Opinion | The UN Security Council’s misguided approach to peace in South Sudan
When Salva Kiir premeditated the civil war in the pretext of a bogus coup, he did not call for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to endorse his plan. What he did was to run to Uganda and asked his regional ally, Yoweri Museveni, who has a documented history of killing other Ugandan tribes, particularly the Acholi tribe, for his help. The UNSC visit to Juba gave hope to millions of South Sudanese who thought the world body is committed to ensuring the peace is realized in the young nation, but nobody was prepared for what the Council members have in their minds. This is an attempt to show that the October 20, 2019 meeting between the United Nations Security Council and South Sudan’s leaders did not just fail the people of South Sudan, it was an act of betrayal of nearly 400,000 victims of Kiir’s atrocious regime.
The UN Security Council has broad powers. One of its main responsibilities is to resolve world conflicts. But the 15-member Council seems to be out of touch when it comes to South Sudan’s civil war.
I am disappointed to see many foreign diplomates, especially South African and the United States ambassadors to the United Nations lashing out at the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) and other opposition parties at the meeting.
South Africa’s Ambassador to the UN, Jerry Mathews Matjila, claimed that the outstanding issues between the government and opposition parties are not “so huge” and that a transitional government should be formed next month. The ambassador also asserted that “If any leader needs security, we will give security. The United Nations can provide security, so the major question was security. The government says we are committed, any number of people for protection is available.”
At the meeting, the South African ambassador talked like someone who has no clue about South Sudan’s conflict. Ambassador Matjila appeared so convinced by Kiir’s supposed commitment to peace that he brazenly became the spokesman for the regime. His statements are the embodiment of what Salva Kiir has been saying since 2018. Remember, Kiir is the one who has systematically been impeding the implementation of the agreement since October 2018.
On her part, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft lashed out at the SPLM-IO leader, saying “We are disappointed by a statement from Dr. Riek Machar that the ceasefire would be in jeopardy when the unity government is formed by November 12.”
These ambassadors should know the 2018 peace agreement specified that security arrangements must be executed before a provisional government is formed. Dr. Machar and other opposition leaders like Dr. Lam Akol believe the deal needs to be implemented step by step as stated in the text. The Council should also recognize that abiding by rules is what is stipulated in the agreement. Machar and Akol correctly identified the problems at the meeting. The issues they pointed out are the ones preventing the deal from being executed properly. Kiir is the one who consistently obstructs the implementation of the pact. For this 15-member Council to behave like an extension of Juba’s murderous regime without questioning Kiir’s approach to peace is not just morally wrong, it is a slap in the faces of those who were slaughtered by Kiir.
The Security Council must understand that they were part of a conspiracy that saw Machar narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in July 2016. For instance, when the August 2015 power-sharing deal was imposed on South Sudanese leaders, the UN was one of the leading agencies that forced Dr. Machar to go to Juba. When Machar arrived in Juba, it only took Salva Kiir and his current First Vice President Taban Deng Gai weeks to launch a war at J1 which led to the collapse of the now-defunct 2015 deal. What disturbed me and millions of South Sudanese at that time was that when Machar fled for his life, the same UN Security Council did not apologize to Machar. They owe an apology to the SPLM/A-IO leader because they were the ones who forced him to join Kiir in Juba. Their reaction after Machar escaped was rather surprising because they placed their focus largely on the humanitarian crisis—this is a lesson learned and the UN needs to be impartial when it comes to resolving world conflicts. The UNSC should not be allowed to act like a Salva Kiir’s agent. The bribery that Kiir has been using in the East Africa region and other parts of Africa should not infiltrate the world body.
I would like to remind the United Nations that the agreement states that, a hybrid court to prosecute those who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity should be formed, the current constitution should be amended to reflect reforms, the government should fund the SPLA-IO forces, the number of states needs to be decided, the reunification of the armies should be initiated, and major cities including Juba must be demilitarized. Kiir consistently refused to abide by any of these provisions. The provisions Kiir allowed to take shape are the training of one thousand military instructors who are expected to train the proposed 83,000 unified force and armies cantonment sites. The rest are still far away from reality. It is a shame to learn that China provided food during the training of the recent military instructors and Egypt supplied them with uniforms. One wonders what Salva Kiir is doing with South Sudan’s oil money.
Do not tell me that all these vital provisions will be implemented after a unity government is formed. Salva Kiir is a tyrant who is addicted to using the current dictatorial constitution to get rid of anyone he does not like serving in his government. The man has so much power that he can appoint or dismiss any national or state official, let alone elected ones. Any reasonable person would not say Kiir will allow all the outstanding issues to be executed when a government is in place. Anyone who thinks this way is either clueless or has a hidden interest in Juba’s regime. The people of South Sudan will resist until the agreement is fully implemented and reforms are reflected.
The people of South Sudan are tired of war. Real and lasting peace is what the South Sudanese want, nobody is interested in a conspiratorial deal that could later explode. The 2018 peace agreement was meant to silence the guns in South Sudan and reform the current dictatorial political system in the country. For a world body like the UN to go to Juba and endorse the formation of a provisional government by November 12 dateline while the main provisions popularly known as security arrangements of the pact are not implemented, it just does not send a wrong signal to the people of South Sudan, it confirms the widely held belief in South Sudan that some world leaders are complicit in the young nation’s civil war. Whether these leaders do it knowingly or unknowingly is a different topic. Those who think South Sudan’s atrocities are for sale should consult their consciences. If the UNSC is in bed with Salva Kiir, then the South Sudanese will never buy such a seemingly disgraceful relationship. The people of South Sudan have had enough of the UN’s hypocrisy and foreign greed.
Duop Chak Wuol is the editor-in-chief of the independent South Sudan News Agency (https://southsudannewsagency.org/. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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