National Dialogue: Is it giving birth?

Odongo Odoyo

The South Sudan National Dialogue was officially launched on 22nd May, 2017 after it was announced by President Salva Kiir on 14 December 2016.

It was envisioned to draws on global experiences in peace-building, reconciliation, and political change.

I have been following the National Dialogue process since it started.

Opposition groups had expressed concerns about the political context, venue, and how it will be carried out but later some of them welcomed it.

After criticisms from opposition groups and the international community, the committee expanded membership to include more women, youth, faith organizations, academia, and the media.

It was like a beautiful bride to the eyes of the groom, but somewhat ugly to some people who had so many doubts about the bride, and then decided it was not worth sharing their lives with.

Just like a bride, it soon became pregnant-exciting the groom for it was worth having such a bride.

Now is the time for the groom to give birth. Whether the child will be welcomed, or not will depend on the kind child.

The three regional conferences all concluded. Many in South Sudan and others abroad have read the resolutions from all these regional conferences. The resolutions are almost similar on governance, economy and social cohesion, revealing the likeliness of challenges facing people of the three greater regions of South Sudan-Equatoria, Bahr-el-Ghazal, and Upper Nile.

Let me remind you of what the National Dialogue was meant for, and how it was supposed to be conducted.

It began with the grassroots consultation forums where many South Sudanese voiced out their concerns, and possible solutions. The consultations formed the basis for peace conferences, including the just concluded regional conferences.

According to the Co-Chair Angelo Beda, “National Dialogue is a process that includes dialogue consultations, conference negotiations, and implementation.  It allows the governed to negotiate and determine goals.”

“We can redefine our national unity for ourselves. We can redefine what being South Sudanese means. On that basis, we can also create a new constitution that reflects the values of all of us,” he stated.

But following the three regional conferences, diverse opinions have emerged. Some groups of people including chiefs and politicians especially from the Equatoria region claimed that they were not fully represented.

This reportedly emanated from the selection process of the delegates. Some chiefs from the former western equatorial for example were delayed by a day after they were reportedly informed late of their participation in the conference in Juba.

However, during the conference, some politicians also raised concerns claiming they were not invited to the conference but in Bah-el-Ghazal and Upper Nile, they claimed that some senior people in the government were invited.

But the argument of the national dialogue leadership is: “the National Dialogue is about going back to the grassroots to discuss and get their wisdom, and force you elites to implement them. We are calling on the elites to see how we are crying for what they have done –so that they can take our words seriously,” Beda added.

Following this, the question remains: Is everyone participating in the national dialogue process?

For us to answer this question, the process must maintain credibility by being transparent and inclusive, and its outcomes should fully be implemented.

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