Opinion | The presidential address that never was
President Salva Kiir on Monday afternoon surprisingly addressed the nation at a rare press conference where for the nth time he reiterated his ‘pledge’ that he will not take the country back to war.
This despite fighting happening in many parts of the country and the SSPDF being faulted for machinating and orchestrating the same.
Events in the last two weeks came to a head after fighting escalated between the SPLM/A-IO and SSPDF, particularly in Unity and Upper Nile states.
Last Tuesday, the SPLM/A-IO withdrew from the security mechanisms outfits, stating that they were trivial in mitigating repeated attacks. Later in the week, it was reported by the media that representatives of the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA), Other Political Parties (OPP), and SPLM-Former Detainees (FDs) boycotted a scheduled RJMEC meeting in solidarity with SPLM/A-IO.
The UN, Troika, RJMEC, and a myriad other entities came out to condemn the fighting and demand for the proper and uninhibited implementation of the revitalized peace agreement, principally Chapter Two which details security arrangements and the creation of unified forces which are supposed to morph into a national army.
Last Friday, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for South Sudan and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Nicholas Haysom, urged all signatories to the revitalized peace agreement to respect the vital document.
“The decision by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) to suspend its participation in the security mechanisms of the peace agreement is deeply worrying,” SRSG Haysom stated. “However, we acknowledge some of the concerns raised by the SPLM-IO, especially the alarming spike in violent conflict in Upper Nile and Unity states that has directly impacted their cantonment sites as well as innocent civilians.”
The chairman of the Reconstituted Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (RJMEC), during a meeting of the commission’s members last Thursday in Juba, said he was concerned about the escalating clashes between SPLA-IO and SSPDF.
Maj. Gen. Charles Tai Gituai emphasized that the full engagement of all the parties and inclusive dialogue within the framework of the peace agreement is the only way of resolving disagreements.
“I am concerned by the reports of an increasing number of clashes taking place between SPLA-IO forces and defectors to the SSPDF in Upper Nile and Unity states, including in training centers. We have tasked CTSAMVM to further investigate these clashes,” Gen. Gituai said. “I would like to stress that each training center is a symbol of the unity which is being forged through creating a unified force, and any threat to this is unacceptable.”
Seemingly taken off guard, President Kiir on Friday issued a presidential decree in which he relinquished three positions of command in the military and two in the National Police Service to the SPM/A-IO and SSSOA.
Without missing a beat, the SPLM/A-IO swiftly disallowed Kiir’s decree and declared it unilateral and a flouting of the peace deal.
President Kiir had to go back to the drawing board in his war room and thought it ‘wise’ to deploy his Tiger Republican Guard and the infamous National Security Service troops around the environs of Machar’s home in Juba-a move which caused panic and consternation. Perhaps there was a belief that Machar’s bodyguard would panic and fire in defense of their principal, setting the stage for the former’s containment and scuttling the peace agreement like in 2016?
Machar was smarter this time, played it cool, put out missives about the deployment in the public domain, and asked for the guarantors and international community to step in expeditiously to resuscitate the ailing agreement.
On Monday afternoon Radio Tamazuj ran a breaking news headline quoting government spokesman Michael Makuei saying Kiir would address the nation at 3 pm. The country and world waited with uneasiness.
Some of us expected a robust speech about solutions to the problems debilitating the concise implementation of the revitalized peace agreement. Lamentably, it was not to be.
The brief address lacked substance and one wonders if Kiir has proper handlers.
One would have expected Kiir to genuinely placate and reassure the people by recommitting to the peace treaty and its implementation, but alas, he went into a diatribe against what he called partners in broad terms working against him. He conveniently forgot that the partners for the last many years have been picking the bill for feeding and treating the people who he, and the other belligerents, reduced to being wretched of the earth. The same partners even house the people displaced by the war of attrition in IDP and refugee camps. The nerve!
One would expect Kiir to ask the partners to help with the implementation of the peace agreement and in organizing free, fair, and credible elections? No. He has different priorities!
The last issue, which seems to have been why he called the press conference in the first place, was the declassification of telephone communication intercepts by the NSS about well-coordinated and plotted coups in 2013 and 2016.
The declassification and release of these intercepts by a UK law firm looks like a well-financed hatchet job to create a diversion and overturn concerns about the delays in the implementation of the peace agreement which have been dominating headlines and discourse recently.
This writer has seen and will peruse the declassified telephone intercepts records and will dissect them here in the near future.
In a show of magnanimous malfeasance, President Kiir even announced that he had given the coup plotters amnesty. It stinks to high heaven and implies that he wants to be absolved of his sins? A quid pro quo of sorts?
Like it is often said, people who do not tell truths often forget what they said and or did in the past? Kiir conveniently forgets that he, using people like Gen. Paul Malong et al, built and trained forces like the Dut Ku Beny and Mathiang Anyoor in the run-up to the December 2013 crisis who were solely answerable to him and used in massacres and committed war crimes.
President Kiir and all the other leaders should forthwith stop wagering the lives of innocent South Sudanese and genuinely implement the peace agreement. This might even absolve them from their past sins? The people they have collectively reduced to being the wretched of the earth only want peace.
The author, Koka Lo’Lado, is a journalist 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.