The August 2015 South Sudan Peace Agreement may be headed for re-negotiation as the country marks three years of civil war.
President Salva Kiir and his nemesis Dr Riek Machar continue to trade blame for who is responsible for the collapse of the agreement and the escalating inter-ethnic fighting.
President Kiir set the pace earlier in the week by calling for a National Dialogue to revisit sections of the agreement, that he deems difficult to implement.
He proposed a dialogue committee to be placed within the provisions of the August 2015 Agreement to enable South Sudan to discuss issues related to the structure of the state, renegotiate the social contract, and revitalise aspirations for development and responsibility in the world of nations.
“Like all of you, I am deeply concerned about the current direction our country is taking. I am particularly concerned about the recent reports of rising hatred, divisions and tensions, all of which are rapidly eating away our social fabric,” said President Kiir, while calling for forgiveness.
President Kiir proposes three phases for the dialogue, which would mean fresh negotiations that could set aside the agreement itself, akin to the one recently concluded by President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan after two years.
It starts with consultations at the grassroots to map grievances, convening a regional peace conference in Juba to discuss outstanding inter-communal conflicts, the final stage is convening the national conference in Juba to come up with resolutions to guide the country on the way forward.
“A successful National Dialogue can only be realised if and when all the people of South Sudan have broadly participated, agreed, and accepted its agenda and outcomes. For this to be realised the process of National Dialogue must be seen as credible, genuine, and open to all the people of South Sudan and it should have reliable guarantees for its outcomes to be accepted and implemented,” he said.
Resuscitating the agreement
Former Botswana president Festus Mogae, the chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, has welcomed President Kiir’s new initiative, saying that he has seized a critical opportunity to appeal for national reconciliation and forgiveness.
But Dr Machar — who is still holed up in South Africa — agrees to a fresh political approach to “resuscitate” the agreement only through intervention by regional leaders under the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad).
The former vice-president has accused President Kiir of a series of actions that have abrogated the agreement, such as the creation of 28 states, refusal to accept cantonment of rebel fighters in Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal, continued dismissal and replacement of rebel ministers at will, and finally replacing him with Taban Deng Gai without following the procedures laid out.
In a statement to The EastAfrican on Thursday, Dr Machar, who fled Juba in July after the outbreak of fresh fighting, said, “We in SPLM-IO stood on the platform of peace, reconciliation, healing and forgiveness. We believe that for the National Dialogue process to succeed, peace must first prevail. We therefore call upon the African Union and the international community to speedily constitute the Hybrid Court of South Sudan to try perpetrators of war crimes against humanity. This is when the victims of this war will be satisfied.”
Transitional government or two extremes
On the other hand, the Former Detainees who are a third partner in the now dysfunctional Government of National Unity, have suggested a hybrid transitional administration involving technocrats and eminent personalities who have knowledge of South Sudan, to set up round table negotiations outside the country.
The former detainees warn, in a recent “Roadmap” document, that it is either a transitional government or a choice between two extremes — descent into anarchy and genocide or possible UN trusteeship.
Besides signing the agreement reluctantly on the grounds that it was imposed on South Sudan by the international community, President Kiir has found it hard to accept the provision for two commanders in chief and two chiefs of general staff, which scuttled the implementation of the Security Arrangement provision.
According to Chapter 2 of the agreement, the warring parties were required to assemble in cantonment areas within a 25km radius of Juba, Malakal and Bentiu, register all military personnel, weapons, munitions and other equipment; and secure storage of weapons and munitions within 90 days of the signing.
But 30 months down the line, the implementation of the security arrangement is yet to take off as the Joint Military Ceasefire Committees and the Joint Military Ceasefire Teams are yet to be formed, trained, or deployed.