Looking at the mess the youngest poorest and newest country of South Sudan is in, something urgent needs to be done. After fighting broke between the government forces and those of the rebels backing former vice president Riek Machar, many people were killed and many more displaced. Up till now, over 1,000 have already been killed and over 200,000 displaced. The situation is alarmingly worse given that ceasefire hasn't been reached.
Regional leaders have been working to see to it that the conflict in South Sudan is zeroed out. But as the time goes by, it seems, their efforts are taking long to deliver. For up till now, no face-to-face talks have already commenced. Even the formality of the going on talks is still shaky. Although it is normal in conflict resolution, chances are that the approach regional leaders have taken is likely to cause more troubles especially if they contemplate about power sharing. Some have already started talking about formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) as it was in Kenya and Zimbabwe. Again, the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) is categorically against such a move it terms as rewarding law breakers. So too, there are those who think that shall GoSS consent to GNU, it’ll be marking the end of Machar. Those with such belief refer to what happened to former premiers Raila Odinga (Kenya) and Morgan Tsvangirai (Zimbabwe) or what forced RENAMO in Mozambique to go back to the guerrilla war.
Inter-governmental Authority in Development (IGAD) which is said to have proposed power sharing needs to understand the feelings of GoSS and core issues that led to fighting. IGAD will fail squarely shall it press on with such proposals. South Sudan President Salva Kiir has refused a proposal that includes a ceasefire, release of all detainees and the formation of a national unity government. There also is mistrust about the role of Uganda among other IGAD members especially on the side of Machar’s camp. A member of Machar’s negotiation team, Dr Dhieu Mathok Ding Wol was quoted as saying, “The position of President Museveni on the conflict in South Sudan is affecting even the peace process mediated by IGAD in Addis Ababa.” Wol sentiments received a very noncommittal quid pro quo from the government of Uganda whose head of government’s Media Center, Ofwono Opondo had this to say, “So those statements by Machar’s group are outrageous and a scapegoat.” apart from the proposal of having GNU, it is obvious that IGAD hasn't created trust and impartiality things are very crucial in every mediation.
Furthermore, IGAD needs to think about another way of addressing the conflict in South Sudan. What worked in Kenya or Zimbabwe can’t be replicated in South Sudan however this does not mean that it should not be applied. We need to look at the cause of concerns. For instance, in Kenya and Zimbabwe the cause of all brouhahas was election rigging. What is the cause in South Sudan? Nobody knows exactly. So thinking about GNU without having strong reasons is like letting the chance to solve the conflict escape pointlessly.
Experience has it that once one shares power with those who are legally in power; they’ll frustrate his efforts to make indelible marks to the voters something that hurts him come elections.
Another hitch that needed to be tacked firstly is the whole allegation by GoSS that the so-called rebels have no name which forces me to call the Riek Machar Rebels (MRM) for the time being. Verily, it makes sense to tackle the question by GoSS: Why rewarding law breakers and power winos? One can go further asking: What precedent?
In dealing with such a conflict, much care needs to be taken especially the issues to begin with. One of those things is to make sure that the mediators carefully touch on power dynamics, building trust, credibility and offering chance for the parties to conflict to vent. Thereafter, there must follow the modality to be used after it is agreed upon by two parties to conflict. Such efforts are important at least to lay a foundation for negative peace that will enable ceasefire. After securing negative peace, it will be possible for mediators to start all essentials such as peacemaking, peace building and peacekeeping if needs be. This is a process that can take years to see to it that positive peace prevail again in this poor and young country.
Rebuilding sound relationship in the country like South Sudan needs a multifaceted approach. This is why the International Criminal Court (ICC) needs to reign in aiming at creating fear and sanity for both sides. If ICC starts to investigate atrocities committed against humanity and all other related crimes, such a move will make the protagonists become aware of what can become a bad end for them. True, such a move will curtail their urge to cause more harm knowingly that thereafter they’ll face justice.
Given that politics seems to start hitting the snag just from the beginning, ICC needs to zero in so as to create sanity and awareness that the end of this dirty game is likely to land somebody in jail.
Source: The African Executive Magazine Jan., 15, 2013.