High Level Revitalisation Forum and the fate of South Sudan peace process
By: Timothy T. Chol
Many South Sudanese from all walks of life welcome the High Level Revitalisation Forum (HLRF) and hope that the Forum will through its serious efforts bring lasting peace to their country. The four-year conflict has destroyed their lives, killed their loved ones displaced and sent many of them to live as refugees in camps in the region.
They are hungry, sick and their children have no schools. This situation has imposed on the people of South Sudan a harsh and unimaginable economic and security situation that has no prospect of improving any time sooner.
It was in realisation of the deteriorating politico-economic and social situation our government under the leadership of President Salva Kiir Mayardit, initiated the on-going National Dialogue (ND). The ND, since its inauguration some months ago, has proven it could be a useful tool for mitigating the current conflict. I believe the ND, the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan and the HLRF, can bring lasting peace to South Sudan.
As citizens of South Sudan who bore the brand of the destruction of lives and property that happened from 2013 till now, we welcome the HLRF provided that it has no sticks and carrots attached to. Our worry is that our friends who come to get us out of our troubles usually do so with predetermined solutions.
This time round, we should be consulted. We also want HLRF that is inclusive and devoid of ambiguities and uncertainties because these are the very issues that bring conflict at the implementation stage. While it may be unjust to prejudge the HLRF outcome, I may as well express the fears echoed by Aly Verjee who wrote in the United States Institute of Peace: Peace Brief No. 228 of August 17, and I quote:
“While the HLRF initiative demonstrates IGAD’s continued attention to the crisis in South Sudan, serious ambiguities and uncertainties including the questions of who will participate and the extent of its agenda, exist in its design. If such uncertainties and ambiguities remain unaddressed prior to the commencement of the forum, the prospect for this initiative to reduce and restore peace in South Sudan will be poor. In the worse case, the Forum could exacerbate the conflict by further alienating opposition movements whose grievances are left unconsidered”.
Our fears are not without justification though. Here’s what the Commission of Inquiry into the crisis in South Sudan, opined about the CPA, “the Commission hold the Troika, (Friends of IGAD) and IGAD responsible for its decisive role in framing an agreement (CPA) that set up a politically unchallenged armed power in South Sudan. In setting up a power that could act with impunity, they (Troika and IGAD) legitimised both anyone holding a gun and the rule of the gun”.
Indeed the CPA set up an interim government in South Sudan pending the referendum. To ensure that the CPA was not dishonored by the North (Sudan) as they did with the 1972 Addis Ababa Peace Agreement, and that the referendum was held on time as dictated by the CPA, there was need for a strong SPLA in the South. How this impacted on the administration of the South only the Commission can answer.
Furthermore, our friends sometimes leave out very minor but important details when IGAD decides to bring us together to sign an agreement. In the August 2015Peace Agreement, IGAD decided to internationalise an internal disagreement amongst members of one party, the SPLM, by introducing international concepts of conflict resolution.
Accordingly, the principle of power sharing divided ministerial positions between the government and the belligerents. This arrangement seriously weakened the government by effectively creating two parallel council of ministers and two armies that were under the command and control of two different people.
Despite strong reservations raised by the incumbent president on these anomalies IGAD failed to correct them. We then knew that there was a time bomb and indeed that time bomb exploded in July the 8th 2016, when the fighting restarted in the country’s Palace (J-1).
Neither UN nor IGAD, the sponsors of the August 2015 ARCSS, showed due care to come and investigate what happened and, if they did the findings were never published. But as usual, the government and the belligerents were blamed. It is therefore our hope that IGAD this time round will ensure that any peace agreement to be signed does not contain any uncertainties and ambiguities that may return us to war.