Imposed peace deal will not hold because the region’s leaders are dishonest

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After violence broke out because of disputed presidential election results in Kenya in 2007, the world community descended on Kenya and made Kenyans to sign a peace agreement, with the hope that it will help to bring lasting peace in the country. This has not happened. It just brought a lull in the fighting.

After violence broke out because of disputed presidential election results in Kenya in 2007, the world community descended on Kenya and made Kenyans to sign a peace agreement, with the hope that it will help to bring lasting peace in the country. This has not happened. It just brought a lull in the fighting.


For a number of reasons, I highly doubt if the peace deal that is being proposed for South Sudan will help solve the country’s problems. My judgment is based on the contents of the Communiqué issued by regional heads, and the Protocol signed in the latest meeting of IGAD leaders, and further informed by recent happenings in Kenya.


Among other things, the Protocol (which should form the basis of negotiations) calls for the formation of a transitional government of national unity, with a president as the head (retaining the current president), a prime minister from the opposition (probably Riek Machar), and a deputy president.


Like in the Kenyan situation, this is going to be problematic and will not solve any problem because, if these two leaders could previously not work together, what guarantee is there that they will work together now? It will just lead to continued duels between the two of them. This will give more heartache to the South Sudanese.


If that arrangement sees the light of day, the prime minister will just be a figure head like the former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga. All power and authority will rest with the president and the prime minister will be considered the real wielders of power in the government as an outsider and an intruder. Most of the top civil servants owe their appointment to the current president, changing their allegiance to a prime minister will be a next to impossible task.


It will also lead to fights between the deputy president and the prime minister, on who wields more power or who is ahead on the pecking order. Like in the Kenyan situation, the deputy president, being the president’s junior, may be used to run errands that undermine the prime minister, like it happened in Kenya.


Furthermore, this arrangement will lead to squabbles in the government, with government officials having a divided loyalty between the president and the prime minister. Service delivery is going to suffer. With benefit of hindsight, I can understand why the regional leaders are trying to impose this arrangement on South Sudan.


Uganda came in to support Salva Kiir and thus is already compromised and wants to find a way a quick solution out of the situation, while the other regional leaders would not want to encourage a situation where an elected leader is pushed out of office by the opposition. This is in opposition to suggestions floated earlier by some stakeholders who said that any transitional government should exclude the current president. If they allow that to happen, they fear that the same may be replicated in their countries.


But I cannot understand why the South Sudanese are not seeing the pitfalls ahead of them, if this arrangement sees the light of day. My advice to South Sudanese is that they should resist any solutions which are imposed by outsiders and which will not work in the long run. The solution that was imposed on Kenyans did not work and has only helped to entrench impunity and more instability in Kenya. If you doubt me, ask yourself why is it that more than 1000 people died in Kenya and up to this day, more than five years later, no one has been held to account for those deaths?


This lack of accountability is the cause of the current political and social instability that is still bedeviling Kenya. Even with an elected president, the question of accountability for deaths and destruction of property and lives still lingers in the air. Who committed those heinous acts, is the question that still hangs in the air. Looking for quick-fix solutions and papering over issues will not help South Sudan either.


In the Communiqué, the leaders say the talks should continue even in the absence of any of the conflicting parties. This is worrying. Any peace process needs to be inclusive. Having peace for the sake of peace is not a sustainable solution. But again, this is informed by the mind-set of the regional leaders. In Uganda, the president is known to be averse to any divergent opinion, especially from the opposition, while in Kenya, the president recently refused a suggestion by the leader of opposition for a national dialogue. Ethiopia on the other hand, is a closed society with little freedom of expression allowed. That kind of exclusive attitude by the leaders does not therefore surprise me.


But if the talks continue in the absence of any of the major players, any peace deal negotiated will not hold and the results will come to haunt the country in the future. By then it will be too late and the regional leaders will not be anywhere to salvage the situation.


And to make them sound tough and serious, the IGAD leaders say they will punish those who violate the ceasefire agreements that were signed in January and May. But for this who know, this is not the first time that we are hearing these kinds of threats. The United Nations, the African Union and some Western powers have previously issued the same warnings but nothing has come of them so far, other than the sanctions imposed by the US on military leaders on the two sides, which have been inconsequential so far anyway.


As many other commentators have said, only sanctions from the region will work in the South Sudan situation. However, I doubt if this will happen basically because of two reasons; the vested interests of regional leaders and their previous engagements with South Sudan. From the time the current conflict broke out in December 2013, Ugandan forces have been fighting alongside the South Sudan government  forces, while Kenya and Ethiopia are said to be engaged in their own supremacy battle, with each wanting to take the credit should peace be achieved.


Somalia and Djibouti, the other members of IGAD, are too weak to exact any pressure on the warring parties. Sudan, the other member involved in the peace process has been accused of double-dealing in the South Sudan conflict. Some have accused the Sudanese of covertly dealing with both the government and the rebels, with the sole purpose of protecting its interests in extraction of oil deposits in the South. Therefore, their positions are morally weak.


The Protocol further says that anyone that would be found to have participated in the commission of atrocities in the country will not be allowed to participate in the transitional government, or would be asked to resign if they are already in the government.


This will not work. In Kenya, the president and deputy president are currently facing charges against humanity in the International Criminal Court in The Hague. This is the worst indictment that could face any national leader or potential national leader. Yet, the two fought tooth and nail to become president and deputy president, even when the 2010 Kenyan constitution had a very high threshold for integrity for those aspiring for leadership. Regional leaders and African leaders in general have been fighting day and night to see that these two Kenyan leaders do not stand trial in the international court.


The regional leaders therefore have no moral authority to demand for South Sudan leaders what they could not demand for Kenyan leaders. I am sure that is an agreement that will not be implemented at all. If for instance president Kiir is found to be culpable, I am sure the regional leaders will do everything to save his skin. That is the bitter truth about the issue. Just like the African leaders argued that it was humiliating for an African leader to be taken to an international court, the same argument will be used by the president’s supporters, and the regional leaders will not raise a finger against that. Their past actions will haunt them.


In addition, the Protocol proposes the formation of a National Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing, just like it happened in Kenya. The commission in Kenya did its work for a number of years until last year when it presented its report to the president. One year down the line, the government has not adopted the report, and there is no sign that the report’s recommendation will be implemented soon. The sad part of the Kenyan situation is that the report was watered down, ostensibly at the behest of the ruling elite, before the president received it.


Many Kenyans have said that the reconciliation and healing commission was just a decoy by the ruling classes to buy time and avoid responsibility for their past actions. The irony of the Kenya situation was that even the person who was chairing the process was himself named as a past perpetrator of violence but he refused to step down. This compromised the whole process. I hope that the South Sudan commission, if it comes to be, will be an honest broker that will help to reconcile the fragmented nation. In the absence of a credible process, South Sudan will become as fragmented along ethnic lines as Kenya is today. A process that was supposed to heal the Kenyan nation has ended up hurting the nation more.


If the region’s leaders were honest, they would not copy a political arrangement that has not worked in Kenya, and try to paste it on South Sudan. If it did not work in Kenya, what makes them believe it will work in South Sudan?


Every day I pray for peace in South Sudan, yet I see lots of danger signs, based on my understanding of the Kenyan situation and its aftermath. I pray that the South Sudanese will learn from Kenya and avoid the pitfalls that befell the peace process in Kenya.