Opinion | RTGONU in bottleneck of November: Is there an exit?
“The measure of a man is what he does with power” ~ Plato
As the extended 6-month pre-transitional period expires with no genuine assurances by the Parties in sticking to the spirit and letter of the 2018 Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) and forming the awaited Revitalized Government of National Unity (RTGoNU), it is now apparently clear that nothing substantive is being done to pragmatically get out out quickly from bottleneck of 12th November 2019 apart from spreading the venoms of unhelpful political positions.
Whatsoever the case, the Parties have no any other quick fix from their destructive mess (as they continue to struggle over power and resources of South Sudan) but to reach a compromise at the end of their time-wasting bickering and take the responsibility of peace and development accordingly. As the principals of R-ARCSS Parties seem to defy grabbing the presented carrots, they may face the alternative sticks that are being warmed up at international and regional levels as well as from frontline states.
The scheduled visit to Addis Ababa and Juba by the members of UN Security Council and AU Peace and Security Council is already attached with pre-conditions on political compromises on the number and boundaries of the states at the sub-national level as required in Chapter I of R-ARCSS and to be enclosed as binding addendum. Also it has been demanded that the ITGoNU should release 100 million USD it pledged to enable the security arrangements mechanisms of Chapter II of R-ARCSS complete the preparation of the necessary unified forces to be deployed under one command with responsibility to protect all the citizens and VIPs of South Sudan as pre-requisite of formation of RTGoNU.
The structure of the Executive of RTGoNU in Articles 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124 of R-ARCSS has destined President Salva Kiir of Incumbent Transitional Government of National Unity (ITGoNU) and Dr Riek Machar of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) to be conjoined political twins by inscribing their very names for top-leading the restructured government of peacetime (presidency, council of ministers, bicameral legislature, independent commissions, judiciary, states and local government), based on consultative consensus in decision-making. Without one of these Principals in the core political scene nothing will be seen moving forward as far as R-ARCSS is concerned. Hence, what they do with power shall be used as evidence for measuring their loyalty to South Sudan.
Cross-checking the salient facts on the ground with the accomplished pre-transitional tasks that were prescribed in R-ARCSS text, it seems that the same political attitude that led to fruitlessness of 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS) is still intact unabatedly. The same opposing expression of reservations by Kiir’s and Machar’s political camps are resurfacing again. Perhaps the worst news that the waiters may receive in November is the unviability of RTGoNU even if a unilateral announcement is made to this effect by the ITGoNU in Juba to self-renew its legitimacy. This will not be welcomed warmly by peace-loving persons because it will not bring real peace to the war-ridden South Sudan.
In literature and field studies of comparative political institutions, unity or coalition governments are only formed by the rivaling parties who have agreed on a grand joint framework that they are wiling to implement within specific timelines, and based on continuous consultative dialogue with consensus in decision-making. The 2018 R-ARCSS (its Preamble, 8 Chapters, 82 Articles and Annexes) has been presented as the grand political framework for transiting the embattled South Sudan to a situation of sustainable peace. The implementation of this ambitious R-ARCSS has to be pursued jointly by its 5 Parties (i.e., ITGoNU, SPLM/A-IO, SSOA, FDs and Opp) in two phases, culminating in handing power back to the people of South Sudan through credible democratic elections.
The first phase of R-ARCSS was to be 8 months of pre-transitional period where the incumbent RTGoNU is accorded the legitimacy to continue in power with moral and financial as well as technical support of the established mechanisms of implementation, including utmost responsibility to normalize the country in peace. Membership of these mechanisms were drawn from the Parties, Stakeholders and external Guarantors of R-ARCSS who have been obliged to work closely with ITGoNU during pre-transitional period and then become part of RTGoNU during transitional period. Only Technical Boundary Committee (TBC), Independent Boundary Commission (IBC) and National Pre-Transitional Committee (NPTC) had to get dissolved after completing their tasks before the kick-off of transitional period.
However, the Parties failed the test of completing the key pre-transitional tasks in the agreed timelines (from 12 September 2018 to 12 May 2019) as they stumbled to overcome security arrangements dilemma and form RTGoNU in time. Article 2.2.1 of R-ARCSS has been designed to categorically link formation of RTGoNU on prerequisite of completing deployment of jointly trained necessary armed forces of the Parties to the conflict. It has subordinated Article 1.2.2, which provides for establishment of RTGoNU upon elapse of pre-transitional period. The strength of Article 2.2.1, in addition to the nervous pressing recommendation for reverting back to 10 states during the transitional period, forced the Parties to consult with each other under IGAD auspices and consent to extension of pre-transitional period by 6 months (up to 12 November 2019) in order to address the pending necessary pre-transitional tasks before forming RTGoNU. Nothing was left loosed as the opposition had learnt their lessons from hard times they faced when the 2015 ARCSS faltered.
Unfortunately, the R-ARCSS Parties are still stuck to form RTGoNU despite the warning by IGAD and international community that any further extension beyond November shall not be acceptable as it will dilute people’s confidence in the viability of revitalized peace process to deliver genuine democratic power succession at end of 3-year transitional period. The Parties seem to have run out of sense of urgency with absence of good political will to stick to spirit and letter of R-ARCSS as indicated by refusal of ITGoNU to finance the delineated pre-transitional activities as priority. But the experience shows that the anticipated failure to form a complete RTGoNU by November 2019 won’t be the Final Judgment Day, though the unfolding situation may invite undesirable consequences (both internal and external). The worst times may commence if the rivaling forces forego the currently holding comprehensive ceasefire and slip the country back to another intolerable extensive civil war and its untold crises that usually creep in when a peace deal become paralyzed for a collapse.
The ITGoNU might face intense heat of pressure as its legitimacy of continuing to hold into power without peace in place might start to get questioned fiercely. The United States of America, which is the main international penholder and biggest financial aider of South Sudan, has already send out signals that it won’t be business as usual if the ITGoNU and opposition failed the people again and dashed their raised hopes in R-ARCSS. The other fatigued and frustrated members of international community may follow suit. Also the internal and regional discontent with ‘no-peace’ and ‘no-war’ situation, while economic hardships continue striking common people, might turn the tight against maintaining such undesirable status quo.
The people of South Sudan are fed up of recycled crises by gun-class and kleptocrats, so is the international community and regional powers who have been bearing the burdens of humanitarian conscience. The safe exit is a soft landing by the Parties through genuine peace process, which takes the R-ARCSS timely implementation as a priority above anything else. It was commendable for IGAD to recall the Parties to Addis Ababa on 2 to 3 May 2019 to agree via consensus in extending the pre-transitional period up to 11 November 2019 but with condition from the Guarantors that there will not be another extension, and also that the additional 6 months added to pre-transitional period will be deducted from 36 months of transitional period. Also the African Union Ambassadors, Sudan, Egypt, South Africa, Japan, China and other international partners have been appreciated for providing in-kind assistance for enabling the designated cantonment areas to get the basic amenities for the forces that will be assembled, trained, unified and redeployed to safeguard R-ARCSS progress.
Formation of RTGoNU shall be evaluated on demonstrable regrets by the Parties of the untold human suffering caused by their senseless civil war. It must also remind the Parties to be cognizant of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and devolution of more powers and resources to lower levels of government with due consideration to historical popularity of federalism. It must demonstrate the solemn commitment of the Parties to R-ARCSS implementation, including Khartoum Declaration of Agreement (KDA) on Security, Governance and Economy. It should guide South Sudan in the noble of path of peace, development, justice, unity, equality, human rights, rule of law and will of the people.
The newly released book titled “Peace of South Sudan and Revitalization” has summarized it succinctly that Chapter I of the R-ARCSS is the heart of political life; it must be handled with a sense of good leadership. Chapter II is the safety of the nation; it must be professionalized inclusively and conventionally. Chapter III is the conscience of humanity; it must be managed with a sense of urgency. Chapter IV is the hope of a good future; it must empower the youth and women economically with innovative competitiveness. And though Chapter V is the hot potato, it must not be delayed by the perpetrators at the expense of the victims. Chapter VI is the social contract; it must be made holistic and binding for all. Chapter VII is the eye for peace; it must be sharpened for responsive oversight. Chapter VIII is the consensus; it must be nurtured with amicable interaction of top leadership of the Parties with endorsement by Guarantors and in cooperation with Partners.
Since the remaining time of the extended pre-transitional period is too short to complete the prerequisites of forming RTGoNU, but considering R-ARCSS as the only available rescue for South Sudan from relapses of fragility traps, therefore, it is high time for prudence to prevail on the Principals of the Parties so that they assemble urgently and go back to the drawing board to strike face-to-face consensus on limited extension of pre-transitional period by only 3 months (up to 12 February 2020). This extension should build on the positive steps taken for completion of the necessary security arrangements and endorsement of transitional constitution after incorporating the R-ARCSS and addendum on resolution of the number and boundaries of the states as they stood on 01/01/1956. It will avoid easy re-eruption of reactionary violence and its additional traumatizing vice on the already suffering people of South Sudan.
Dr. James Okuk is a renowned political analyst in South Sudan and author of the recently released book titled Peace of South Sudan and Revitalization: Historicity, Institutions, Leadership and External Dynamics (2019). He can be reached on email@example.com
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