Wednesday, April 22, 2015

In defense of the IGAD-led mediation original position on multi-stakeholder negotiations

The South Sudan crisis has invited many parallel peace initiative alongside the IGAD-led mediation, such as the Arusha Intra-party process, the Khartoum process and the less talked about Entebbe meetings.
In addition to siphoning off scarce resources and eroding the necessary sense of urgency and shared purpose, these parallel processes also produced widely divergent end states. Some of them undermined and even contravened the IGAD-led mediation. Some proposed military intervention as a solution, while others focused on restoration of SPLM/A intra-party unity. In direct opposition to IGAD’s choice of a constitutive multi-stakeholder dialogue most actors, particularly Western powers, pressurized for negotiations limited to the two warring parties led by President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar (PhD).
The institution of IGAD-Plus Mediation is the latest mediation effort includes heavyweights under the Troika (US, UK, and Norway), China, five AU Peace and Security Council members representing all regions of Africa (Algeria, Nigeria, South Africa, Chad, and Rwanda), EU and UN. Despite the term ‘Plus’, in this brief piece, I advance reasons why IGAD should remain in the driver’s seat and why it should return to its original position of settling the South Sudan crisis through a constitutive multi-stakeholder negotiation process. Let us carefully examine these parallel initiatives and their chances of success, and why I support the IGAD-led multi-stakeholder dialogue.  
For some, support for President Salva Kiir was considered as a solution to the problem. This approach treats the symptom.
Using their long-standing relations with the SPLM/A, in early 2014 ruling parties in Ethiopia (the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front [EPRDF]) and South Africa (African National Congress [ANC]) organized SPLM intra-party negotiations. However, they failed to solve the intra-party problems and re-constitute the SPLM/A. Subsequently, Tanzania’s Chama Cha Mapiunduzi (CCM) with the support of ANC tried to continue this effort and came up with the Arusha agreement that did not even survive a day. 
Even before the official declaration of the independence of South Sudan, it was clear that the SPLM/A would never transform itself into a democratic party or be able to convert South Sudan into a stable and viable state that exercises civilian control over the SPLA. The South Sudanese leadership lacks not only the capacity, but also the willingness to transform itself into a democratic party or ensure civilian control over the SPLA. A testament to political immaturity, self-serving leadership, and the SPLM’s inability to handle differences within it, many issues, particularly the corruption within the leadership, forewarned of the inevitability of a crisis and the challenges ahead for South Sudan. The measures taken by President Kiir in July 2013, and the subsequent arrest of senior officials of the government and the Party were legally unconstitutional, politically unwise and devoid of any elements of a visionary leadership. The 2013 crisis exposed the bankruptcy of the SPLM/A leadership that squandered the sense of legitimacy it generated during the armed struggle. Since independence, the SPLM/A did not produce new legitimacy sources. Devoid of ideological foundations, a commonly shared national vision for the country and a strong organizational structure, SPLM/A and its various factions have now become the biggest threats to the future viable of South Sudan. Failing to replace the glue of national liberation with a commonly shared vision of a post-independence state, the strings now holding the SPLM/A together are power and money. Competing for more power and money, rival groups have emerged. It was therefore clear that the SPLM had ruptured beyond repair and thus did not have any legitimacy to rule the country.
Dead on arrival intra-party process by Ethiopia’s EPRDF, South Africa’s ANC and later on Tanzania’s CCM unsuccessfully tried to repair the fractured SPLM/A. Many South Sudanese highly and emotionally associated with the SPLM/A did not want to see the end of SPLM/A. Despite being the wish of all, intra-SPLM/A mediation was and will remain a quixotic, futile effort. History of left leaning liberation movements teaches us that SPLM/A like movements never allow two commanding heights to survive in an organization. One has to surface as winner to lead the movement. This is what happened in ANC, EPRDF, EPLF and so on, and that is what happened in SPLM/A. Even worst, unlike the others liberation movements, in SPLM/A, the group lead by President Kiir was unable to monopolize the means of violence and mobilize more votes within the movement than the rebel groups. In actual terms, opposition groups, particularly the rebel movement led by Reik Machar, has been able to galvanize more than half of the SPLA and the entire Nuer community. Now the genie is out of the bottle. SPLM/A is not and will not be able to assemble adherents as it did during the independence struggle. Depending on the political measures to be taken by the government, other communities may join the rebel group. Increasingly South Sudan will only being able to address this problem through a genuine federative arrangement. For such a solution, the will of the President is not sufficient; the capacity to effect will is necessary. It is highly questionable if President Kiir now has the power to implement his will through the current incumbent ministers and vice president. For the incumbent cabinet members and other lower ranking officials, transitional government would mean effectively purging themselves from their current positions of power and authority. They will resist it to the extent their power allows. For that reason, President Kiir is a prisoner of his own cabinet formed after the crisis of 2013. Hence, SPLM/A is beyond repair, and the government of South Sudan is a plane on autopilot.  
In the view of other actors, particularly some Western countries, dialogue between the warring parities will somehow bring peace to South Sudan. This would be a welcome relief in order to focus on other ongoing chaotic and confusing situations elsewhere, such as in the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa. They felt that the IGAD multi-stakeholders approach precluded them from achieving this relief. What is more important, the only position that the two warring parties agree on is their rejection of the proposed IGAD multi-stakeholder mediation process. In this regard, both camps immediately and unequivocally rejected the idea of multi-stakeholders. The reason for this commonly shared position between the two arch foes is clear and simple: a multi-stakeholder mediation may empower all vital South Sudanese forces including non-state actors, non-warring opposition groups and faith-based organizations. All South Sudanese actors with stakes in their country would fully and substantively participate in the determination of the fate of the country. This could culminate in dispersing the current power exercised by the warring parties. With the same objective of monopolizing power, both warring parties have rejected multi-stakeholder negotiations.
For this very reason, the warring parties, some Western countries and a few African countries pushed IGAD to call off its original plan of multi-stakeholder negotiations, and focus on the two warring parties. So far it has not brought any solution. Even if the warring parties were to agree to some deal, this would be nothing more than a quick fix.
As in the cases of Darfur, Sudan, in 2006 and Somalia until 2010, such parallel processes emanate from different interests of individual actors. It also reflects the divergent views about what constitutes a successful end state in terms of the IGAD-led mediation. As we have witnessed with the Peace Agreements (PAs) in Sudan, mainly the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), most of the fundamentals required for a peaceful Sudan were only addressed on paper and never implemented.
The mediation also have to avoid what I called in 2007 the ‘DPA-effect’ in which mediation has exacerbating the existing divisions within the warring and other forces and spawned new differences among the rebel groups, ending in the exponential fragmentation rebel groups in the process towards the signing of DPA in 2006. These agreements were effective only in getting short-range deals with ultimate purpose of secession for South Sudan and intervention in Darfur. More importantly, they were results highly internationalization mediation processes with a pressure to produce some agreement for the consumption of the media. They were not helpful in nation building. Since the international community has been the guarantor of the CPA and DPA. It has significant responsibility for the situation in South Sudan. Clearly, the political, economic and diplomatic capital of the international community and IGAD, particularly Ethiopia has been put to test in this mediation.  But, the mediation needs to avoid ‘CPA-like face saving’ deal that has more outstanding issues than those settled even after almost a decade.
Those who are not satisfied with face saving ‘PAs’ have been long convinced that an inclusive multi-stakeholder peace process is the only way to solve the continuing and seemingly intractable crisis in the region. South Sudan's crisis might be easily undermined by the short-term gains of an agreement between the warring parties, about sharing powers that could be promoted as a success by some regional and international actors as well as the news media. This approach may end up with a ‘CPA’ type of agreement with more outstanding issues than those that are settled. With the priority given to satisfying the demands of warring parties, and exclusion of unarmed political groups from the negotiation process, the only way to be heard and taken seriously by in the mediation will be to pick up an AK-47 and continue resorting to violence.  This would encourage grievances to escalate into violence. Moreover, with such heavy reliance upon rebel groups, South Sudan, would constitutionally end up as a state made up of a ‘patchwork’ of peace agreements with a never-ending peace process like the efforts of the AU High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) in Sudan. IGAD Plus should not tolerate the kind of disrespect shown to AUHIP by the incumbent National Congress Party that failed to attend the Pre-Dialogue Meeting. As such IGAD Plus should prepare itself for a scenario of non-cooperation by one or both warring parties. 
The IGAD provides both procedural legitimacy and substantive local expertise. Its mandate is supported by the member states, the AU principle of subsidiarity and above all its experience in the regional peace process and capacity to sustain the peace process if necessary for long-time. Despite, challenges emanating from untamed national interests of member states in IGAD, it remains the only forum appropriate to lead the mediation effort. IGAD knows the problems of South Sudan very well. It was the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development (IGADD), the forerunner to the IGAD that launched the peace initiative at its Addis Ababa summit of September 7, 1993. IGADD, with the initiative of Ethiopia, introduced the 1994 Declaration of Principles (DOP) that aimed to identify the essential elements necessary for a just and comprehensive peace settlement in order to end the civil war in Sudan. The current envoys and the leaders in the region know the origins and current situation in the region and in South Sudan in great details. What is important as the region that will be most affected by crisis, the stakes are higher for the IGAD than any other organization. This provides interests that sustain efforts in seeing a stable South Sudan unlike other actors with short-term interest and thus limited commitment. A case in point is the unceasing effort of IGAD in Somalia even at times the international community had abandoned the effort. Applying the principle of subsidiarity, IGAD is the most proximate entity to deal with the crisis. As we have seen in the Sudan and Somalia peace processes, quick fixes and face-saving agreements for the consumption of the news media have never worked.
As reflected in the first draft protocol for transitional government, IGAD’s long-term perspective entails a multi-stakeholder negotiation process for a constitutive transitional dialogue and the establishment of a government that is inclusive but not limited to the warring parties, the former detainees, and other sources of legitimacy such as religious and traditional elders. Accordingly, it was appropriate for the IGAD to push for the establishment of a transitional government of national unity (TGNU), which is yet to be realized. The establishment of the TGNU in August 2014 was intended to be a broad based stakeholder consultation forum that included the two warring groups, former detainees, other political parties, the CSOs and faith based leaders. 
Any lesser arrangement would be a short-term gain that will place South Sudan and the region in the same situation applicable to Sudan, with no peace and no war, but considerable instability, lacking any long-term vision and with no end to the AUHIP peace process in sight. 
The IGAD-Plus mediation efforts and transitional processes should avoid excessive reliance on the warring parties as if they are democratically elected representatives of the population affected by the conflicts. Only inclusive multi-stakeholder dialogue among all forces in South Sudan that can address major national questions within and outside of the SPLM could reconstitute the legitimacy of such actors to govern as a single body. A prerequisite for a stable South Sudan, the IGAD Plus process needs to re-institute the original concept of IGAD's multi-stakeholder constitutive national dialogue. First, the two parties only negotiation has reached a cul-de-sac. Aggravating the crisis, it may fester the crisis into total civil war beyond the current areas of conflicts. Second, the negotiation has degenerated the mediation into power play between the warring parties at the cost of nation building. One cannot pretend that South Sudan is a nation, thus turning the crisis into opportunity, the mediation effort should be used an initiative to help South Sudanese to begin a proper constitutive process towards nation building. The mediation, though multi-stakeholder negotiation, was and ought to be about nation building, it was rather effectively reduced into power and wealth sharing deals. This is an illusion, as a mediation of the two warring parties could not galvanize the necessary popular legitimacy for nation building. Third, a multi-stakeholder dialogue does not preclude negotiations between the current and potential warring parties.  Fourth and most importantly, as proven in the Arusha and Mwanza rounds of negotiation for Burundi, one would understand that multi-stakeholder negotiation could better usher relatively durable deal through a multi-stakeholder negotiations with representatives not only of warring parties but also civilian political formations and civil society organizations. With a specific time frame, these processes invited various groups representing the Burundian society to come together. While some of the warring parties were vital for the process without which the negotiation could not succeed, the other representatives were also critical parties to the success of the mediation effort.
IGAD needs to stick to its old multi-stakeholder approach to peace negotiations, regardless of the time it required to achieve a successful outcome. It would be far more beneficial to devote as much time as is required to ensure a durable peace than to settle for a fragile face-saving deal that holds only until the parties arrive in Juba.   It may take a long time, but as happened in Somalia, international and other regional forces will eventually come to realize that only a multi-stakeholder peace process holds out  hope of a durable peace
By Mehari Taddele Maru

Thursday, April 16, 2015

No End in Sight for South Sudan's crisis

By: Abel Abate and Dr. Mehari Taddele Maru

The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) would perform an important service to the people of South Sudan if it succeeds in ending the current civil war, revitalises the role of its collective leadership and decision-making, and transforms itself into a popular, democratic movement that appeals to its political rivals and the general population with the simple message of unity and equality, insist Abel Abate Demissie and Dr Mehari Taddele Maru

It has been a year and few months since the South Sudan conflict erupted and led to the killings of tens of thousands of civilians and the displacement of over two million people, more than 10 percent of the population, according to the United Nations estimate. There have been many peace and power sharing agreements signed between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Dr Riek Machar, but to no avail. On March 6, 2015, on the completion of the deadline for the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-led mediation, the IGAD Chair, Prime Minister Haile Mariam of Ethiopia expressed his disappointment on the failure of the two warring parties to come up with a breakthrough in the mediation. With an intention of putting pressure on the warring parties while in a closed-door ‘final’ negotiation in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa on March 3, the United Nations Security Council members unanimously adopted a resolution to impose sanctions on those disrupting efforts to restore peace in South Sudan. With the endorsement of IGAD countries, both Russia and China supported the sanction.

Challenges Affecting the Mediation Effort 

International actors supporting the South Sudanese peace effort, including the IGAD as well as the ‘Troika’ (comprising the US, UK and Norway), have reiterated warnings to impose severe sanctions on those dragging their feet in the peace process. The US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power was quoted by Reuters as saying,“(IGAD) are now sitting down with the parties and making (it) very clear that if this round of talks ... do not succeed then IGAD and the (Security) Council are going to need to move out on these long-threatened sanctions.” This is the continuation of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s effort in June 2014 to persuade three of South Sudan’s immediate neighbours to impose tough penalties against the spoilers of the mediation process.

The Information and Broadcasting Minister Michael Makuei Lueth has reportedly expressed his dissatisfaction with the IGAD-mediation team. “We are appealing to the region and especially the Kenyan government. Kenya is the centre for everything here in the region. This is where our message should be carried from,” he is reported to have said. In August 2014, Ezekiel LolGatkuoth, former South Sudanese ambassador to the United States and top aide of Dr Riek Machar, criticised the IGAD for ‘legitimising Kiir’. In June 2014, the South Sudanese government threatened to withdraw from the IGAD mediation after the Executive Secretary of the IGAD, (Eng.) Mahboub Maalim, allegedly said that the warring parties were ‘stupid’ if they believed they could win militarily.

The only reason that has kept the warring factions in the negotiation process seems to be the fear of alienation and sanction across the region and the world. South Sudan, which receives a major part of its budget from international donors, is not expected to survive long without it. Lacking the type of party and state structure and popular anti-western social base that enabled the Sudanese and Eritrean regime to survive and sustain themselves under similar sanctions and international pressure, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the state would be unable to sustain similar levels of sanctions, if imposed. The state, which depends solely on oil revenue for FINANCING the entire public service, faces a serious decline in its ability to exercise legitimate core functions, including the maintenance of law and order, and the operation of the armed forces (SPLA). This weakness constitutes a recipe for state failure in South Sudan.

On the other hand, if the anticipated sanctions that include asset freezes are imposed, the damage on the rebel’s side will also be fatal. As most of the FINANCE is received from the Nuer diaspora and some other sympathisers abroad, there is no way the Machar group can afford a cut in its budget.

There is also a growing consensus that the mediation efforts should employ a fresh approach as present efforts have not delivered the anticipated result. The mediation has taken place in unfavourable circumstances with the requirement to adopt some imperfect positions and approaches, such as the inclusion of ethnic and religious representatives with the vision and commitment to transform themselves and their followers from a purely sectarian outlook to that of democratic citizenry. In this regard, a serious concern of the IGAD-led mediation process is the need to ensure the inclusivity of representatives of all communities, particularly those from peripheral areas located far away from the capital Juba. These include organisations that were disenfranchised even before the crisis erupted (mainly in the diaspora) and those who were displaced during and after the crisis.

Possible Way Out

The international community needs to continue exerting its utmost pressure on the warring parties. The pressure should also be imposed on regional countries that are directly involved in support of one group over the other. The unilateral involvement of certain countries to support one group over the other will drive South Sudan in particular and the region in general into a deeper political quagmire. The best way to resolve the South Sudan crisis is to form a transitional caretaker government, composed of individuals considered independent, but with popular legitimacy and professional integrity, to lead the country for a specified time period. The transitional government would be entrusted with the role of formulating a constitution and forming an electoral board. It also needs to envision a federalist state as the conflict is mainly along ethnic lines. This would ultimately require the exclusion of the two leaders of the warring factions from any state leadership position. Ensuring a transitional process that is insulated from undue influence of the warring groups like an independent transitional arrangement would create a level playing political field for all participants, including those outside the SPLM/A.

Given that legitimacy is now dispersed among many actors, including the incumbent, the rebel faction, the third bloc and other civil society organisations, mainly religious organs, this legitimate transitional process could unite all South Sudanese political actors. For the transitional process to enjoy popular legitimacy, it must be inclusive. The caretaker government must bring representatives of Internally Displaced People (IDP) and refugees as well as the diaspora together to participate in a constitutive national dialogue. Such an arrangement would ensure that stability and legitimacy can be pursued together, without sacrificing legitimacy for the sake of stability by allowing the powers that be to remain in power. This arrangement would ensure the comprehensive nature and sustainability of the peace agreement.

However, despite being most desirable, this scenario still remains the least probable, as it is mainly dependent on the political will of the warring parties, particularly their leaders. For the incumbent group and perhaps for the current president and the former vice president, personally, inclusivity may not lead to a happy ending. Companies and external forces may work against such an arrangement, as it may endanger existing financial and other interests.

Multiple Scenarios

A more pragmatic solution would be to work for a government of national unity. South Sudan can usher in a transitional Government of National Unity similar to that of Kenya and Zimbabwe where the ruling and opposition parties share power. As a result, these countries entered into relatively peaceful election processes.

A similar situation might occur in South Sudan. However, there is no strong judiciary in the country, as in Kenya, and to a limited extent in Zimbabwe. More essentially, the SPLA is not a professionally neutral and with a united army as in the case of the Kenyan armed forces. Despite many concerns surrounding the result of Kenya’s last election, the Kenyan armed forces remained neutral. The SPLA still remains an ideologically and ethnically politicised rebel army. Governments of national unity do not necessarily lead to democratic dispensations, but as experienced in Kenya and Zimbabwe, they are capable of delivering stability and reducing political violence.

A government of national unity composed of the warring groups of the SPLM is highly probable, given that a stable central government is vital in order to prevent further violence and total collapse of the South Sudanese state. While seeking the best scenario under a caretaker government, a government of national unity may simply be the best outcome that the IGAD-led mediation effort can deliver.

However, the continuation of the current situation where the incumbent SPLM group in government continues to stay in power is unacceptable. With such dispersed centres of legitimacy, the status quo is unsustainable unless the SPLM/A is reconstituted afresh. The root cause of the current crisis resides in the unwillingness of the SPLM/A to transform itself into a democratic political party fit to govern post-independent South Sudan. Thus, stability and democracy in South Sudan requires radical reform of the SPLM/A, or total replacement of the current system of governance by a constitutional democracy. The current government will be able to achieve popular legitimacy only if it embarks upon the democratic reconstruction of the governing structures of the SPLM/A and commences an inclusive, constitutive national dialogue process. The SPLM would perform an important service to the people of South Sudan if it succeeds in closing this chapter, revitalises the role of its collective leadership and decision-making and transforms itself into a popular, democratic movement that appeals to its political rivals and the general population with the simple message of unity and equality.