Views on the National Dialogue (4/5)

Transformation of the Army and Organized Forces

The national Army since independence has remained to be a conglomeration of tribal militias and units and divisions of the liberation army still bearing names such as Tiger Division, Jamus Division, and so forth instead of names like the Artillery Division, the Signal Division, Air Defense Division and so forth. Almost 5 years or half a decade has gone since the independence and the liberation of South Sudan. The SPLA must have already started the process of transformation into a conventional army and by doing so all the bonds of tribal affiliations and loyalties to personalities during the movement would have been broken. Incidents such as the December 2013 and June 2016 would have not occurred and must not be allowed to recur.

Expediting the SPLA transformation into a national professional army is therefore key to stability and defense of the independence and sovereignty of South Sudan. The Police and various other organized forces have follow suit.

Foreign Relations

So far the government has been the sole player in the space of relations with countries and international organizations. It is necessary that the National Dialogue considers in its discussions among others the role of popular diplomacy that involves people outside government structures and could help in cementing relations between the peoples of the region, the developing countries and the world at large.

Additional action for building momentum for the National Dialogue would be as follows:

Individuals held for quite a time under arrest for allegations or accusations about involvement in the recurrent heinous crimes on Juba-Yei or Juba-Nimule roads or Juba-Mundri road or any other highway roads must face the full force of the law in the most transparent manner possible involving the media and social societies to reflect the truth to the public and constrain rumors. (Put under implementation)

Release of all political prisoners including journalists and lifting the ban from all the press and media houses to allow them to re-operate once again but within the realm of law and public order.  (Put under implementation)

Declaration of cease fire and cessation of hostilities from government side all over the fields of military operations. (Done)

Declaration of general amnesty once again for all political detractors or opponent of the government including those who have raised arms against the state earlier on and those who join them later on. (Done)

Declaration of open invitation for participation in the National Dialogue called for by the President of the Republic to all those who were involved in the unfortunate June 2016 incident of clashes between the Presidential Guards at the J-1 State House and the guards of the former First Vice President of the Republic and others who joined the latter, later on, after that incident. (Under implementation)

Deployment of peace emissaries to those government detractors or opposition and the South Sudanese in the Diaspora at large to deliver the invitations and disseminate the message of peace to them. (underway)

In order not to be vague, the peace massage to those in the Diaspora must comprise both the proposed agenda for the Grass-roots Dialogue and the proposed agenda for the Dialogue on the country-level, so that individuals interested could contribute to both the input and the outcome of the dialogue in his or her home village or town or state back in South Sudan as well as to the input and outcome on the Dialogue on the country level.

Welcome of involvement of the government detractors or opponents and the South Sudan Diaspora in the preparation for the convening of the National Dialogue Conference, including the secretariat work of the conference and the fundraising endeavors for the historic event.

The positions of the leadership of the National Dialogue Steering Committee as represented by the two Co-Chairpersons, Deputy Chairperson and the Chief of the Secretariat and his deputies must be declared liable to change and replacements or to additional appointments for inclusion of personalities who prove more acceptable to both the government and the armed opposition. Some statements or track records of some of those now in the leadership might jeopardize the whole national effort and cause terrible set-back or stalemate.

Personalities that could be acceptable substitutes or additional appointees to those in the present leadership of the National Dialogue are people such as: Cardinal Gabriel Zubier Wako who hails from Wau State (and was the first Archbishop from South Sudan appointed Cardinal in the Vatican by the Roman Catholic Pope. Example of involvement of Archbishops was successful in the Democratic Republic of Congo), Mr. Lobari Ramba, who hails from Yei State – a recently troubled area (and was one of those in charge of the Secretariat of the Round Table Conference 1965 that culminated eventually in the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement 1972 and became the first Speaker of Parliament in South Sudan 1974 after the peace agreement 1972 transitional period), there are other South Sudanese in the international organizations and universities who prove much competent, patriotic and impartial.

Already there are a lot of remarks that might be harmful to the credibility of the national dialogue. For example

there are remarks that the members of the Steering Committee were appointed or employed by the

government and they would therefore be bias and serving only the ends of their employers. Other remarks are

about the Southern Front Party taking over from SPLM and SANU Party being sidelined, etc., etc. All these

require serious tackling.

In case some of the government detractors and those in the Diaspora wish to participate in the Dialogue Conference but not physically in Juba or cannot come down to Juba, they could be allowed to participate through the various means of the International Technology such as the Skype or Video-Camera, for example. They could thus be seen and heard by the conferees and they could as well follow the deliberations of the conference live.

The members of the Steering Committee have already divided themselves into sub-committees and delegations to reach-out to the people at the grass-roots in the states, counties, payams and bumas. Decision of the Committee is that its sub-committees and delegations must go to the people at the grass-roots empty-handed and without any agenda to stimulate the interests of those people they are intending to dialogue with or to enrich the debate in case those people positively responded to the Committee’s invitations. The decision makers of the steering committee believe they would be served with the agenda by their hosts at the country and the grass-roots levels, which would literally be their grievances and complaints.  We do not claim to be cleverer than the Committee’s men and women but as a political party we deem it necessary to meet people always with clear known agenda. The people to be met might then be encouraged to subtract or add the issues they want or accept and adopt the proposed agenda intact as a whole.  However, we have suggestions as to what are the issues of concern, among others, which could constitute the agendas for the citizens at the levels of the grass-roots or local government. As a political party we are present in some of the states, counties and payams. Travelling all around to those locations is for sure unnecessarily very expensive, particularly at present in view of the economic downturn. Access to some of those places is not possible. 

It is important at this juncture, to affirm the difference between the Reforms stipulated in the peace agreement and the issues proposed for the agenda of the National dialogue. The two in fact are complementary to each other but however the National Dialogue is for soliciting the people’s views and consensus and the Reforms provided for in the Peace agreement are policies to be drawn from the consensus reached in the national dialogue to be the means for consolidating the peace and stability attained and ensuring on the prosperity that we are anticipating for our country.

Proposed Grass-root Agenda for National Dialogue at Payams, Counties & States

(Re-Mending the Social Fabric Countrywide)

The proposed agenda for the grass-roots national dialogue, in our view, is all about re-mending the social fabric in our country, which has obviously been torn up over the years by recurrent tribal conflicts and clashes, so that social harmony and peaceful coexistence are restored in South Sudan at its present infant stage. To re-mend the fabric, there must be a myriad of issues to be discussed at the levels of local and state governments and the outcome of which could be brought to bear on the status quo after further discussions at the national conference for National Dialogue. All these, among others, could be encapsulated as follows:

  • Institutionalizing Native Administration

In view of the growing tribal disputes, tensions and clashes in many parts of the country, Article 168 (1) and (2) of the Transitional Constitution must be invoked as soon as possible to operationalize Traditional Authority across the country in order to consider and settle disputes among communities, particularly in the rural areas. These disputes include cattle rustling, kidnaping, theft, robbery, killings and revenge killings, destruction of cultivation farms, encroachment on others land or territory and so forth. Over the years disputes between two tribes or among more than two tribes are considered by chiefs and elders of the communities in dispute and judgments were made to resolve those disputes fairly, peacefully and amicably. There were Local Government Inspectors particularly assigned for such purposes. Disputes, between Dinka and Arab nomads along the borders of previous Provinces of Bahr el Ghazal and Kordufan, for example, were regularly considered and settled under the watch of the government of the day. Those meetings were known as the “Alsaffah Meetings”. This has been as well our national heritage as African people of South Sudan. It is time now that we must uphold and cherish that tradition by discussing at the grass-roots level how to invoke the aforementioned constitutional provision.   That alone would contribute immensely in realizing security, peace and stability to our grass-root people.

The author is the Chairman, National Democratic Party

By James Aniceto Batikayo

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