By Wol Deng Atak
The continued wave of violence orchestrated and unleashed by the government of South Sudan against her own citizens amounts to treason against the country. The regime has not only uprooted millions of citizens from the comfort of their cradle homes but has deliberately followed them to the countries where they have sought refuge. Cases of kidnap, torture and even killing are being reported from refugee camps in the neighbouring countries where South Sudanese masses have fled for safety. Many dissidents living in foreign countries live in fear of being harmed by Kiir’s regime. The terror unleashed against peaceful citizens fits treason against the country.
While friends of South Sudan, in the persons of Troika and IGAD, discuss the revitalization of nation’s Peace Agreement, the regime in Juba is announcing conduct of general elections in 2018 amidst the wave of violence engulfing the entire country. The regime’s insistence to conduct the elections amidst violence is perverse to the spirit of restoring peace in the nation (This is what the current regime in Juba is inclined to). While the perpetual violence has uprooted millions from their homes, this contradiction is not a new phenomenon in J1. The deep-rooted attitude of the regime in Juba dates back to 2008 when President Kiir ordered deployment of SPLA in Aliek Payam, Tonj North County, and Tonj East County where soldiers committed ineffable crimes and despicable treatment against the locals. Women and schoolgirls were raped and young men killed. President Kiir and the then Governor of Warrap State, Tor Deng Mawien barefacedly defended the actions of those soldiers who were deployed against civilians. The regime’s calls for general elections is, therefore, in character to its tendency to take opposite direction when, at least, a likely lasting solution to nation’s woes is proposed. The regime only thrives when the country continues in woes. Peace is a threat to the regime and its apologists!
Apparently the agreement has largely failed to achieve even half of its objectives and, as a result, requires revitalization. Let me summarize that the objectives of the Peace Agreement brokered by the IGAD-Plus (Troika and Region) in Addis Ababa in 2015 were to bring to an end the violence, transform security and economic sectors, then conduct general elections under peaceful environment by the end of the transition. However, none of the above objectives has been achieved as the violence continues unabated despite the Peace Agreement having been inked in Addis Ababa in August 2015. The country is currently unstable as it is engulfed by an upsurge of violence deliberately perpetuated by belligerent parties under President Kiir and Dr Riek Machar. Therefore, the conditions on the ground can’t support the survival of the citizens, leave alone elections.
Additionally, the eruption of fighting at the presidential palace in July 2016 illustrates that the warring parties’ (President Kiir’s and Riek’s) aggression against each other is as a sight of Kiir and Riek together triggers bloodshed.
July 2016’s dogfight occurred when President Kiir invited reluctant First Vice President, Dr Riek Machar, to the State House in Juba where they fought fiercely. Prior to a meeting proposed then by President Kiir at State House (J1), there was a fight at Buoba (Check Point) in Gudelle on the eve of July 8, 2016. The situation was already tense when the meeting was convened and various accounts point to Riek expressing concern on conducting a meeting in J1 without the presence of the JMEC Chair, tasked to monitor implementation of peace agreement when proposed it.
Riek loss J1 battle and victorious Kiir delivered him to his base at Jebel alive and well only to be attacked the following morning and chased to Congo forest through the thick jungles of Western Equatoria. Later on, Riek was confined under a house arrest in South Africa where he sought medical attention.
Confinement of Dr Riek gave the newly found political marriage between President Kiir and Taban Deng an impression that they have been given a blank cheque to unleash terror, sending waves of violence across the country with the Equatoria region and Western Bhar El Ghazal heavily hit. Violence in Upper Nile has imprints memory of the worst experience of a violent conflict. Recently the government forces came to face with Pagak, the rebel headquarters for the first time since the violence broke out in 2013 in a breach of the President’s unilateral ceasefire declared during the launch of the failed National Dialogue.
The house arrest of Riek Machar in South Africa laid to open chances to resuscitate the agreement, and to some extent, hiked a number of rebellions. More so, the head of Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, President Festus Mogae’s persistent statement to the media that ‘the agreement is critically wounded but alive’ when in fact, the said agreement was a stillbirth, has given a faulty and biased impression to the world. I think the denial by those with the purview of a solution has emboldened the regime in J1 to commit more offences, hence worsening the humanitarian conditions in the young nation.
In conclusion, President Kiir ought to be confronted with the truth that he is a spent force and should join his partner in violence in South Africa. This will give the people of South Sudan a breathing space to think out their new leadership and its structure. In addition, I would like to urge the friends of South Sudan to reign on President Salva Kiir with a view of confronting both belligerent leaders with exit proposal in forthcoming revitalization discussion. Again it is important to note that any arrangement that confirms the installation of Taban Deng as a replacement for Riek Machar jeopardizes any prospects for peace. The regime’s dubious installation of Taban as first Vice President proved futile. The act symbolically only serves Malaria Patient with Panadol (pain killer) and expected the patient to get cured. I, given the clear state of affairs, do suggest that the trio; namely President Salva Kiir, Riek Machar, and Taban should not be part of any negotiation that would lead to identifying a successor.