Open Opinion Letter to the Officials in IGAD, African Union, China, Troika countries and UN Security Council Regarding the Communiqué of the Second IGAD-Plus Extraordinary Summit on the Situation in the Republic of South Sudan.
Juba, August 8th, 2016
To Whom It May Concern:
We, the African New Generation of Enlightened Leadership (ANGEL), have decided to directly address our letter to you, and especially the women leaders in IGAD, AU, China, Troika countries and the UN Security Council, in honour of their gentle hearts of humanity and integrity. For it is you women, who nurture life from a tender young stage to its delicate old stage. With that in mind, we hope you will use your power and influence to direct, not only the words and thoughts of your male peers in these institutions, but also their hearts and actions – to listen to the voices of the ordinary children, youth, women, men and the elderly, including orphans, those with disabilities and the destitute on the streets of Juba, in the bushes of South Sudan, in UN protection of civilian (POC) sites and in refugee camps. People who do not know the path to guns and power, but are living in pain or have silently succumbed to the grave, birds of the air and animals of the wild, without being accounted for by anyone.
We truly appreciate the IGAD, AU, China, Troika countries and UN Security Council for their continued support for peaceful solutions to the conflicts that ravaged the lives, property, infrastructure, and institutions of the people of the Republic of South Sudan from the onset of the conflict in 2013 to date. We particularly commend their gesture of approving, and indication of willingness to send a regional force to support the implementation of the peace agreement signed in August last year, and to protect internally displaced persons (IDPs), humanitarian agencies and the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (JMEC).
It is hard to recover from our shock and disappointment about the recent fight that occurred in Juba and other locations in South Sudan and the lives, property, and dignity lost as a result. We share the pain of our women; mothers and sisters, who have been sexually humiliated (raped) during the recent fight in Juba and other locations, and the torment and angst of our brothers, fathers, uncles and male relatives and fellow citizens who have been subjected to other forms of humiliation including human rights abuses.
Though we held doubts about the consistency in the implementation of the peace agreement signed in August last year and on the commitment to ceasefire by the rival peace partners, we faithfully rested our shattered confidence on IGAD, AU, China, Troika countries and UN Security Council, especially the grantors of the return of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA IO) to Juba, to deter any possible future occurrences of war between the SPLA in Government (SPLA IG) and the SPLA IO, who are supposedly the centre where the discipline of the two armies rest given the high polarity between the two rival partners. The recent fighting in Juba, the political developments that followed, and the slight delay by the grantors of the peace agreement reinforced our doubts. However, we are partially hopefull in the intentions of IGAD, through the endorsement of AU and approval of UN Security Council, to send a protection force to South Sudan to protect IDPs, humanitarian agencies, and the JMEC.
The indication of sending a regional protection force has been popularly accepted in South Sudan though there are few and specific objections and points of concern regarding the objective of the protection force as stipulated in the Communiqué of the Second IGAD-Plus Extraordinary Summit on the Situation in the Republic of South Sudan and possible divergence in interpretation of some of the articles of the communiqué.
THE OBJECTIVE OF THE PROTECTION FORCE: We at ANGEL are concerned about the limited objective of the proposed protection force as indicated in article 13 of the communiqué, to protect IDPs, humanitarian agencies and JMEC. While these groups are special and deserve special protection, their protection alone does not enforce full implementation of the Agreement on Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (ARCSS) signed in August last year, nor does it guarantee protection of the general civil population or deter any possible war between the rival peace partners to the agreement. In this regard, we propose a more robust objective that includes protection of special groups, protection of the civil population in general and deterrence of any possible war between the rival parties. Specifically, while we do not know if the protection force may be military in nature, we propose police force to be an integral part of the protection force to support efforts aimed at protecting the general civil population and enforce rule of law. These provisions may be expanded in the mandate to be agreed upon by the Transitional Government of National Unity and the troops contributing countries.
INTERPRETATION OF SOME ARTICLES OF THE COMMUNIQUÉ: We are also concerned about possible divergence in the interpretation of the following articles:
- Article 13 (c): While the leadership changes in SPLA IO is indeed their internal matter, the statement, ‘the region should work with the current setup of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGONU)’, may be subject to divergent interpretation, because there are currently two setups. The initial setup where ministers and members of parliament for the SPLA IO were appointed by Dr Riek Machar and the recent setupwhere ministers and members of parliament were of the SPLA IO were appointed by Taban Deng Ghai. Therefore, it may mean the region will work with the former or the latter set up of the TGONU, which could open a loop for conflict. In this regard, we would recommend that, the communiqué should make it specific, and we would further recommend IGAD to consider the former appointments. We learnt that the former appointments involved wider military and political spectrum of the SPLA IO as opposed to the latter appointments. If the latter TGONU setup is adapted, then its lack of consultation could jeopardise the integrity of the TGONU and any democratic principles imbedded in it, and this could further raise doubts in the citizens who already welcomed the initial appoints without reservations.
- Article 15: Encouraging H.E. Dr Riek Machar to rejoin the peace process seems tosuggest that the implementation of the ARCSS could proceed without him. We would suggest replacement of the word ‘encourage’ with stronger word like ‘call’,especially, as he started the request for an external force to be deployed to South Sudan as a buffer between the SPLA IO and the SPLA IG. For the implementation of the agreement to restart, Dr Machar should return to Juba, because we believe that, he largely commands the SPLA IO and his forces will be needed in Juba for the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangement Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) to move forward. This will also guarantee the return of his team who have been forcefully or voluntarily evicted from Juba. Upon his return to Juba, the investigation into the fighting that took place in Juba should be carried out and perpetuators of the conflict should be removed from the TGONU and prosecuted. The IGAD, in consultation with the AU, China, Troika countries and UN Security Council, could consider a tribunal for prosecuting those found to be obstructing smooth implementation of the ARCSS as part of the protection mechanism.
Besides, we would also recommend that, the region should consider the return of Dr Lam Akol, who, because of frustration, resigned from the TGONU and allegedly opted for resistance, saying the peace agreement was already dead, as a result military and political developments that followed the ousting of the SPLA IO from Juba.
In addition to our concerns about limited objective of the protection force and possible divergence in interpretation of some of the articles of the communiqué, we would also like to express our opinion regarding the mandate of the protection force.
THE MANDATE OF THE REGIONAL PROTECTION FORCE: Based on our observation of thedelays in the implementation of the security arrangements of the ARCSS, which we believe is partly responsible for the fight in and around Juba and slow implementation of the ARCSS, we recommend that, the regional protection force expedite the implementation of the security arrangements and provide direct support to the CTSAMM, with immediate consideration of full demilitarization of Juba, and punitive measures should be undertaken against any party that violates the security arrangements. We believe that, the militarization of Juba is wholly or partly responsible for the recent confrontations in Juba and subsequent dislodging of the SPLA IO camp from Juba.
Also, in line with the CTSAMM, the protection force should provide deterrence by acting as abuffer zone between the rival armies. Therefore, they need to be maximally armed with capability to deter any war between the two peace partners. This will not only provide protection in case war breaks out, but deterring possible war itself, which could effectively safeguard the peace agreement and prevent future loss of lives, property and dignity caused by war.
Alternatively, if the regional protection force cannot provide deterrence, given the recent violation of the agreement likely caused by imbalance of power, then the security provisions of the agreement should be reviewed so that the rival forces have equal powers within Juba, which will deter them from provocations.
Finally, though we painfully share the hopelessness and trauma of the ordinary citizens of South Sudan who are now in their thousands in refugee camps or being washed by rains in the bushes without adequate food and medical care as a result of the manner in which the implementation of the ARCSS has been managed, we still have a glimpse of hope that, the IGAD, AU, China, Troika countries and UN Security Council will show its moral obligation andconcerted commitment in enforcing the implementation of the peace agreement and progression to enforce tougher measures against any rival peace partner that engages in military provocation or obstructs smooth implementation of the peace agreement, for the sake of humanity.
With tears in our eyes, we rest our case here.
Africa’s New Generation of Enlightened Leadership