dr. Riek Machar under house arrest, and IGAD alone can lift that house arrest. But, why should IGAD talk of lifting Dr. Riek Machar’s house arrest in South Africa, and at the same time talk of placing him under house arrest in a different country outside the region? Can there be any logical argument for that? If they are not ready to give him his violated freedom, why can’t they just keep him in the same South Africa? Or if they have any reason that requires that they should no longer keep him in South Africa, why can’t they just say that they want to transfer this prisoner from South Africa to a different prison in a different country? IGAD should not be playing with language. They must make themselves clear.
When the initial decision was taken to place Dr. Riek Machar under house arrest, the idea was to prevent him from coming to the region and South Sudan in particular. They thought that his exile would destroy the opposition and, therefore, end the war in favor of the Juba regime. Now, the war has only intensified in Dr. Riek Machar’s absence from the region, and the SPLM/A (IO) has not disintegrated. Nor has the SPLM/A (IO) has chosen a different leader as might have been expected by the conspirators. Dr. Riek Machar has continued to effectively lead the Movement from his exile. Doesn’t IGAD think that Dr. Riek Machar is not the problem and that the problem is somewhere else? If the initial plan has not produced the results that they wanted, what else do they want to keep him for?
Now that IGAD has realized that its initial decision was not well-thought through, it must free Dr. Riek Machar so that he can go to his people as a free man and personally participate in the search for peace in the country. IGAD cannot be allowed to make such contradictions as lifting the house arrest of Dr. Riek Machar by sending him to any country outside the region, and not neighboring South Sudan—the same condition that he has been kept in South Africa for nearly two years. What would be the difference between a Dr. Riek Machar confined in South Africa outside the region, and not neighboring South Sudan and a Dr. Riek Machar going into confinement in any other country outside the region, and not neighboring South Sudan?
On the issue of renouncing violence, the SPLM/A (IO) has been on the defensive since July 8, 2017. As the party on the defensive, there is no wisdom on the part of IGAD to say that Dr. Riek Machar should renounce violence. Self-defense does not constitute violence on the part of the one who is defending self. It is the party that has been on the offensive that should be told to renounce violence. Below are some of the reasons as to why the SPLM/A (IO) does not, in any way, represent violence, and why it is Salva Kiir and his regime that represent violence:
- The violations leading to the outbreak of the fighting on July 8, 2016 were committed by Salva Kiir and his forces. These violations were reported to the JMEC prior to July 8;
- July 8 incidence was a carefully planned attempt on the life of Dr. Riek Machar. The intention was to eliminate him and, then, create a new and submissive SPLM/A (IO) leadership that would allow Salva Kiir to implement his reservations to the ARCSS;
- The violent pursuit of Dr. Riek Machar and his small force in the forests of Central and Western Equatoria, and on his way to Congo was made by Salva Kiir’s forces;
- The renewed killings of innocent people of Greater Equatoria, Western Bahr al Ghazal, and Greater Upper Nile from 2016 to date have been carried out by Salva Kiir’s forces on the pretext that they were supporting SPLM/A (IO);
- The 2017 dry season offensives leading to the captures from SPLM/A (IO) of Waat, Pagak, Kwek, Lasu were carried out by Salva Kiir’s forces against Dr. Riek Machar’s forces;
- The violations of CoHA since its signing, leading to the capture of Yuai from the SPLM/A (IO) have been made by Salva Kiir’s forces;
- The attacks on SPLM/A (IO) positions in such places as Boaw in Koch County and Nyetot in Nasir County were carried out by Salva Kiir’s forces while the parties were in Addis Ababa during PHASE II of the revitalization talks; and
- The attacks on SPLM/A (IO) positions on March 27, 2018 in such places as Sokari in Kajo Keji County, Wechtut in Nasir County, Payai in Pieri County and Guer in Nyirol County were carried out by Salva Kiir’s forces against SPLM/A (IO) forces and civilians; and
- The attacks on SPLM/A (IO) positions on March 28, 2018 on Agana in Kajo Keji County, Payai and Pieri in Bie State were carried out in the same week as when the IGAD Council of Ministers were meeting in Addis Ababa.
These and others represent violence. They are evidence that Salva Kiir and his regime are for a military solution to the war. Therefore, Salva Kiir is the one who should be asked to renounce violence.
On its part, the SPLM/A (IO) has been on the defensive. Its combat engagements with the regime’s forces have been in self-defense. The following are some of the evidence that the SPLM/A under Dr. Riek Machar is for a peaceful settlement of the conflict:
- After the July 2016 fighting, Dr. Riek Machar was the first to call for the deployment of an International Protection Force in Juba to create a buffer zone between the two warring parties, and Salva Kiir and his regime refused;
- After the collapse of the ARCSS, Dr. Riek Machar was the first to call for a new peaceful political process by resuscitating the ARCSS. Juba and IGAD initially refused to listen to this call;
- When IGAD finally realized that nothing was going to work due to its denial that peace had collapsed, it began to call for the revitalization of ARCSS. Dr. Riek Machar responded without putting any pre-conditions, and formed a delegation to represent the SPLM/A (IO) in the revitalization talks despite the IGAD’s silence on his condition;
- SPLM/A (IO) negotiated in good faith without making its leader’s release a condition for signing the CoHA;
- Riek Machar was the first to give an order to his forces to cease fire;
- Riek Machar was the first and the only one who has released POWs in observing the CoHA; and
- Again, without any conditions, Dr. Riek Machar sent SPLM/A (IO) delegation to the Phase II of the revitalization talks without making his freedom a pre-condition.
The above-mentioned are some of the evidence that Dr. Riek Machar and the SPLM/A (IO) do not represent violence. Instead, they are committed to a peaceful political solution to the conflict as evidenced by the above points. As such, Dr. Riek Machar should not have been exiled and confined in the first place.
As far as obstruction of the peace process is concerned, it is Juba, IGAD and its international accomplices that are obstructionists. The following are some of the evidence that speak to this:
- While the SPLM/A (IO) called for a new peace process, Juba, IGAD and their international accomplices were denying that the ARCSS had collapsed;
- While the SPLM/A (IO) was talking about the lack of implementation of the agreement as an evidence showing that it was dead due to the fact that the main opposition partner was outside of the government, Juba, IGAD and their international accomplices maintained that the agreement was being implemented, and that there was no need for the SPLM/A (IO) to come in as a party. They were in favor of a situation where SPLM/A (IO) could only throw itself behind Taban Deng, their alleged newly minted SPLM/A (IO) leader—though it was very clear that he was without a constituency;
- While the SPLM/A (IO) has been talking of inclusivity, Juba, IGAD and their international accomplices have been talking of excluding Dr. Riek Machar from the peace process and, therefore, the South Sudanese politics;
- While the SPLM/A (IO), as a signatory to the CoHA, has done everything to observe that agreement—such as giving order to its forces to cease fire, releasing POWs, and keeping giving access to humanitarian organizations—the regime has failed to observe the ceasefire, release POWs, release political detainees/abductees. In fact, it went on to sentence to death one of the prominent political prisoners/political abductees, James Gatdet Dak, after signing the CoHA. And IGAD, as a guarantor is not demanding that the regime complies with the agreement;
- While the SPLM/A (IO) signed the Declaration of Principles (DoP), the regime refused to sign the same due to the existence of article 28, which provides for punitive actions against any violator. IGAD, as a guarantor, has decided to make no effort to put pressure on the regime to sign;
- While the SPLM/A (IO) has maintained that tackling the root causes remains the best way to begin any search for a peaceful settlement, Juba, IGAD and their international accomplices remain adamant in their rejection of the idea of identifying and addressing the root causes of the war; and
- In violation of article 9 (2) (a) of the CoHA, IGAD refused to unconditionally release Dr. Riek Machar as a person who has been deprived of his liberty for reasons related to the conflict.
The above seven points are some of the things which represent obstruction of the peace process on the part of the regime, IGAD and their international accomplices. Juba is responsible for the majority of them. IGAD, as a mediator and guarantor has failed to reign in the Juba regime for its obstructionist behavior. IGAD, as the party responsible for the confinement of Dr. Riek Machar, has failed to implement Article 9 (2) (a) of the CoHA. And that is an obstruction to the peace process.
IGAD must release Dr. Riek Machar without any condition whatsoever. It has no legal ground to imprison him. No IGAD laws have been violated. Therefore, IGAD does not have a cause of action against a South Sudanese politician leading an opposition against another South Sudanese politician. Since IGAD does not legally have a cause of action against Dr. Riek Machar, it does not have any right of action. Even if IGAD had a legal ground to take action against Dr. Riek Machar, it would have to frame a case against him and prosecute him in a court of law. The whole thing is a political decision that has no legality. It is a political decision that impinges on the basic rights of the victim. And this political decision is not helping in the search for peace in the country.
The result of such an action removes all traces of credibility of IGAD as a mediator. One cannot pretend to mediate between two or more parties as a neutral entity when one is partial, siding with one of the parties to the conflict. Therefore, IGAD is no longer a peacemaker.
If IGAD is interested in redeeming itself, it should re-orient itself so that it becomes impartial and, therefore, credible. Re-orienting itself for impartiality and credibility must involve pulling out itself from the South Sudanese conflict and begin to see it from the point of view of an outsider.
The other problem is that even if IGAD is to claim that it is neutral, it has no justification to include the regime in Juba in its decisions on what to do to resolve the war problem between the warring parties since the Juba regime is one of those warring parties. It should immediately take a decision to always exclude South Sudan and its government from its meetings where the issues regarding the war in South Sudan are to be decided on. This way, the regime can have no influence on the bloc’s decisions as to what to do for or against the parties.
IGAD has been playing many contracting roles in regard to the war in South Sudan. These contradictions have rendered IGAD responsible for obstructing the peace process by either making its own obstructions due to its conflict of interests or condoning the obstructionist and violent behavior of the regime in Juba. IGAD has shown itself in many contradictory colors. In addition to being the chief diplomatic agent of the regime to the AU, UN, TROIKA, and others, it is also a mediator, a negotiator, a party to the conflict in South Sudan, a prosecutor, and a judge at the same time. Conventional wisdom dictates the following:
- A party to a conflict cannot be a mediator at the same time because a conflict of interest exists;
- A mediator cannot be a negotiator for one of the parties to the mediation at the same time because a conflict of interest gets generated; and
- A prosecutor cannot be a judge at the same time. IGAD has accused Dr. Riek Machar of an unstated offense and prosecuted him. At the same time, IGAD is the court before whom Dr. Riek Machar got prosecuted and has sentenced him to his home confinement in South Africa.
Taking all the above into consideration, SPLM/A (IO) and the International Community, especially the TROIKA, whose taxpayer money has been wasted by IGAD in the name of peacemaking, but not meaning peace must take IGAD for what it has been presenting itself to be—a party to the conflict, a mediator, a regime’s diplomatic agent, a negotiator, a prosecutor and a judge that lacks credibility to mediate in this conflict.
The main goal of the IGAD leaders is to preserve a fellow dictator and his genocidal government at the expense of the people of South Sudan and taxpayers of the TROIKA countries. IGAD leaders shed crocodile tears by talking of sympathy with the suffering people of South Sudan when their best interest is to keep in power a government that has been killing, raping, and starving to death the people of South Sudan.
It is a sheer hypocrisy without any shred of conscience.
The author is a South Sudanese. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.