Views on the National Dialogue (1/5)

May be due to confusion caused by some in the social media or even ignorance, there are people still asking whether it is a dialogue called for by President Salva Kiir or it is a monologue, i.e. the President and his government, political party besides supporters and allies talking alone as a group. People ask such questions in spite of the statement of the African Union Special Envoy, the former Mali President Omer Alfa Kunari about possibility of participation of the former First Vice President, now in South Africa, in the declared National Dialogue through representatives. “Why don’t the President and his folks of the SPLM (In Government) on one side dialogue with his former First Vice President and company in the SPLM (In Opposition) on the other side?” This is what these people are asking.

Although the word “dialogue“ is from the word ‘duo’ derived from the Latin language meaning two people or entities and ‘-logue’ meaning a talk or a speech and therefore the two combined in one word as “Dialogue” means the talk of two, still the call of the President is neither off-point nor is it irrelevant. This is so because the dialogue called for is literally between the incumbent government and those who are not in agreement with it. Those organizing the dialogue have evidently tried their best to distance themselves as mediators from the incumbent on several occasions, including requesting the President to forgo the position of the patron of the dialogue and avoid involvement in their work.

The President responded positively to the request to give up the patronage of the dialogue which he had decreed earlier for himself and promised non-interference in the process. Honestly, the dialogue between the President and the former First Vice President has already taken place in numerous face to face meetings, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, although many times the dialogue was in the form of negotiation because of the involvement of the IGAD Mediators and other peace partners.

Hence, the dialogue between the two has even reached its conclusions in what is now known as the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS). Those conclusions have not been fully acceptable to both the President and his former first deputy as well as to their respective representatives who negotiated the agreement practically on their behalf in Addis Ababa under the watch and the mediation of the IGAD. That was why each of the two leaders had expressed their reservations over the agreement publically through the media.

The political parties as stakeholders and parties to the negotiation of the ACRSS have since then expressed their own dissatisfactions with the agreement as well, particularly regarding the power sharing percentage for their representation in the government and also their non-inclusion in the power sharing in most states. Various dissident groups too declared their discontent with the agreement. All these might be the reasons for which some people sometimes refer to the ARCSS as “Compromise Peace Agreement” or even as “Forced Peace Agreement”.

Moreover, the discontent here and there within the files and ranks of the soldiers of the two main parties to the agreement might have ignited the clash at J1 State House in Juba on July 8 last year 2016, resulting into the random and sporadic fighting that have spread over very vast parts of our country since then to date. In order to end the disgusting scenario, President Salva Kiir decided that people must converge to dialogue but not to abandon the ARCSS as peace agreement and not to write instead a new fresh agreement. Parties to the agreement and stakeholders, who might still be unhappy with the ARCSS, must endeavor to harmonize their positions and reservations and reconcile them together in order to reach a national consensus that would enhance the peace agreement itself in letter and spirit.

Probably this time the President have seen that the challenges before the nation have grown in dimension and therefore decided to talk not only with his former first deputy but with all stakeholders and parties to the peace agreement as well as with the political dissidents across the country. In other words time has brought up many other leaders onto the political arena in the country who qualify to be principals on equal footings with the principals of the two main parties to the ARCSS, and to be reckoned with any further considerations for lasting peace settlement. Problems requiring dialogue, for lasting and sustainable peace settlement, have with the progress of time, increased in number and scale as such, arising from various communities and segments of our people at the grass-root levels. These problems are piled up more than the issues already stipulated in the ARCSS.

We, as the National Democratic Party, have reasons to believe that the political will for the dialogue is real. We have come to such belief when we conveyed our own views stark and clear last April 2017 to some top leaders at the helm of the incumbent Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) representing the stakeholders in the August 2015 Peace Agreement brokered by IGAD.  That was just prior to the announcement of the appointment of the members of the Steering Committee. We expected to be harassed, prosecuted or even arrested by the law-enforcing agents but none of that has happened. We have been instead urged and encouraged like all other political parties to publicize our views through the Media in order to share those views with the South Sudanese public across the board at home and abroad. We think this is therefore a testimony that we must tell to whoever wishes to follow the example of Saint Thomas to touch the truth by himself or herself directly. For reasons of limited spaces in the local press, we had to tailor our views extracted from the document we had delivered to the leaders in the government last April this year, as said earlier, in series of articles. We start with the excerpts that could be frightening as testimony to discard fears of threats and in later series hopefully we shall continue presenting our views which are preliminary contributions to the process of the preparation for the National Dialogue by the Steering Committee now at relentless and tireless work for the success of the dialogue.

(The excerpts….)     Proposed Building of Momentum for the National Dialogue

Since the unpleasant events of July 8, 2016 in Juba, which drew memories back to the December 2013 outbreak of rebellion, people of South Sudan have largely been confused over the fate of the peace agreement brokered by IGAD and was ratified in August 2015. Many believe no peace could ever prevail in the country again. Evidently, the trust of people in the country has weakened on their government and their hopes for better future dwindled. In order to reverse the situation positively therefore a number of steps ought to be taken. Most significant of those steps has already been taken by His Excellency President Salva Kiir Mayardit to call his countrymen and women to converge for a National Dialogue. Other steps could still be contemplated for ensuring success of the dialogue as follows.

Show of Good Faith to shutter doubts and rebuild trust

People have been obsessed with fear and suspicion upon the extra-ordinary extensive deployment of the army and other security forces in the villages and rural areas within the states of Equatoria, after the incident of July 8, 2016, causing thus wild rumors and stories of horror that led in turn to mistrust among communities and to encourage many to desert their homes and take refuge in Uganda, Kenya or Sudan. Tackling such situation of excessive fear and mistrust must be swift and under wide scope of publicity. Example of actions to be taken, although some since April have already been put under implementation, could be as follows:

The forces of the national army, the SPLA, deployed to areas in Equatoria that have been deserted by citizens due to fears of horror and wild rumors must publicly be recalled to their command headquarters and replaced with more disciplined forces. If the recall and replacement have already taken place, then this must be widely and clearly reflected to the public through the audible and visible public media. (Put under implementation)

Militia forces that have been operating under the auspices of the National Army, the SPLA, such as the “Mathiang Anyor” or the “White Army” must be publicly declared banned and a mechanism must be set up to formally recruit these militias into the National Army. In this respect, paces must be accelerated in transforming the SPLA into a conventional army recognized as such by our enemies before our friends in the region and the continent as well as the world at large.

Outcome of the investigation team(s) or/and committee(s) that might have been constituted by the national army – the SPLA or the national intelligence community to find out the truth about the incidents of burning of villages, beating of innocent civilians, raping of women young and old and sodomizing of youth in various areas of Equatoria as well as the truth about the involvement of the military and other organized forces in those heinous acts, have to be revealed to the public. (Put under implementation)

In case of establishment of the truth or falseness of the allegations, the steps taken for punishment of the defaulters and the punitive sentences handed down have to be exposed as well to the public. (Put under implementation)

If the investigation team(s) or committee(s) have not yet been formed then they must be formed immediately in one way or another and their work outcome be made public as soon as possible. (Put under implementation)

The revelations of the outcome of the investigations and of the punishment of the culprits have both become extremely important and urgent in the heels of the recent visit of His Excellency President Salva Kiir Mayardit to Yei and following His Excellency’s call to the nation for reconciliation and the National Dialogue. (Put under implementation)

The latest events in Wau state and Raja must be treated the same as suggested for the treatment of the situation in Equatoria.

In case the President of the Republic goes on official visits to the states in the near future, such occasions must be used for further clearing of doubts and building of momentum.

The author is the Chairman of National Democratic Party

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