Equatoria Diaspora Leaders Encourage Donald Booth on Implementation of ARCISS

Open Letter
Open Letter

A letter to Donald Booth, Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, urging speedy implementation of Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS).


Mr. Federico Awi Vuni, Chair, Equatorian Community in the UK
Mr. Kwaje Lasu, President, Equatorian South Sudanese Community Association, USA
Mr. Joseph Modi, President, Equatorian South Sudanese Community Association, Canada
Mr William Orule, Chairperson, Equatoria Community & Welfare Association, NSW, AUSTRALIA
For correspondence: Mr. Federico Awi Vuni; livi.hope@yahoo.co.uk

To: Donald Booth, Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan

C.C: U.S. Embassy, London; 24 Grosvenor Square, London, W1K 6AH, United Kingdom

Date: 19th December 2015

Dear Envoy, Donald Booth

Re: What the US Government and Partners could do more to Speed up Implementation of Agreement on Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS).

This letter is to thank you, the people of America and your Government for the historical role that you played in brokering the previous peace agreement, commonly known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement or CPA, which led to independence of South Sudan. We specially want to thank you for your recent testimony to the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on December 10, 2015 and your continued efforts to find a durable solution to the current conflict in South Sudan. In this regard, we also share with you in this letter some ideas on how to address the challenges that lie ahead to realise peace in South Sudan.

It is worth drawing your attention to the flaws of CPA which divided powers between the National Congress Party (NCP) of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement or SPLM. This was one of the root causes of the current conflict, according to African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan Report (October, 2014). The current peace agreement, referred to as Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan, has fallen into the same trap of dividing powers between SPLM in Government (SPLM-IG), SPLM in Opposition (SPLM-IO) and SPLM Former Detainees (SPLM-FD) resulting in insurgencies in Equatoria and Western Bahr-el-Ghazal states. We need to point out that the Compromise Agreement has rewarded the use of arms for political gains and that the IGAD-plus failed to take account of the personal opinion of Prof Mahmood Mamdani to exclude Kiir and Riek Machar and all those in government pre-July 2013, dissolution of cabinet from participating in the TGoNU. These are mistakes the IGAD-plus may live to regret.

Sponsoring of the Peace Agreement Implementation:

Whereas the vast majority of the people of South Sudan want the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) formed at once and the agreement implemented promptly and fully, we are also aware that the economy is in shambles. Indeed we have reports confirming that the government has only $2 million US dollars to fund its budgetary commitments for the whole of December, 2015. The government has unwisely spent most of its oil revenue since 2005 on the military and kleptocracy. After independence in 2011, instead of embarking upon building of infrastructure development, delivering of services, provision of health services and developing the country’s education, energy, water, housing and sanitation sectors, with projects to improve the standard of living for majority of South Sudanese, the government wilfully opted to exhaust its financial resources and mortgage our oil resources to obtain loans to wage war against its own people. This is forcing the government to use delaying tactics to obstruct implementation of the peace agreement.

We South Sudanese in Diaspora in the USA, Canada, UK, Europe and Australia, caution any desire or motives to sponsor implementation of peace agreement by external donors. During the interim period 2005-2011, Western donors poured billions of dollars into reconstruction and capacity building programmes. Albeit it was in good faith, the Government of South Sudan took it to be responsibility of donors to develop South Sudan, while it mercilessly siphoned the nation’s oil revenue into personal and private external accounts. According to the African Union (AU) Report published October, 2014, some of these funds were paid by oil companies directly into private accounts bypassing the Bank of South Sudan and the ministry of finance and economic development. We are sure, we are not telling you anything new here.

We would however wish to point out that, the USA and other development partners must avoid creating a spirit of dependency in the psyche of our so-called leaders. At independence, South Sudan had billions of oil revenue which most African country could only dream of at their own independence. Secondly, South Sudan, contrary to government rhetoric and confirmed in the AU Report released in 2015, had artificially created the man power shortages. In fact, South Sudan had more educated calibre worldwide, than most African counties had at independence in early 1960s and 1970s.

Mr. Booth, this may come to you as a surprise but we would like to point out to you, that the former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosovich killed fewer Bosnian Muslims, than the estimated thousands of Nuers who perished in the hands of President Kiir’s security forces in targeted ethnic cleansing in Juba, in December 2013. We question the rationality of double standards in application of international human rights law. We further question the logic of leaving the two protagonists in South Sudan’s war leaders who have failed their people as your subtitle suggests (“Independent South Sudan: A Failure of Leadership”), in position of national power simply because they have political constituencies. This is introduction of a new dimension in understanding African politics. What it is basically saying is that if you come from a majority tribe, you are immune from accountability no matter how heinous the crime committed. We are afraid that in leaving President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar in position of authority in the country, you have squandered a golden opportunity to change things for the better for South Sudan. Is it any surprise that the two preferred leaders, are dragging their feet in implementing the agreement which the US helped to broker for the second time?

We are concerned about this issue of moral equivalence. Right from January 2014, the international media and the international community failed the people of South Sudan by consistently blaming both side equally. This is unacceptable lack of seriousness on the part of the international community. The IGAD-Plus and international media should refrain from blaming both sides for every little or big violations or obstructions to the peace implementation. It should call “a spade a spade”. We trust the international media, UN agents and others have the resources and capabilities to determine who the aggressor is in any given situation and should disclose the truth however unpalatable, instead of systematic covering up tactics which is becoming a part and parcel of this protracted conflict than a solution. The majority of our people may be illiterate but non-the-less they are intelligent enough to discern the truth by them-selves and need not be deceived by obstruction of the truth.

The Way Forward

1. The USA knows it had to use the policy of “stick and carrot” to push through with the CPA implementation: 2005-2011. We, the South Sudanese in Diaspora are not fully satisfied with the pressure or sanctions the US government has so far employed. We feel that the US is adopting a softly, softly approach on President Kiir especially and tends to come rather strongly on the SPLM-IO. This unfairness should stop and the buck must stop with the President who should not be allowed to continue playing tricks without consequences. Keeping Kiir unaccountable will lead to long-term instability in the country and region. The self-selected Dinka tribal elders that called itself Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) that is affiliated to President Kiir has been ill-advising the President and he appeared to rely on the advice of this elders more than his formal Presidential Advisors, ministers, or parliament.

The SPLA is to blame for activities of SPLM-North and therefore destabilising the Sudan. The stability of South Sudan will eventually depend on a) forcing President Museveni to severe links with President Kiir’s criminal regime, b) empowering South Sudan regions to provide protection for their local population much more like the policy of empowering the Kurds in Iraq. President Kiir and his Dinka tribe have adopted a policy of occupying Equatoria states and other minority tribes in South Sudan, and subjugating its citizens. In order to overcome this bullying strategy by majority tribe, each region / states needs to be semi-autonomous, and militarily strengthened, with loose power from the centre.

2. We support funding for the implementation of the Peace Agreement, the establishment and operation of the Transitional Government of National Unity. Such funding must be subject to tight financial accountability and scrutiny, with tangible benefits realised by the people of South Sudan.

3. Capacity-building: what the county needs is to focus on long-term development of the education sector from primary to tertiary level with balanced curriculum at each stage which includes human rights education. Short-term capacity building unless carefully targeted will be seen as an alternative to provision of good quality national educational programme. You would agree that a country that continues to educate its children in neighbouring countries, or refer officials for treatment abroad while the poor go without, education and medical care, has got its priorities wrong. Unfortunately, this is what is happening under the regime of President Kiir.

The American dream is based on the ability of individuals to make it big if they work hard, and not if they come from the right race, majority race, or privileged background. We expect the US in particular to uphold the virtues and values of democracy, and hard work and not eugenics ideology. President Kiir and his tribal advisers, hold the view that they (Dinka) are a superior tribe in South Sudan, and therefore born to rule the rest in the country. Such ambition may spread in the region of Africa, with devastating consequences. This ideology must be defeated to realise true peace and security in the country and beyond.

4. Strengthening of civil society and grassroots participation in National decision making processes: Prior to 2005, there were no millionaires in South Sudan. South Sudan was almost an egalitarian society. In less than 10 years, the SPLM/A leaders appropriated the country wealth unto themselves and their kith and kins creating a huge class gap between them and the poor citizens who continue to have their rights to life violated or live in abject poverty in camps, in the bushes or as refugees in neighbouring countries.

The civil society including the South Sudanese in Diaspora are well placed to bridge the gap between the leaders and the citizens in terms of raising awareness about civic rights and duties, human rights, democracy and awareness about the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. This being the case, civil society groups including churches and the diaspora should be directly funded by some of the funds pledged for or will be pledged for the TGoNU, to avoid past mistakes and to ensure the people are equitably participating in the management of their country and in matters which directly affects their lives. Most civil society groups are constituted agencies and have accountability mechanisms in place unlike the government that has still to release its audited accounts since 2005.

5. We note with dismay that you have referred to the Chairman of Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) Festus Mogae, former Botswanan President as an arbitrator. We need to caution you although you have admitted that the USA is not naive, that the political animals you are dealing with in South Sudan are not like any other. Indeed you only need to look at the two Sudans where they have completely disabled the work of Tambo Mbeki – the AU High Implementation Panel. These South Sudanese leaders have enormous capacity to frustrate efforts of anybody and any government if given the chance. We therefore demand that the JMEC given its composition be allowed to determine and enforce sanctions immediately as and when necessary; and that where necessary the sanctions should be backed by military threats.

6. The JMEC should demand the appointed Chairperson of the Constitutional Review Commission be allowed to take his place and start the process for reconstituting the National legislature and the TGoNU without further delays.

7. The latest excuse by the Juba regime, that no longer has absolute right to rule as per the peace agreement signed in August 2015, to vet the number or credentials of SPLM-IO, is unacceptable. As you have correctly noted, they are peace partners and no longer adversaries. Besides, any South Sudanese according to UN Declaration of Human Rights, should be able to leave and return no his country of origin, unimpeded. The IGAD-Plus should take firm action to demonstrate to President Kiir that as per the Agreement his government has ratified, he no longer is the sole leader and therefore has no legitimate vetting powers. He does need to respect the mandate of the joint peace partners as from November 2015. He ought to be ruling the country jointly with Dr. Riek Machar. The US, in particular, should not look by helplessly and allow Kiir, to dismantle the peace agreement provision by provision. The US and President Barack Obama in particular, still has a chance to correct its legacy in South Sudan. It’s either now or never.

8. President Kiir must not be allowed to have his way in creating 28 states in the country by a decree. It is simply an affront to democracy, and the peace agreement. Any measure to create new states in South Sudan needs to be subjected to popular consultation, backed up by feasibility study and independent parliamentary scrutiny.

In conclusion, we the Equatorian Leaders of South Sudan in the Diaspora thank you for your time in reading this letter; we thank the American people and the US Government for their efforts in finding a durable peace in South Sudan. The people of South Sudan remain friends of America, and they deserve freedom. We want to be partners in this journey.

Thank you.

Federico Awi Vuni
Executive Committee, Equatorian Community in the UK

William Orule
Equatoria Community & Welfare Association, NSW

Kwaje M. Lasu, MPH, RCP.
Equatoria South Sudanese Community Association-USA (ESSCA-USA)

Mr. Joseph Modi
Equatoria South Sudanese Community Association-Canada (ESSCA- Canada)