By Wiek Bol Reath
OPINION – South Sudan’s politics is a cancer that can distort one’s mental health if closely monitored because everything ranging from the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement to how the parties run their internal affairs and political differences or how the government is actually run, just to say the least, is disgusting and more complicated than treating a cancer!
Worst to mention, the so-called “revitalized peace agreement”, did not actually revitalize peace, political and economic stability. Instead it’s killing hopes and revitalizing a zombie, a dead man harboring unethical behaviors, to be a president for life – a depression that over 80% of South Sudanese would never wish to endure, not even for another year or two. In psychology, depression is categorized as a serious mental illness. How serious? By definition depression is an overwhelming and enveloping despair, so bleak and dark that those who experienced it wished for the earths to open up and swallow them alive. Although treatable, patients of depression often give up and simply commit suicide or cause severe damages to property and other people including murdering innocent people. This is exactly the politics of South Sudan by definition; however, unlike depression in other countries that is usually experienced by an insignificant number of people, in South Sudan over 80% of the population is severely depressed and wish for a change but how and when is the 64-trillion question that nobody knows how to solve!
While many people are yearning for leadership change whether through a military coup, popular uprising or through rebellions, getting rid of the decayed SPLM leadership would be a step in the right direction but thereafter a second and a third liberation would then be needed to move South Sudan from it current Rwanda-1994 scenario to the current Rwanda-2021 status. The main problem of South Sudan is political leadership; however, having been in war for over 70 years since 1947, South Sudan problems are intertwined and nested, and therefore, they would need a leader that is visionary, charismatic and with a big heart for South Sudan as one country and one people. This is the bigger picture but for now let’s stick to what we have!
In accordance with the Revitalized Agreement of the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan, the Revitalized Peace Agreement would have been implemented in two phases. The first phase is a Pre-Transitional Period and the second is a Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU). Therefore, a Pre-Transitional Period of eight months would lead to three years of R-TGoNU, and then there would be elections two months before the end of Transitional Period. So far, notwithstanding some isolated cases, the permanent ceasefire which came into effect on 1 July 2018 is being observed by the then rival parties turned peace partners, and not forgetting the commitment they showed in resolving the issue of the number of states. As we give credit where it is due, these steps were the giant leaps towards realization of genuine peace and trust building which deserve applause from the citizens of this troubled nation ever since the outbreak of the conflict in mid-December 2013.
On 22 February 2020, a transitional unity government was formed after it was extended twice due to the fact that the core objectives of the Pre-Transitional period were not achieved within the expected time frame of 8 months. Despite the two extensions of six months and hundred days, the security arrangement and other important mechanisms of the pre-transitional period were not implemented and they are yet to be implemented, if and only if, they will ever be implemented.
Considering all signs of hardlining, lack of commitment from the onset of the implementation and arrogance of president Salva Kiir, many South Sudanese have lost hopes in the revitalized peace agreement and in also in the current leadership but they have decided to just tag along while waiting for the peace agreement to die a natural death as the country continues to sink and disintegrate. With Salva Kiir in J1, the hopes of saving the country are minimal but with his attitude of war and violence, the choices are either for people to leave Salva Kiir to be a president for life and slowly lose the country and future of their children and grandchildren or to face Salva Kiir which literally means to face war, violence, death and displacement!
A good three years have passed by and the peace agreement has expired without any other significant materialization either in governance or security arrangement. It is precisely stipulated in the agreement that the elections would be held two month before the end of the Transitional Government. However, the RTGoNU elapsed on 12 September, 2021 and not even a quarter of the Agreement is implemented. Perhaps the dream of full implementation of R-ARCSS is just a nightmare, and apparently timeframe has elapsed and the implementation modalities are of no use that means by now it depends on what the incumbent Transitional Government of National Unity (ITGoNU) wishes to implement.
Security Arrangement, one of the most significant provisions in this agreement, should have been implemented during the Pre-Transition Period or eight months after signing of the agreement. This would provide a conducive environment for the full implementation, economic activities as well as facilitates safe return or repatriation of Internal Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Refugees to their homes, respectively. Nevertheless, this has not been the case. Over the last two years the Unified Forces have been in various training centers countrywide without graduation.
Since then, there have been multiple reports of soldiers abandoning garrisons due to lack of food and non-food items, hygienic items, medicines and other basic needs. As a result, the call for IDPs and Refugees to return to their homes or to be repatriated felt on deaf ears since there is a gross mistrust about the security organs that were responsible for their displacement – to Refugee Settlements in the neighboring countries and IDP Camps in United Nations (UN) compounds. These are the same security apparatus to grant them safety and protection when they return home, hence, in that context they better opt to stay in camps – where their situation continuously deteriorates as they encounter numerous shortcomings which include but not limited to poor hygiene due to the lack of WASH facilities, food insecurity, outbreak of diseases, rampant insecurity, high infant mortality rate, inaccessibility of education, unemployment, etcetera – than trusting them their security.
On the other hand, every now and then there have been defections of the discontented army generals and politicians, which is an act actually prohibited by the agreement and in so doing is a clear violation of the Agreement but instead they are contraventionale sponsored or encouraged by the very parties that signed the Agreement. The Opposition forces are intentionally being frustrated in order to either lose hope and surrender or destroy themselves in the wide perception that some of their own members are the obstacle to the peace implementation. This worked out, currently the foot soldiers and their generals believe they are forgotten by their superiors in Juba and that all devotions and sacrifices they made during the Civil War are in vain, and thus the only choice left at hand is to salvage themselves by defecting to the government as they may still be valuable or serve the little energy left for a fresh rebellion against the R-TGoNU.
Conclusively, there are other two important provisions in the R-ARCSS which if implemented would exhibit the return of peace and tranquility, the Permanent Constitution-making and the Hybrid Court; the Permanent Constitution if availed for use and made supreme over presidential orders would impose rule of law and give more powers to the citizens of South Sudan rather than the individual politicians in the authority. Equally, the Hybrid Court would enormously work as a catalyst towards reconciliation and accountability since the culprits of 2013 Civil War could be apprehended and brought to book. The victims of the created suffering would feel that justice has prevailed, and be in position to open a new chapter of their lives. It is worth noticing that every single provision of this 2018 Peace Agreement is vital, the Institutional Reforms, Economic Recovery, Youth Empowerment and Gender Equality could dramatically change this nation to better when implemented in both letter and spirit.
The Security Arrangement is not implemented intentionally in the pretext of lack of funds to purchase military equipment needed to graduate the troops in training centers; meanwhile there is always funds for bribing and accommodating in country’s most luxurious and expensive hotels the politicians and military generals who develop signs of switching allegiance. Moreover, other crucial provisions in the agreement are not even on the table of implementation as if they have been exempted from the Agreement. Contextually, this begs the question of whether this is peace or just a truce because in my understanding peace is not merely the absence of war but presence of justice, law and order, indeed peace is the presence of government with its strong institutions.
Our appeal to the signatories of R-ARCSS is to implement the Agreement in both letter and spirit despite being behind schedule because it is only through this deal South Sudan would be salvaged and it is worth mentioning that there would be no better peace deal than the current one.
The author, Wiek Bol Reath, is a student at Kampala University pursuing Bachelor’s Degree of Business Administration and former President of Unity State Universities and Colleges Students’ Union in Uganda (USUCSUU), he can be reached via this email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
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