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