Opinion| Deployment of SSPDF in the Democratic Republic of Congo a premature contribution to the regional peace
It can be courteously articulated that the Republic of South Sudan has made substantial developments in the area of foreign engagement with other sovereign nation-states and non-state actors, especially over the last three years.
The most tangible turning points of these interactions include; the recent deployment of the SSPDF soldiers in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the establishment of diplomatic relations with some countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the successful conclusion of the Sudanese Peace Agreement, also known as “the Juba Agreement for Peace in Sudan”.
However, there arises a simple question: Are some of these actions meant to benefit the Republic of South Sudan? Well, answers to this query may vary significantly, depending on how people one may ask view these situations.
In this article, I will precisely make a painstaking analysis of the recent deployment of the SSPDF in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo - a foreign policy execution I term as ‘a premature contribution to the regional peace.
As such, on 28 December 2022, President Salva Kiir Mayardit officiated the graduation of 750 SSPDF soldiers who set forth to leave for the Democratic Republic of Congo to serve as part of the East African Standby Force (EASF). Shortly after, the first batch of those forces left for the Democratic Republic of Congo on 30 December 2022. An additional troop of 300 was afterward flown and dropped in the same area on 3 April 2023. However, no comprehensive details for such a mission were made public other than an asymmetrical account just to curtail the territorial advances of the M23 rebels in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Although fundamental questions were later raised by some South Sudanese activists as to when those soldiers will return home and who will pay for their service, the worries remain unanswered and far from being disclosed or debated.
Consequently, the mission has now caught the attention of some concerned citizens who keep questioning its legality and purpose. As such, it can be objectively reasoned that the deployment of the SSPDF in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has been done prematurely under an erroneous impression.
If I may ask the architects of this policy: why should the government of South Sudan prioritize “Regional Peace” when it still bears profound security cracks on its back? How is the ongoing conflict in the Eastern DRC a serious national security concern of the Republic of South Sudan? Was the issue tabled before the R-TNLA for deliberation? In my opinion, the plan is indeed premature in both theory and practice and it is only a rush to the regional power. It is principally too early for South Sudan to get rid of such tiny stones from the eyes of DRC in that capacity because it is still battling with its own which are more prevalent.
Today, it is self-evident that the Republic of South Sudan is engulfed by enormous challenges. For instance, our civil population is facing grave insecurity. Most of these insecurity-related cases emerge from frequent inter-communal conflicts, cattle raids, child abductions, road ambushes, revenge killings, territorial encroachments, and many more. These problems have indisputably become so pervasive and inordinate that the Government of South Sudan needs to inject in terrific amounts of both human and material resources to curb them. In this picture, it becomes self-contradictory to see our military leaving for a foreign land to mitigate similar challenges which are more massive here at home. Could it not have been a better policy option if those forces were missioned in one of the states of South Sudan to conduct thorough disarmament?
Under related circumstances, our country still hosts plenty of foreign troops whose mandate according to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is to protect the South Sudanese civil population, which in practical terms has not been rendered perfectly. Yet, on 15 March 2023, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution (S/RES/2677/2023) extending the term of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to 15 March 2024, with a ceiling of 17,000 military troops and 2,101 police personnel. The presence of these titanic figures of foreign forces on our soil is not only undermining the sovereignty of the Republic of South Sudan but is also challenging the competency of the South Sudanese government in protecting its citizens. With all these scathing accounts standing before our nation and her government, neither do I perceive any genuine reason for sending the SSPDF soldiers to Eastern DRC. Hence, the execution of this foreign policy is nothing but a deviation from pressing national issues.
Another critical issue that may be dented by the deployment of the SSPDF troops in the Eastern DRC is the implementation of a peace agreement through the “Road Map”. First and foremost, the Republic of South Sudan will need to fulfill its financial obligations to the regional body (EAC) to facilitate the East African Standby Force mission in the DRC for an undisclosed period. Secondly, it will consistently check our military hardware and other essential military aid for her contingent. That alone is a great deal of money. While here at home, it is an obvious fact that the Security Arrangements of the R-ARCSS are the slowest of all stipulated provisions. The R-TGoNU is currently competing with schedules to finalize the graduation of remaining forces to join other batches of “the Necessary Unified Forces” (NUF). The graduation of all screened soldiers and organized forces would have been conducted simultaneously before 2020 but it did not materialize due to what principals of the peace agreement often referred to as “logistical problems”. So, here emerges a question: Will these logistical matters not be exacerbated by the SSPDF mission in the DRC? The answer is yes. And if this situation is not arrested before time, it will defy the course of the proposed 2024 general elections and that will mark the end of the story.
With all these elaborate problems, I can with full conviction conclude that the deployment of the SSPDF forces in the Eastern DRC needs further examination. Doing so will enable us to understand the consequences of committing our troops just for an inconsequential regional problem. Right now we as a nation stand on a critical bridge. So far we are experiencing severe economic decline, political conflict, and social felony. These socioeconomic and political evils should have been addressed aggressively before attempting to participate in the regional peacekeeping mission. For that reason, seeing the judgments of our policymakers consenting to regional influence at this precarious time becomes bothersome. Therefore, the mission has been embraced prematurely in both theory and practice, and it will not be benefiting this country either.
As a nation, we should master the art of reservation when dealing with regional and international affairs for there are better ways we should have supported the DRC government other than our human resources.
The author, Amaju Ubur Yalamoi Ayani, is a South Sudanese Student of political science at The University of Juba and can be reached via email@example.com.
The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made is the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.