Equatorian Diaspora Response to IGAD+ Agreement

Press Release
Press Release

An historic joint press release written by Equatorian Diaspora Communities and Associations worldwide containing response and reaction to the publically disseminated IGAD+ Proposed Compromise Agreement.


 

EQUATORIAN COMMUNITY IN DIASPORA

A RESPONSE TO IGAD-PLUS PROPOSED COMPROMISE AGREEMENT ON RESOLUTION OF CONFLICT IN SOUTH SUDAN.

To: The Chair of IGAD-Plus, C/o H.E Hailemariam Dessalegn, Prime Minister of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (IGAD, TROIKA, UN, AU, EU, and China)

cc: The Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS); SPLM/A-IO; and Governors of Equatoria States.

Date: 11 August 2015

PREAMBLE

We the Equatorian Community in Diaspora (UK, Australia, Canada, USA and Europe) have read and analysed your recent peace proposal entitled “ Proposed Compromise Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan” and have given our reaction to some of the provisions in the document as per below:

COGNIZANT of the immense suffering of the people of South Sudan caused by the SPLM/SPLA which has claimed thousands of innocent lives and destroyed the-already poor infrastructures and mass displacement in country;

APPRECIATIVE of IGAD-PLUS determined and unwavering support and efforts in search of peaceful resolution to the conflict in South Sudan;

AFFIRM that there is no party to the conflict that can claim legitimacy to govern the country, given the fact that the mandate given by the people has expired. The acceptable legitimacy now is an honest and fair peace agreement that the people of South Sudan are yearning for;

URGE the SPLM/SPLA parties to the conflict to demonstrate leadership and sign the proposed compromise agreement in order to achieve peace in the country;

CONVINCED that the resolution of the on-going conflict in South Sudan is far beyond the powersharing mechanism;

DISAPPOINTED that the proposed peace deal ignores the position of Equatoria articulated in the letter dated 10th May 2015 with respect to the issues of presidency, federalism and SPLM/SPLA malpractices in Equatoria and other marginalised parts of the country; and the position of Equatorian South Sudanese Community Association – USA: “South Sudan: The Way Forward” (2 February 2014). Without adopting fair strategies in forming new national security, army and civil service organs, these sectors will end up being dominated by certain tribes as was the case before this crisis and will constitute a recipe for disaster in the future.

Therefore, we state the following regarding the key parts of the IGAD-Plus peace proposal:

1. FEDERALISM

Historically, federalism has been a popular demand of the people of South Sudan. Recently, Equatorians inside South Sudan and Diaspora have called for adoption of federalism as the preferred system of governance in the country. Please see the letter of 10th May 2015 for details.

However, your proposal remains muted on this matter. We, therefore urge you to reconsider this popular demand and incorporate it fully into the transitional period.

2. PUBLIC SECTOR REFORMS

We welcome the recommendation in the proposed TGoNU to implement the institutional reforms in the country. The importance of this reform is to achieve a functioning, inclusive and equitable system that promotes peaceful co-existence. Further, this is to enable South Sudanese to take ownership of the peace dividend. Knowing the culture of the two warring SPLM/A parties of disowning agreements, it is important that there are internal and external safeguards to ensure a smooth implementation of the reforms.

In order to get the merited and credible manpower, employment procedures and processes must be scrutinized and transformed. Specifically, we suggest ethnically-balanced approaches for recruiting cadres in the defence and security which are currently dominated by two tribes. To create a professional workforce that embraces all the ethnicities of South Sudan and delivers equality, recruitment must be based on merits.

3. DE-MILITARIZATION OF THE CAPITAL CITY

The proposal to neutralize and de-militarize the national capital, Juba, as the seat of TGoNU is highly welcome by the people of Equatoria. It is a sound and sensible move to get rid of prevalent insecurity and lawlessness in the city. As it stands, Juba is known as ‘the capital city of murder’ as killing and robbing of properties is a regular occurrence day-in and day-out. Furthermore, this policy should be extended to all the towns, and villages in South Sudan. The recent incidents in Maridi and Yambio, Western Equatoria State show that demilitarisation of towns is essential to ensure the safety of the local population. The process of demarcation and relocation of the army personnel to new sites outside the demarcated-25 km radius must be discussed and agreed upon by the local people.

4. COMMISSION FOR TRUTH, RECONCILIATION AND HEALING (CTRH)

We commend the proposal for establishment of a Commission for truth, Reconciliation and Healing (CTRH) to investigate all the crimes committed in the last 32 years of civil war, to promote peace building processes, national reconciliation and healing in the country. It is vital that the commission takes into consideration the fact that the war impacted the various communities differently and the mechanism for dealing with each community needs to reflect the local norms and cultures.

We urge the would-be establish commission (CTRH) to widely look into and listen to grievances of the people of Equatoria and address their issues. To dispel ill-feelings and mounting hatred against government policies, the leadership in Juba need to give due consideration and acts on concerns raised by people in the region. Meaningful reconciliation and healing will only be realised, if the government acts positively on the following main issues affecting the people in the region: governance issue (Federalism), removal of internally displaced persons (IDPs), removal of cattle and their herders, return of grabbed lands and properties, etc.

5. HYBRID COURT FOR SOUTH SUDAN (HCSS)

The Equatorians world-wide welcome the principle of establishing the hybrid court to investigate the mass crimes committed in the country. For example, the war crimes in Upper Nile and Unity states, the ethnic cleansing and the mass violent displacement of civilians across the country. However, although we agree with the proposed establishment of HCSS, we urge you to ensure that this court is composed of individuals of the highest calibre and integrity in the legal profession. Your document suggests that the majority of the judges on the panels shall be composed of judges from African states other than South Sudan. Due to gravity and sensitivity of the situation, we recommend selection of distinguished and expert judges from Troika countries, EU and some African countries such as South Africa that have tract record of independent judicial service.

6. THE PRESIDENT OF THE TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL UNITY (TGoNU)

We are dismayed by your proposal that the incumbent President, Salva Kiir Mayardiit, shall remain as the Head of state and Head of government during the transitional period and shall be deputised by the leader of the SPLM/SPLA in Opposition Dr Riak Machar. It is an open secret that the abovementioned leaders and their aides may have directly or indirectly contributed towards planning and execution of the current devastating civil war in the country. The choice of these two individuals is just reconstruction and recreation of the very government that created the unfortunate events of December 2013. It must therefore be acknowledged that the relationship between Mr Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Macher has irretrievably broken down as explained in the letter of the Jieng Council of Elders dated 31st July 2015 and the Equatorian letter of 10th of May 2015. Given this, it is unwise and impractical to expect them to work together towards realising peace.

Additionally, the protagonists are suspect in committing crimes in the current war. It is a contradiction to expect them to implement the proposed structural reforms as well as holding the perpetrators of this conflict to account.

Fundamentally, South Sudanese people of all walks of life will be asking the following key question: “What will the pair (Salva and Riak) achieve in 30 months that they failed to achieve in 10 years of their reign in Juba?” This valid question should have been given due attention. We, therefore, suggest that IGAD-PLUS refers to the Equatorian position in the letter initially sent on 10th May 2015 which advocated for a neutral person to lead the country.

7. TRANSFORMATION OF SUDAN PEOPLES’ LIBERATION ARMY (SPLA) INTO A NATIONAL ARMY

The on-going civil war which erupted on 15 December, 2013 came about as a result of power struggle among leaders of the ruling party (Sudan peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM)). The political disagreement quickly degenerated into ethnic conflict between the Nuer and Dinka soldiers in the army barracks resulting in large massacre of unarmed Nuer civilians in Juba. This conflict could have been avoided had the government of South Sudan invested in transformation and professionalism of the army. The status quo within SPLA is not anywhere near the concept of professional and national army charged with duties to protect lives, properties and sovereignty of the country. It (SPLA) comprises of junk of paramilitary groups who pay allegiance to their tribal leaders in government rather than defending the constitution of the country. Regrettably, we think that your formula for reintegration of the two warring armies (GRSS army and SPLM-IO army) will not offer good service other than reverting us back to SPLA dominated by two tribes. As previously suggested in our letter (10 May 2015), we call upon radical shake up and re-structuring of the SPLA into a national army reflective/constituted of all ten states in South Sudan. Domination of national army by one or two ethnic groups will continue to be a recipe for future conflicts across South Sudan. As we write this document, SPLA and government allied militias/pastoralists are terrorizing and killing unarmed civilians in Western Equatoria State.

The future army of South Sudan should not be a question of re-integration of one army into another, but formation of a new national army. It is better, such a formula be developed and agreed as part of the peace agreement if we are to avoid potential conflict later in the implementation of this agreement. Postponing developing the formula for future army is a recipe for disaster and future conflicts, as the parties may fail to agree then. We re-iterate our proposal that future military structure in South Sudan should be divided into divisions for Equatoria, Upper Nile, and Bahr el Ghazal, which are composed of citizens from the respective regions in proportional representation from each region. No region must feel that it has absolute military power in the whole country. This will neutralise the current status quo where one or two regions dominate the country’s armed forces.

8. THE ON-GOING CONFLICT IS A NATIONAL CRISIS THAT REQUIRES COMPREHENSIVE AND ALL-INCLUSIVE DEBATES TO RESOLVE THE PROBLEMS

Although this conflict started within the corridors of powers in the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement, the war will soon engulf the whole country if the root causes and many other impending issues are not addressed. As can be seen from your attempts to find amicable solutions to the crisis, you seem to be exerting efforts in resolving/reunifying GRSS, SPLM-IO and SPLM LEADERS (Former detainees). Due to complexity of the problem in the country, any attempt to resolve the conflict and forge unity of purpose requires the participation of all stakeholders and citizens across South Sudan. Even though the two regions (Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal) appear to be, for now, relatively unaffected by the conflict there are various simmering grievances and dark clouds gathering that might potentially explode. We, therefore, appeal to IGAD-PLUS to adopt a comprehensive, holistic and all-inclusive political approach to resolve the conflict.

9. POWER SHARING

This power sharing model suits the current government and the SPLM-IO, but it does not serve the interest of the people of Equatoria and other minorities in the other regions of Upper Nile and Bahr El Ghazal. As the transitional government is going to be based on this principle, we urge IGADPlus to put safeguards in place to ensure that the TGoNU makes the unity of the country attractive to the other 62 tribes. If the unity of South Sudan is not made attractive, the people of Equatoria reserve their inalienable rights to self-determination.

Furthermore, we urge IGAD-PLUS negotiators to ensure that the principles and percentages of the suggested Power Sharing agreement be trickled down and implemented at State’s, County’s, Payam’s and Boma’s levels.

We applaud the formula for nomination of ministerial portfolio. The same formula should be extended to the nomination of the Governors.

The nomination for the Governors should be open to all the 10 states, using the same formula proposed above.

10. CONSTITUTION

We welcome the fact that the agreement reached will be incorporated into the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, and that if there is any conflict between the two, the current agreement will prevail.

11. THE ISSUE OF LAND

In reference to the letter of 10th May 2015, we note that your proposal for peace ignores the vital issue of land. It is abundantly clear that the issue of land is part of the root causes of the ongoing conflict. The Agwelek militia under the command of General Johnson Olony took up arms to regain and defend the Chollo land from the SPLA occupations. The policy of land occupation is exercised heavily in Equatoria causing displacement of indigenous people in places such as Nimule and Mundri. This aggression in Equatoria is evidently aided and enforced by the regime in Juba. The patience of Equatorians is running thin and this may not hold for much longer. We expect the incoming transitional government to pursue policies that will make unity of the country attractive.

Signed by:

Frederico Awi Vuni
Chairman, Adhoc Committee Equatorian Community in UK

William Orule
Chairperson, Equatoria Community & Welfare Association NSW, Australia

Kwaje M. Lasu
President, Equatoria South Sudanese Community Association – USA

Joseph Milla Modi
President, Equatoria South Sudanese Community Association – Canada