Many reports have surfaced in the past days that suggest that the Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD)—the regional agency mediating the peace process seeking to resolve the internal armed violence in South Sudan is fishing, among other things, for agenda to guide the second phase of the peace talks. The process has been re-scheduled to kick off on February 10th, 2014, three days behind the initial schedule slotted for February 7th, 2014. But then again this is Africa. Welcome to African local times! With that what follows is where the upcoming peace negotiations will be won or lost in South Sudan.
Plethora of burning issues can guide the political dialogue as presented in the previous article easily found in my blog (see the previous post below). This can be corroborated with other similar entries by numerous other analysts, without the need to fish in deep shore. All it takes is a mouse click away. Google and read, without Wikipedia as much as possible!
Chief among some of the consensus issues that have been highlighted and that can guide the agenda for the second phase of the peace talks is the need for a holistic and inclusive process. A holistic and inclusive process that facilitates local representation of as many South Sudanese but also as many other regional and international conflict stakeholders as possible is the key to sustainability of any outcome of the peace talks.
It is common knowledge, however, that the idea of working with numerous conflict stakeholders is particularly unpleasant and challenging, and hence often subtly resisted by most state-actors tasked with mediating peace processes. The mediation process that led to the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) in 2005 is a glaring example of resistance to common sense and logic. The CPA negotiation process shows how too many loud voices of key conflict stakeholder repeatedly appealed for inclusion in the process, but equally repeatedly and ultimately ignored, if only a Darfurian can testify.
The Troika guarantors of the peace process and IGAD, which was spearheading the mediation process as well as the dyad parties to the conflict, the National Congress Party (NCP)/National Islamic Front (NIF) and the Sudan People Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), all conspired to deny other grievance groups, political parties, civil society actors, traditional leaders and elders and women and youth a place at the negotiation table.
The Church was the only actor who played some role in the CPA negotiation process. But even then the Church was only allotted a marginal behind the scene role in the early stages of the process, such as in negotiating the release of prisoners of war (POW). The Church was again called upon during the people-to-people peace and reconciliation process (P2P), from mid-90s to early 2000s.
The Church’s efforts ultimately managed to superficially reconcile the ethnically fragmented Southern house at the grassroots, but which paved the way for the reunion of SPLM/A, and its breakaway factions, and which bolstered South Sudanese position as a united formidable front at the roundtable. The inclusion of the core provision of self-determination clause in the CPA was a direct outcome of the reconciling efforts and contribution of the Church. But after that was accomplished with the signing of the Machakos Protocol in 2002, the Church too was quickly elbowed out of the way.
In brief peace negotiators, particularly those provided by States tend to be lazy in identifying and inviting key conflict stakeholders to the negotiation table. Often as Timothy D. Sisk has discovered in one of his articles entitled “Summary,” of a volume in a peace work journal, the mediators’ tendency to obscure facts in conflicts is a deliberate act. Their biggest fear is that “extensive information searches during negotiation may reveal incompatibilities of interest that serve to escalate rather than resolve the conflict.” The intention may be justified, but now look where such an eschewed peace process has led us?!
In a piece entitled, “The Many Dimensions of Catholic Peacebuilding,” Professor, Scott Appleby, the Director of Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies defines peacebuilding, including peace negotiations as essentially processes and activities aimed at “building relationships at every level of society dedicated to non-violent transformation of conflict, the pursuit of social justice and the creation of cultures of sustainable peace.”
Elsewhere, in an article entitled “Strategic Peacebuilding: An Overview,” Appleby and his colleague, the renowned peace scholar and practitioner, John Paul Lederach, further argue that: “At its core, peacebuilding nurtures constructive human relationships. To be relevant, it must do so strategically, at every level of society and across the potentially polarizing lines of ethnicity, class, religion, and race.”
Another prominent peace scholar and practitioner, Peter Wallensteen also a colleague of Appleby and Lederach at the University of Notre Dame, goes further and stresses that, “peacebuilding in this case entails the reforming of state structures, and also bringing together factions that have been fighting for a long time. Issues of war crimes, reconciliation, as well as economic reconstruction are high on the agenda.” Their views are particularly relevant to South Sudan’s current political violent trying times.
At the moment IGAD Secretariat is reportedly engaged in shuttle diplomacy and consultations to identify key conflict stakeholders and agree on “framework, structure and organization of the second round of the negotiations.” National healing and reconciliation, which is critical has been identified as key to the political dialogue, which is laudable. But time will tell how far the IGAD mediators have come, who they are going to invite to the negotiation table and whether they have learned a lesson or two from the previous conflict exacerbating CPA peace process.
That noted the immediate background against which the IGAD fellows should premise their assumptions is the political power struggle at the SPLM party level that has ultimately plunged South Sudan into deadly armed violence, which has now become a national problem. What that premise should look like is the topic of part two of this sequel of articles. Stay tuned!