Let us dialogue together
By Odongo Odoyo
The National Dialogue is real and on-going to reach all-inclusive up to the countryside. Different views are being expressed freely with the hope to have one common goal for the country. Ever lasting peace for all. The management of Juba Monitor realizing the need to inform and educate members of the public on the on-going process will be publishing articles of the peace process twice a week, Monday and Thursday.
The President of the Republic of South Sudan, General Salva Kiir Mayardit launched the Steering Committee of the National Dialogue on 22 May 2017 when he swore in the 109 members that he had earlier announced in December 2016. The Presidential decree also included a secretariat of 17 representatives of some of the country’s universities, research and think tank organizations, to act, not just as the secretariat of the National Dialogue, but also as the management of the accounts for the dialogue.
Objectives of the National Dialogue
The broader objectives of the National Dialogue are to end all violent conflicts in South Sudan; constitute national consensus; and save the country from disintegration and foreign interference. To achieve the aforementioned overarching objectives, the following are the Specific objectives:
- To end political and communal violence in the country and resolve how to properly transform the military.
- To redefine and re-establish stronger national unity (including redefining citizenship, belonging, residency and political participation).
- To restructure the state and negotiate social contract between the citizens and their Government (address the nature of federalism, and tackle the arising conflicts over land, viability, belonging and border; federation of political decisions affecting party structures).
- To settle issues of diversity (deal with fear of political domination; address issues of the national army, civil service and Foreign Service).
- To resolve issues related to resource sharing and allocation (these include land ownership and management; communal and states land disputes; oil, gas, minerals, and taxes).
- To settle social disputes and sources of conflict (cattle raiding and rustling; child abduction; communal violence related to marriages, territory, murder, cattle and human migration-related matters).
- To set a stage for an integrated and inclusive national development strategy.
- To agree on steps and guarantees to ensure safe, fair, free and peaceful elections and transition in 2018.
- Agree on a strategy to return internally displaced persons and refugees to their homes.
- To develop a framework for national peace, healing and reconciliation.
Most of the above ten points of the Presidential decree setting up the assignment for the National Dialogue are not just political, they are also legal and constitutional and would require bearing in mind that although the institutional functions of the South Sudanese state are dysfunctional, which has arisen from the political failure to uphold and impose the agreed structures by the way of implementing them, the Steering Committee of the National Dialogue can only make recommendations in its final report about how the young state of South Sudan deals with these matters. If there is a need for a constitutional and legal action, then such a recommendation will need to undertake legal steps that can make it workable.
A good example of the first institutional failure was that the ruling party had decided that the national capital of South Sudan was Juba. It was necessary for the young state of
South Sudan to have indicated from the outset, how much land around Juba was now the national capital and agree with the traditional owners of that land; legalise it and then allot the national government land accordingly for whatever purpose the land was required to be used, instead of allowing the citizens of South Sudan, who by necessity needed to be around their national capital to deal only with traditional land owners around Juba that had not yet become a national land, because it was not yet institutionalised in that way. The question of the national capital of South Sudan has, therefore, now become one of the major factures of dispute in the young South Sudanese state. Is the capital of the Republic of South Sudan staying in Juba or is it moving somewhere else? And is the answer to such a question part of the National Dialogue to resolve or to recommend how to resolve it?
The Steering Committee convened as a plenary for the entire month of June 2017, starting on Tuesday 23 May 2017 and continuing to Thursday 26 June 2017. During this one month, the plenary allowed each member who wanted to speak to go on for as long as half an hour, to say what they thought had gone wrong with South Sudan since July 2005, the beginning of the six-year interim period, following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Nairobi, Kenya on 9 January 2005. Since that time, South Sudan has experienced a series of political and security traumas that have culminated in a bloody civil conflict that started on 15 December 2013 and which continues to rage, even while the National Dialogue, the subject of this preliminary report is taking place.
The President of the Republic, in initiating the National Dialogue,” had announced publicly that he wanted the members of the National Dialogue to feel free to say whatever they thought had gone wrong in their country and to recommend what they thought is the way forward for the country.” In what showed clearly in the person of the President of the Republic as an act of personal contrition, “President Salva Kiir Mayardit apologised for what mistakes that may have been committed by the government of the young Republic under his leadership and asked for public forgiveness.” The President withdrew from being personally the patron of the National Dialogue, which had been contained in his Presidential decree of December 2016. The President replaced that December 2016 decree with the latest in April 2017.
It is a well-established truth that corruption of whatever level, limits and deters all types of investment from the country, domestic or foreign. Only a determined and affective action is now urgently required, if South Sudan has any chance of pulling out of the pit its political leadership has thrown it in. The National Dialogue Steering Committee can help this young and resource promising country to get out of the pit it has been thrown in by just one movement and one leadership. Since it is this same leadership that now seems to feel the urge, at least represented in the person of the President of the Republic, to do something to pull out of where they have thrown our country, the role of this dialogue forum must be to point out the facts and to show the way out of the crisis through clear and credible recommendations.
Most members of the National Dialogue Steering Committee, if not all, seemed to have taken the President at his word and appreciate the noble gesture of the establishment of a National Dialogue. The President’s urged for the freedom to speak and pledge for the noninterference in the work of the National Dialogue, seems to have encouraged members of the
Steering Committee to speak extremely freely. They hope that their recommendations will be taken equally seriously, when they present them to the President.
This is not a final report and will not, therefore, contain recommendations arising from intervention by individual members of the National Dialogue Steering Committee. That will hopefully come and be contained in the final report and recommendations of the Steering Committee when it is finally done.
Furthermore, the National Dialogue Steering Committee has now broken up into 15 regional committees, who, at the time of preparing this preliminary report, should be touring the countryside of our young Republic which they have started this month. The committees will have, hopefully recorded evidence of what our public think has gone wrong with our country and its political system.
All this will constitute the final document of the first national dialogue of South Sudan.
Apart from the internal regional committees within South Sudan, the National Dialogue Steering Committee had also set up two committees to visit a number of African countries, to talk to leaders of the opposition political groups that have not responded to the call for the National Dialogue, including those whose names are included in the Presidential decree as members of the National Dialogue Steering Committee, but have not yet responded, or have responded negatively.
The first delegation, led by one of the co-chairmen of the National Dialogue Steering Committee, Honourable Angelo Beda, visited the Republic of South Africa. In their meetings, the government of the Republic of South Africa had indicated their support for the National Dialogue and encouraged the South Sudanese to carry on with their National Dialogue, whatever the problems confronting the process of national dialogue may be. The Vice President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, took some pride in the fact that they in South Africa too, had to resort to a National Dialogue, which encouraged every South African to arrive at the resolution to their political differences.
As part of the seminars that the South Sudan National Dialogue Steering Committee organised for the entire month of July, members learned and took notes from the experiences of others, some of the speakers to these July seminars in Juba were from South Africa. They outlined to the Steering Committee of the National Dialogue of South Sudan, how South Africa went about its National Dialogue. The July seminars also included experiences in National Dialoguing, of countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda and the United Nations.
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Details of the reports of all the delegations of the South Sudan National Dialogue Steering Committee, who had visited some of the African countries, where some opposition South Sudanese reside, will be made in writing to the plenary of the National Dialogue Steering Committee and will be part of its final report.
On launching the National Dialogue Steering Committee in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, on Monday 22 May 2017, President Salva Kiir Mayardit “had announced to the South Sudanese public and to the world at large, that former First Vice President of South Sudan, Riek Machar Teny was free to nominate his armed movement’s representatives to come to Juba, to join the National Dialogue.” The President further announced that “for security reasons, the physical presence in Juba, of Riek Machar himself was not desirable for the time being.” This Presidential pronouncement about national security and Dr. Machar’s role, in that restricts the current National Dialogue’s contacts with Riek Machar to only persuading him to appoint a delegation of his movement to join the National Dialogue deliberations in Juba.
Even though it was appointed by President Salva Kiir Mayardit as the President of the Republic of South Sudan and the National Dialogue should therefore abide by this Presidential directive, nevertheless, the National Dialogue Steering Committee takes the view that for its work to succeed, it must listen to the views of every South Sudanese considered part of the current national problem facing our country. Dr. Riek Machar Teny is one of the national political leaders whose point of view the National Dialogue remains ever ready to listen to. But Dr. Riek Machar refuses to meet the delegation of the National Dialogue Steering Committee. This report will not get into what the refusal of Dr. Riek Machar or any other South Sudanese political leader in the opposition will mean to the National Dialogue, a national forum which is already talking to most other aggrieved South Sudanese inside the country and or abroad.
The National Dialogue committees that are visiting foreign countries to talk to South Sudanese opposition political leaders, besides talking to South Sudanese, have the added responsibility to talk to governments and political leaders of the countries they visit, to explain to the leaders of these countries, what the National Dialogue initiated by the President of South Sudan is all about. Indeed, to be able to meet with the South Sudanese leaders abroad, it was important, from the point of view of the National Dialogue Steering Committee, to contact and meet the former first vice President of the Republic of South Sudan, Dr. Riek Machar Teny and to invite him to nominate members of his movement to join the National Dialogue.
This is an introductory part of the National Dialogue page which is officially launched today and will continue to educate people of South Sudan on what the National Dialogue is, and how it is going to promote peace in the country. Together let us dialogue with free minds to advocate for peace in the country.