Opinion: Is the IGAD peace process being undermined by the Troika countries?
There exists an accumulating body of evidence that the effort by the IGAD to bring peace to South Sudan is being undermined by the Troika countries (mainly the United States and the United Kingdom). Norway is part of the Troika, and therefore to a certain degree goes along with the two countries.
The U.S. and U.K. have spearheaded the narrowly passed arms embargo on South Sudan. Clearly, the five Permanent Members of the UNSC disagreed on the timing of such an action as will negatively impact the ongoing peace process. The imposition of sanctions is clearly intended to hurt the current leadership of the country with the hope that it will force the governing party to be more pliable to a peace agreement that is clearly designed to produce a specific agenda: change the leadership.
This is a self-defeating activity as the efforts to ratchet up pressure on the government may cause the government to question the true intentions of the Troika in the peace process. It has not escaped the attention of the South Sudan’s governing coalition that the U.S. and UK are bent on weakening the government and incentivizing rebels to be intransigent.
It is easy to see how Riek Machar and other handled opposition figures could reason that if the war continues, the international community will continue to mount on the government, to the benefit of armed opposition. Ultimately, Riek’s insurgents will continue to delay reaching a peace with the hope that the SPLM government will collapse, and they will be waiting to take over. This calculation has one undeniable outcome: the current efforts to reach peace appear doomed because the Troika countries want to achieve a specific goal and that is toppling the Juba government, or at least removing certain personalities from South Sudan’s political landscape. This effort has been nakedly demonstrated.
In its last round of unilateral sanctions, the U.S. disproportionately targeted government officials and commanders, and only sanctioned one rebel commander. The rebel commander welcomed being sanctioned; which just goes to show how hollow such actions are.
The U.S. has also imposed a unilateral arms embargo on South Sudan, forgetting that South Sudan does not buy weapons from the U.S. because they are prohibitively expensive, and a country must have the patience needed to navigate cumbersome bureaucratic and legal barriers to purchase weapons from the U.S. The U.S. is also secretly supporting the SPLM-FD group with the hope that they will take over once the Juba administration collapse. It’s bizarre that the U.S., while expressing desire for peace in South Sudan, continues to pursue the very strategy that is undercutting efforts to bring about peace because it is fixated on who should govern South Sudan.
The U.S., as the leading aid donor to the war-affected South Sudan, believes it has the right to allow its activist-led (read Enough Project) policy towards South Sudan to define the outcome of the peace process in South Sudan. The regional effort to return peace to South Sudan suffer setbacks due to a web of conflicting interests. The U.S. simply wants a peace agreement that, at the end of the day, results in the removable of the current leadership and replacing it with a mix of former detainees and moderate elements from the current government and insurgents, and other actors that will tow America’s regional interests.
The regional countries such as Sudan and Uganda have security and economic interests to protect. Sudan is a curious case. Sudan has played a destabilizing role in South Sudan since the country achieved independence due to the believe that South Sudan supports rebels fighting the Khartoum regime. Without Sudan’s support, Riek’s insurgency would have been neutralized.
On the other hand, the ongoing conflict in South Sudan has hampered oil production and this has reduced proceeds that Khartoum receives from pipeline usage fee. Khartoum is experiencing economic difficulties of its own and one would imagine that they would be interested in a peaceful South Sudan.
However, Khartoum is willing to sell South Sudan down the river because it desperately wants to restore its relations with the U.S., and to be removed from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. Sudan, therefore, is willing to temporarily set its economic interests aside, and do the U.S. bidding. Yes, Sudan is being used to sustain Riek’s insurgency to engineer the collapse of the Juba government.
Again, the leader of the Troika, U.S., is willing to engage in a covert effort to remove the leadership of the South Sudan with the hope of finding a team that can manage the post-Kiir complex environment.
Uganda is another case to consider. Uganda is interested in a peaceful and prosperous South Sudan. It’d be an economic windfall for Uganda businesses. South Sudan is also an important security consideration for Uganda. When South Sudan achieved independence, that spelt the end of the brutal reign of terror in northern Uganda where Sudan sponsored LRA to wage war against the people of Uganda.
Shortly after the end of war in South Sudan, Riek Machar played a dubious role of trying to mediate between Uganda and LRA. Riek forgot that the mood in Uganda is that the atrocities committed by the LRA were unforgivable.
Uganda was also aware that Riek’s abortive effort to overthrow Dr. John Garang de Mabior in 1991 set back South Sudan’s struggle for at least ten years. The continuation of the war in South Sudan contributed directly to the most destructive phase of the LRA’s insurgency. This explains why Uganda immediately intervened in South Sudan following the outbreak of the war, and the degree of trust deficit Uganda places on Riek Machar.
Considering such a complex web of colliding interests, what is the way to achieve peace in South Sudan? For the sake of the people of South Sudan, certain interested parties must be willing to forgo their vested interests and let South Sudanese reach some degree of compromise. The Troika led by the U.S. and U.K. must be willing to set aside the hatred towards South Sudan leadership and the need to replace leadership. Only South Sudanese can vote out their leaders.
By using Riek’s insurgency to try to achieve an agreement that results in removing certain personalities from South Sudan’s political process, the U.S. and Troika are pursuing a narrow-minded and rigid goal that could harden the positions of the parties to the war and making it difficult for the parties to reach compromise.
The government is increasingly convinced that the Troika and U.N. are undermining effort to reach peace, and emboldening Riek to not make compromise. This was demonstrated by a choreographed release of the U.N. report of alleged atrocities committed by the government forces against civilians in Unity state. The report did not blame rebels.
Curiously, the Troika countries and the U.N. glaringly withheld statement of support for the milestones reached in Khartoum by the warring parties. Furthermore, the U.N. Security Council immediately took up the U.S.-sponsored motion to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan hoping this would have a positive impact on the ongoing peace talks. The resolution passed narrowly because many members of the UNSC believed the timing was not right because it would not help the ongoing negotiations.
These negative actions on the part of the Troika and U.N. suggest that there is a concerted effort to undermine regional efforts to push the parties towards peace. Why? Again, as expounded above, the Troika and the U.N. are more concerned about changing leadership rather than letting South Sudanese enjoy some degree of peace.
South Sudanese have the final say in the effort to return peace to the country. The government is pursuing the best strategy by being flexible and motivated to see an immediate return to peace.
While being duly cautious, the government of South Sudan should fully embrace the regional efforts as it has been doing. At the end of the day, returning peace to South Sudan is the first step followed by the transition to full democratic process that see reforms in governance and institutions.
There is no question that the government believes in effecting much needed reforms because the benefits will accrue to South Sudan. By embracing peace, the government may thwart attempts by the U.S. and others to meddle in our affairs, and subverting gains towards their own interests.
The author is a South Sudanese living in Germany. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.