IGAD: Failing Peace Mediation Process and Its Implications

A great deal of political analysts, both nationals and non-nationals, have objectively raised questions about the sluggishness in the implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) concluded by the Government and SPLM-IO in 2015. Some of these analysts hold the view that IGAD’s peace initiative is somewhere between success and failure. Others believe that it is progressive in certain areas of the ARCSS. But majority of the citizens do not see any significant progress in the implementation of the ARCSS as long as the main provisions like the permanent ceasefire and transitional security arrangements; resource, economic and financial management arrangements; and transitional justice, accountability, reconciliation and healing remain largely untouched.

This paper discusses the role of IGAD in mediating South Sudanese conflicts. First, it looks at the difficulties encountered during the first mediation process, 1999 to 2005. Second, it explores the factors that led to the success of the first mediation process. Third, it pinpoints the factors impeding the present mediation process. Finally, the paper presents implications of the failing peace process in South Sudan.

[1] Mediation difficulties encountered in the period (1999-2005) 

In the mediation of North-South conflict, IGAD experienced enormous difficulties in terms of poor leadership, weak organizational structure, ineffective coordination with international peace actors, competitive Libyan-Egyptian mediation initiative, inability to identified the needs and interests of the parties, deadlocks and interruptions in the peace talks, pressure from its Partners’ Forum, split within SPLM/A, and differing views among its member countries: Uganda and Kenya wanted immediate independence for South Sudan, while Ethiopia and Eritreawere also in favour of independence option, but had wanted it to the last resort after exhausting all possibilities of unity.

[2] The success of the first mediation process

In spite of all these difficulties, IGAD emerged victoriously and managed to get the parties signed the CPA. Why?  The factors discussedbelow contributed to IGAD’s success in mediating and resolving one of the most chronic, complicated and protracted conflict in the world. [a] Adoption of the important document, “Declaration of Principles” (DOP) as a framework for negotiation motivated the parties and the mediators to reach a final agreement. The parties accepted to work with this document because their needs and interests were reflected in it. [b] Soliciting financial and technical support from external partners. These partners pressurized Kenya to appoint a special envoy to speed up the peace process. The appointment of the professional mediator helped strengthen the peace process. [c] The United States’ Frontline Strategy that aimed at imposing economic and diplomatic sanctions on the Sudan government and strengthening the military capability of Uganda,  Ethiopia and Eritrea. These countries, in turn, provided military, political and diplomatic support to SPLA. [d] Unity of the people of South Sudan contributed greatly to the success of IGAD led process. Despite fragmentation of SPLA into several factions in 1992, the strong unity of the people of South Sudan made reconciliation of the warring factions easier.

[3] Impediments to the present mediation process

Although IGAD was lucky to get the parties signed the ARCSS in August 2015, it clearly exhibits a new, irrevocable weakness never experienced in its mediation of North-South conflict. The main factors producing this irreversible, deadly weakness is the persistent geopolitical interest of the mediators. Fully engaged in promoting their trade and investment opportunities in South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia pay little attention in the mediation process. Equally true, Sudan is protecting its economic interest in South Sudan through maintaining direct relation with the governmentand indirect relation with opposition groups. It accuses South Sudan of supporting and harboring the Darfur rebels and SPLM/A-North. Uganda accuses Sudan of supporting the LRA. Eritrea is not interested in South Sudan peace process. It has been complaining of having contributed greatly in the liberation of the South from the North, but it has not received satisfactory reciprocal reward. Djibouti and Somalia are passive mediators. They are preoccupied with their own domestic problems.

[4] Implications of the failing peace mediation process

Given the vested geopolitical interests of IGAD mediating countries over economic resources of South Sudan and the widening political divisions among them, the author hardly sees any probability of success in the current IGAD peace process. Majority suffering people of South Sudan share the same view. Unless the peace process is handled arbitrarily by UN Security Council in collaboration with African Union Peace and Security Council, the likelihood that theARCSS is accorded genuine, sincere and speedy implementation efforts seems be out of reach. As it was the case with the North-South conflict, the political and diplomatic leverage of the friendly countries: United States, England, Norway and Italy is a remedy. These countries are under obligation to salvage the beleaguered people of South Sudan by limiting the failing role of IGAD mediators, and making immediate arrangement for UN Security Council to assume the responsible of the peace process. To hell with IGAD! It has muddled so much in our affairs! People of South Sudan, you either tell IGAD to quickly relinquish the peace process or you will suffer endlessly! God bless those who adhere to author’s warning!


The author is Assistant Director of Local Government at the Ministry of Local Government, Jubek State. He can be reached via sebitomini@gmail.com


By Christopher Sebit



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