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BY DENG VANANG - 12 Dec 2018

Opinion: R-ARCSS in hundred days: its gains, setbacks, winners and losers

Today 12th December marks hundred days when R-ARCSS got initialed on 12th September, 2018 by some rivaling South Sudanese leaders now at ease with one another.

It was not a promising start.

Those who signed did so grudgingly under pressure of arrest and expulsion by the whipping host and mediating Sudanese state.

The harassment didn't even spare the IO's leader, Dr. Riek Machar the agony of being threatened with a humiliating return to incarceration in South Africa.

The rest who stayed put regardless stormed out in protest till now in the name of SSOA's splinter factions.

Following them heads over heels in tow is sympathetic Trioka.

Who by any other name are Western tri-literal institution tasked with financing South Sudanese talks of non-predictable future ever since 2014.

They backed off from signing, while citing a number of more credible reasons.

Among them is an inclusion of President Kiir and SPLM/A-IO Chairman, Dr. Machar in the proposed transitional government of national unity.

The duo is widely blamed for the cause and infinity of debilitating conflict in the country.

Failure to address root causes of conflict, lack of federalism and democratic reforms in the hurriedly negotiated peace document are some of the reasons.

But today the agreement compounded its vociferous skeptics and critics, including the currently vacillating Troika with resolute resilience to survive.

All thanks to visibly exchanged pleasantries in blissful bromance of cheerful six teeth wide smiles, firm handshakes, hearty bosom to bosom hugs, thumb ups and Hi-fives.

Apart from once warring factional soldiers on the ground paying and returning homage at their bases against taking war to one another.

The lul to behold recently and disappointingly plunged into the embarrassing episodes of horrific women rapes and deadly confrontation which exploded into the surface in Unity State.

Suspected to be perpetrated by General Taban Deng's IO faction which fears successful peace agreement shall threaten its gains, while presently in estranged marriage of convenience with Kiir over unfulfilled deal to eliminate IO and its leader, Machar.

Such above mentioned relative tranquility sounds a sharp contrast to that of still holdout groups now suspiciously, but calmly washing out while tenaciously clutching at their own guns from the side lines.

The prevalent thawing of relations, as it appears, is a far cry from previous shilling war experience.

One that was characterized by swinging moods, stern faces and criminal name callings between the leaders at war with themselves in the past.

Without, however, overlooking the bubbling undercurrents threatening to sweep away dividends peace accord has hitherto achieved.

Now in its third-month slow pace and yet struggling implementation as evidenced in the texts which follow.

Registered gains

To prove its smooth sailing against waves of defiance, the agreement calms high political temperatures with optimism gaining momentum.

In the same way rival armies reach out to one another in re-conciliatory mood at their bases.

In addition to evidenced resumption of oil export in major oil fields previously closed down by conflict in 2013 so as to bring back on its feet the faltered economy once again.

With freedom of movement of people being experienced that was previously held at bay by uncompromising warring factions.

The new found freedom of movement released from the cage a number of political detainees by government and SPLM/A-IO.

Although the latter {IO} detained three army Generals of FDP/SSAF in its torturous dark hole -cum- prison in mandeng, the rebel Sobate State's H. Quarters.

The two, Riak Gai and Ochan Puot, are South Sudanese Americans; while Jany Kaway is a South Sudanese Canadian.

The detention unwittingly deprives Machar's SPLM/A-IO of morale leverage to accuse Kiir's government of the same mal-practice it is perpetuating.

IO's officials still under the regime's custody are Aggrey Idris Izbon and Dong Samuel as IO keeps in its grips FDP/SSAF's Generals since early October this year.

The new found freedom is followed in quick succession by successfully staged peace celebration in capital Juba.

Whose contagious effects are gradually loosening misgivings in the hearts and minds of skeptical donors, investors and critics.

With hope for final peace slowly, but surely getting wider support for its less drama in implementation.

Although the celebration got some backlash when Kenyan government failed to show up in highly hyped public relations coup.

Until more recently Nairobi decided to make up for the no show through its stated commitment to peace implementation from which Juba earlier suspected it of bolting.

Particularly by taking over JMEC's Chairmanship under CPA's mediator and former Vice President, Honorable Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka.

His takeover followed an abrupt resignation by publicly vilified Botswana's former President, Festus Mogae.

The positive outcome of peace celebration have resultantly helped economy breath a sigh of relief.

Especially now that guns are silent, road blocks removed and physical harassment relaxed.

With clearest indication so far being heavy traffic is returning to Juba's run down streets ever since 8th July, 2016 when a return to conflict dangerously vibrated.

While in the pre-transitional period meetings in the lead up to formation of unity government in late April next year, there appears general unanimity of purpose on all items under discussion among the stakeholders.

Notable setbacks

The agreement's matrix has fallen behind schedule amidst opposition leaders scramble against one another over special relationship with Kiir.

Such dalliance is poised to make President Kiir reluctant to abide by terms of peace agreement.

Which is evidenced in the staged palace coup de tat by Lt. General Peter Gadet Yak against SSOA's interim Chairman, Hon. Gabriel Changson Chang.

Changson also doubles as Chairman and Commander-In-Chief of FDP/SSAF.

The foiled coup, courtesy of academia triumphing over primitive street fighting, was a long shot away at Vice President slot meant for SSOA.

But painful bruises from fallout are visibly prominent on both sides despite which side is the winner or loser.

For once invested hope in SSOA by majority South Sudanese disenchanted by factious SPLM's poor and thieving governance has now precipitated into an abysmal dismay.

What follows closely is likelihood of crucial issues pertaining to the agreement not being addressed at the time Transitional Government of National Unity shall be established in late April, 2018.

Something to likely lead to major disagreements worth argued by those the derailed implementation may adversely affect in case of all opposition forces.

With holdout groups having shown no signs of relenting to join the peace agreement.

Although some fractions are rejoining peace process with fellow mainstream offshoots still holding onto their uncompromising stand.

The mainstreams, if anything, are emboldened by Trioka's hidden political agenda against peace signatories and admant refusal to fund the implementation process.

This is in spite of some expressed reconciliatory overtures to reach the holdout groups by IO and government.

Much as the name SPLA was abruptly and unilaterally changed into South Sudan People Defense Forces, SSPDF by President Kiir.

He did so without any recourse to the terms of the agreement and current interim constitution as promulgated in 2011.

SPLA is the guerrilla army that fought liberation war from 1983 and later transformed into regional army of South Sudan autonomous government in July, 2005.

It was eventually re-branded into independence national army of South Sudan immediately following the declaration of independence in July 20011.

Immediately after peace celebration in Juba, South Sudan National Dialogue, SSND proposed three former regions of Upper Nile, Equatoria and Bhar el Ghazal.

With an aim of making them major geo-political administrative units in the currently regionally and ethnically divided country.

It is the same proposal both the government and IO rejected during peace negotiations as proposed by SSOA.

The move seeks to reverse Dr. Lam Akol’s led boundary commission tasked with reviewing government’s 32 and IO’s 21 rival States.

Commission's intention is to return the country to 10 states before the conflict erupted on 15th December, 2013.

If no compromise deal is reached, then the people could be subjected to nationwide referendum for the best way forward with no sign of becoming realistic.

Hurried and recently more determined efforts to relocate capital Juba to Ramciel signals a ploy by Kiir and henchmen to get an advantage over rivals on certain terms of the agreement.

The terms affirmed Juba as the usual seat of S. Sudanese government, unless it is mutually decided otherwise by all parties given the emerging atmosphere of heightened suspicions.

There can be rightfully speculated reasons for sudden change of mind to shift capital city.

First is to take capital to Dinka heartland where Kiir shall have a firm control over what will likely be a shaky government.

Second is to continue controlling national resources for a single ethnic group.

Since most country's resources will definitely be channeled towards building the new capital, resulting in spectacular economic boon for local residents there.

Third is a sure means to consolidate long though out promotion of Dinka language over and above others to the level of the country's official language with sole aim of replacing English in foreseeable future.

All thanks to what shall be the domination of new capital's markets and other vital means of financial transactions by Dinka language speakers.

Following closely is the conundrum in State of emergency now still in force as declared back in 2013.

The declared emergency gives the State's security forces under Kiir arbitrary powers to deal with any deemed nuisance without any recourse to the rule of law.

Last but not least, there appear to be mandarins in South Sudan's Ministry of Finance and Economic Planing who deliberately delay the release of funds President Kiir pretentiously ordered.

As the only source of funding peace implementation, their target aim is to starve it of funding.

A ploy that will subsequently deny the life-saving process of taking the necessary steps needed, if not killing it altogether.

Suspended funding fuels remorse of a renewed conflict when London-based Conflict Armament Research (CAR}'s recently released four-year investigation report amidst ongoing massive recruitment of new forces by rival factions.

The report noted systematic violations of UN's imposed arms embargo by regional States, especially Uganda.

The same neighboring countries tasked with the very peace implementation they are clandestinely undermining via supply of arms of mass destruction to the warring factions.

Joyful winners and sore losers

Government is currently the more notable smiling victor 100% over visibly seen setbacks.

Fueled by opposition parties' scramble over plumb jobs peace is poised to offer than to spare a thought over its future status.

While over the already registered gains, holdout groups seemed to have been isolated by popular yearn for peace among civil population and the army in the war divided country.

Such goodwill for peace flourishes regardless of some known misgivings on whether or not peace agreement shall remain to hold in its actual form and shape in the foreseeable future.

On the other hand SSOA, FDs and OPP could feel the realization of their objective by the government if SSND’s proposal of three regions comes to fruition.

Particularly if the proposal based on 10 States and federal system of governance with pre-colonial borders as they stood on Ist January, 1956 comes to fruition.

But IO seems to be on the losing side since the proposal evidently not just isolates its leader, Dr. Riek Machar from Equatoria.

It moreover retrogresively relegates him to the position of an aspiring regional leader of Upper Nile region, while leaving his arch-rival Kiir in the monopoly of coveted political centre stage.

Completely in contrast to nationwide larger than life image he presently projects as a spring boat to Presidency.

In addition, the change of SPLA into SSPDF has got its own riskier ramifications.

Primarily, it negatively affects SPLA-IO which hopes to benefit from liberation legacy SPLA is commonly associated with.

Which indirectly translates into popular support for its political wing, SPLM-IO among the electorate.

Secondly, by changing SPLA into SSPDF, Kiir and his handlers have systematically avoided terrorist tag SPLA is associated with by CIA and United States government.

With those still being proudly called SPLA like SPLA-IO shall face dire consequences accrued from such terrorist organization designation instead.

Thirdly, other factions shall feel aggrieved that Kiir's change of SPLA's name has violated the working interim constitution in his failure to uphold South Sudan Armed Forces, SSAF.

Which is the name all parties agreed and subsequently enacted into constitution in 2012.

Whereas SSND’s three regions proposal has government strategy under its veneer.

First is to get SSND recognized by the opposition with subsequent endorsement as the sole reconciliation body in place of peace agreement mandated National Peace, Reconciliation and Healing.

Second government's ploy is to avoid accountability for war crimes it grossly committed should regional hybrid court be set up.

Since the SSND has more subtle definition of embarking on only dialogue, reconciliation, forgiveness and healing.

While it is similarly shying away from facing court the agreement recommended to try the indicted individuals accused of heinous war crimes.

Should SSND succeed in its designs, then the government shall be delightful winner, with losers being the opposition and South Sudanese people.

Who will surely continue to suffer from crimes perpetuated by those who only know it too well they cannot be held accountable for them.

The author, Deng Vanang, is Spokesperson for Federal Democratic Party/South Sudan Armed Forces, FDP/SSAF. He can be reached at  

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.