The devastating violent implosion that befell South Sudan at the turn of the year is no longer defensible and nor do claims to remain in power. The alleged coup that precipitated the violent social disintegration has since been found to be null and void by the overwhelming majority, including by regional powers that were previously “concerned” by the matter and committed armies to come to the “rescue.”
But this was always a coup against the people of South Sudan, fabricated by a minority rogue elements in the political leadership to rid political opponents, protect the illicitly acquired assets and consolidate grip on unjust political and economic power by all means. Unsurprisingly, it is this lonesome rogue minority clique that continues to believe in its own lies and that is now left joggling its manufactured coup narrative to explain the violence away, while posturing on claims of “legitimacy” as a pretext to continue clinging to power come rain or shine.
Both president, Salva Kiir and his deputy, James Wani Igga among others, continue to defy logic and common sense. Igga has been shuttling the region and lamenting the possibility of an interim government without president Salva. “There will be no interim government in South Sudan without the legitimate president, Kiir,” he is paraphrased as saying while begging for support from the “Good Samaritan” to the effect. Meanwhile Kiir attempts to fallaciously reason with the public that “if there was no coup how can the eruption of the violence mid-December last year be explained?!” There are many explanations to the violent eruption. But coup attempt in the conventional sense is not one.
Kiir has since issued an ultimatum in this vein likewise that there will be no interim government without him, much to the delight of a choir of South Sudan lawmakers who chanted elementary school songs of “we shall never surrender.” But who can blame the “parliamentarians” for assuming such a schoolboy mentality when their memory is still vivid with the threat of being made “to roam the streets” should their disobedience prove noteworthy!
Away from the mental processes of Kiir and coterie and their cognitive ability to see that which even a real schoolboy sees, South Sudan is bleeding as a result of their intended or unintended actions and poor choices. With it all claims to legitimacy to cling to power have equally evaporated. What remains should be the undertaking of justice and accountability rather than the reward of presiding over an interim government to restore sanity in South Sudan.
The unspeakable atrocities and wanton human rights abuses that have been committed against innocent South Sudanese largely across ethnic lines and the tens of thousands of lives lost in this war of power and greed demand justice and accountability let alone staking legitimacy claims to continue ruling South Sudan. Add to this the nearly 1.5 million displaced people whose livelihoods have been ended, properties destroyed and villages razed by this meaningless civil war.
Famine is poised to further claim more lives of perhaps another generation of the vulnerable South Sudanese—mainly women and children—a situation that seems too late to reverse. The emergency response efforts pursued by members of the humanitarian community though laudable are, at best, damage limitation mode to redress their own complicity or complacency in failing to read the signs and prevent the violent conflict. The coup narrative has crumbled under its weight and is advisable to be let go. The claims to legitimacy equally ring hallow in the face of the grim ramifications of this senseless civil war and the innocent killing rampage.
As the peace talks enter negotiations on security and interim government arrangements in South Sudan, the regional and international stakeholders officiating the peace process can enhance the process of saving South Sudan from further implosion and violent social disintegration by primarily factoring in the tragic realities of the civilian massacres and the circumstances around which this war broke out in South Sudan. This should serve as the premise of any attempt to find lasting solution to the crisis.
The strategic objectives of the current phase of the peace process should therefore, aim to facilitate the so-called “new political dispensation.” At the center of this new political outlook should be the establishment of a neutral governing body to oversee the beginning of the groundwork for building viable federal democratic state institutions that can assist South Sudan to begin to take the first steps towards nation building.
The administration of transitional justice and national healing, peace and reconciliation, which is integral to any way forward in South Sudan, requires such a neutral governing body. The composition of this government must be without those who are yet to clear their names whether related to the atrocities committed in the current violent mayhem or pertaining to corruption allegations. To his credit, Dr. Riek Machar seems comprehending of an interim arrangement without him.
It does not take Wisdom of Solomon to determine the instigators of the current violence and hence their subject to investigation for their potential culpability in these crimes before international justice is paramount. The same culprits are the ones using various claims to derail and spoil the peace process from urgently concluding the crisis and restoring peace and order in South Sudan. They can be part of the process to determine the modalities to end the violence and negotiate their exit strategy.
But they cannot play any role in the interim arrangements to save South Sudan from further implosion and social disintegration and restore peace and stability, which is integral not only to South Sudan but also to the increasingly fragile regional and international peace and security. Religious and ideological extremism is on the rise and South Sudan must not be allowed to become a safe haven for these groups, which in the presence of the current security breakdown might potentially be the case.
In this context, and while the Inter-governmental Authority for Development (IGAD), the regional body mediating the peace process must be commended for trying to facilitate a peace process that seeks to be inclusive in order to find lasting peaceful solution in South Sudan compared to previous ones, the mediators must, nonetheless, exercise caution and due diligence in the stakeholder selection process, particularly when it comes to civil society representation. Getting it right at the second time of asking will go a long way in determining the fate of sustainable peace in South Sudan, which will ultimately contribute to the fate of regional and international peace and security.
There are simply too many wolves in sheep skin hovering around the negotiation table at the moment, including those who at one stage or another were part and parcel of the current establishment or were its custodians but who are now disguised as members of the civil society. The civil society pretenders must therefore, be thoroughly vetted before their inclusion in the roundtable.
Not every Bari man or woman represents the interest of the whole Bari community in South Sudan. The same holds for a Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk or any other member of the various ethnic groups and tribal cleavages of South Sudan. In fact the experience from the current mess in South Sudan suggests that individualism and looking after one’s self-interest rather than serving the nation drives public service in South Sudan.
It would appear that there are genuine efforts to find lasting solution to the current crisis in South Sudan. With a little bit more rigor, perhaps current crisis may yet prove to be a blessing in disguise for South Sudan. Will we have a reason to celebrate come our third independence anniversary in a little more than two Weeks?