By Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, 11th October 2020
This article is a continuation of the opinion article the author published days ago titled “Advice to South Sudan Peace Process via Sant’Egidio Community (Rome) mediation.” Like the first one, this article aims to help the ongoing peace talks between the government of South Sudan and the holdout opposition group the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) which resumed on 9th October, in Rome, Italy under the auspices of the Community of Sant’Egidio move in the right direction. And the author aims to achieve this by addressing the following three (3) broad and crucial issues in the peace process:
1- Which Parties exactly make up the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance?
Yesterday (Saturday), The National Salvation Front (NAS) published an article on their website saying “Pagan Amum’s The Real SPLM (R-SPLM) and Paul Malong’s South Sudan United Front (SSUF) will not be attending the talks in Rome as part of the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA).”
The article went further to add that: “SSOMA leaders insisted that the SSOMA delegation include only the four (4) signatories of the charter – The National Salvation Front (NAS), the National Democratic Movement Patriotic Front (NDM/PF), the United Democratic Revolutionary Movement (UDRM) and the South Sudan National Movement for Change (SSNDMC)…According to observers, this development does not mean Pagan’s R-SPLM is out of the SSOMA. It just means SSOMA, in the current talks with Juba, will be represented by those who have signed the charter.”
As can be recalled also, about three weeks ago, some members of SSOMA issued a statement saying “The South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance Leadership Council (SSOMA-LC)” “suspended” “activities of South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A) in SSOMA…with immediate effect” “because of breach of communication channel of SSOMA and the spirit of comradeship and trust within the Alliance”.
There have been contradictions about the issues including what came out in the media, and last week it was reported that SSOMA is divided over its new charter ahead of the peace talks. That the discussion and the adoption of the charter were passed in the presence of all members including SSUF but SSUF rejected the charter while RSPLM abstained from voting. That Pagan (RSPLM) acknowledged his agreement with the charter but will not sign it if Malong is not brought back. And that the charter was signed by Thomas Cirillo (NAS), Emmanuel Yoanes Ajawin (NDM/PF), Vakindi Leno Umvo (SSNMC/A) and Gatwech K. Thick (UDRM/A).
To understand the real issues, one need to look into what has been lacking clarity and transparency from the very beginning, and that include who exactly are the leaders that make up the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance Leadership Council? And how many are they? Plus other issues on how SSOMA is (should be) run? Some members of SSOMA themselves have been working to sabotage some of their own members. This has been happening in the background long before the current crisis came to light. And that is neither in genuine spirit of peace nor seeking democratic reform in the Country.
It should be recalled that the South Sudan Opposition Movement (SSOMA) first came to existence through the Declaration of Principles which was signed on August 30th, 2019 in The Hague, The Netherlands by Gen. Thomas Cirillo Swaka in his capacity as Chairman South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA), Pagan Amum Okiech in his capacity as Leader of Real Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (R-SPLM), and Gen. Paul Malong Awan in his capacity as Chairman & Commander-In-Chief South Sudan United Front/Army (SSUF/A). Also t is worth pointing out that at that time, the South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA) was known to be comprising of the Gen Cirilo’s National Salvation Front, Hakim Dario’s People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), Gatweth Thich’s United Democratic Republican Alliance (UDRA), Emmanuel Aban’s, National Democratic Movement (NDM), and Vakindi Unvu’s South Sudan National Movement for Change (SSNMC).
Among the many principles the parties that make up the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance (SSOMA) agreed upon on that August 30th document were the following:
That, they commit to work together and to abide by the following principles and objectives:
“i. End the South Sudan civil war by addressing the root causes of the conflict; and seeking a permanent solution to the insecurity and humanitarian disaster.
ii. Free South Sudan from the grip of ethnic chauvinism, nepotism, despotic oppression and institutionalized corruption.
iii. Develop a common unified position to address the conflict in South Sudan.
iv. Establish a strong democratic federal system of governance based on the devolution of powers and resources to the lower levels of government.” Plus many other principles, of course.
The second document about the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) is the Communique issued on 20th November 2019 in Rome-Italy after SSOMA held a meeting with the Community of Sant’Egidio.
Among others, the Communique says SSOMA is thankful:
“–For the continuous outstanding empathy and affection shown to the suffering people of South Sudan by His Holiness Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury His Grace Justin Welby.
— CONVINCED that the conflict in South Sudan is political in nature and requires a political solution through constructive and genuine dialogue.
— WELCOMED the IGAD Council of Ministers resolution on South Sudan of 10th November, 2019, that direct the special envoy of South Sudan to engage with the non-signatories of the R-ARCSS.
–CALLED UPON the Community of Sant’Egidio to continue to engage SSOMA, the government of the day, and the signatories of the R-ARCSS.
— ALSO ASK the Community of Sant’Egidio to urgently engage with regional and international partners to make this dialogue process a success.”
What followed was the January 2020 ROME DECLARATION ON THE PEACE PROCESS IN SOUTH SUDAN, whereby the Government of the Republic of South Sudan and the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA), with representatives of SPLM/A-IO and NDM as witnesses and IGAD as observer, after holding their first official engagement under the auspices of the Community of Sant’Egidio in Rome, made a number of declarations.
The declaration says its signatories:
“CONVINCED that the current conflict in the Republic of South Sudan requires a comprehensive political engagement in order to achieve inclusivity and sustainable peace with the non-signatories to the R-ARCSS. In this regard, AGREED that the dialogue shall continue under the auspices of Sant’Egidio in consultation with IGAD and with the support of regional organizations and the international community.”
That its signatories “SOLEMNLY declare to commit/recommit and adhere to the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) of December 2017 to avoid any further armed confrontation across the country by the signatories and non-signatories so as to create a conducive environment for dialogue to resolve the conflict. This shall come into effect on the 15th of January 2020 00:00 hours…In this regard, we request the Community of Sant’Egidio to convene a meeting with IGAD, as soon as possible, to discuss issues related to monitoring and verification.”
Here, in the January 2020 ROME DECLARATION, changes with regards to the South Sudan Opposition Movement Alliance SSOMA are as follows:
1- Thomas Cirillo Swaka signed the Declaration as a Member of the leadership Council of SSOMA and Chairman of National Salvation Front. While in the August 30th Declaration of Principles reached in The Netherlands I mentioned earlier and through which the South Sudan Opposition Movement SSOMA came into existence, Gen. Thomas Cirillo Swaka signed in his capacity as Chairman of South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA).
2- Pa’gan Amum Okiech this time signed the January 2020 ROME DECLARATION as a Member of the leadership Council of SSOMA and Interim Chairman of Real-SPLM, while in the August 30th Declaration of Principles reached in The Netherlands I mentioned earlier and through which the South Sudan Opposition Movement SSOMA came into existence, Pagan Amum Okiech signed in his capacity as Leader of Real Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (R-SPLM).
3- Ammanuel Yoanes Yor Akol Ajawin this time signed as Interim Secretary General of SSOMA and Chairman of NDM-PF. The party that was part of the South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA) at the time of SSOMA declaration was simply known as NDM.
4- Paul Malong Awan signed the January 2020 ROME DECLARATION as Member of the leadership Council of SSOMA and Chairman of South Sudan United Front/Army. Here there’s no major difference, only that the title Commander-In-Chief used in the August 30th Declaration of Principles reached in The Netherlands has not been mentioned.
5- David Tut Kuiy singed the January 2020 ROME DECLARATION as Member of SSOMA, Member of UDRM/A. Here it is worth mentioning tha the name of the party that was part of the South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA) at the time of SSOMA declaration was United Democratic Republican Alliance (UDRA) led by Gatweth Thich.
6- Vakindi Unvu, singed the January 2020 ROME DECLARATION as a Member of SSOMA and Chairman of SSNMC. Here, there’s no change in the name of the party SSNMC that was part of the South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA) at the time of SSOMA declaration. However, it is worth pointing out that a faction of SSMC under former governor Bakasoro is a Party to the 2018 Revitalized Agreement and the current Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity.
7- Hakim Dario’s People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) that was part of the South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA) at the time of SSOMA declaration did not individually sign the January 2020 ROME DECLARATION like some of his colleagues. Any special reason? Perhaps.
The latest document in the peace process involving the South Sudan Opposition Alliance Movement is known The ROME RESOLUTION ON MONITORING AND VERIFICATION OF CoHA 2017.
The ROME RESOLUTION ON MONITORING AND VERIFICATION OF CoHA 2017 was signed after the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS) and the South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA), pursuant to paragraph 9 of the Rome Declaration of 12 January 2020, held the second consultation meeting on monitoring and verification mechanisms, with the presence of delegations from SPLM/A-IO, NDM, FDs, and some representatives from the OPP, with RJMEC, CTSAMVM, UNMISS and EU as observers, under the auspices of the Community of Sant’Egidio in collaboration with the IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan, in Rome, Italy on 12th and 13th February, 2020.
The February 2020 Rome Resolution provides for representation of SSOMA into the Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism structures, and for joint monitoring of compliance of the parties to the cessation of hostilities agreement.
According to latest media report about the ongoing peace talks in Rome, Italy, on Saturday, the rivaling parties and the community of Sant’Egidio agree that it is important for the warring parties to observe the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement and restore peace and stability in the affected areas. The report says South Sudan government and SSOMA reached consensus on ratification of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoHA) after hours of deliberations, adding that however, the armed opposition demands that the parties must review the terms of Cessation of Hostilities Agreement “to understand where and why it is being violated.”
Here, the author of this opinion would like to express his view that the continued ceasefire violations arise not because of imperfections in the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement per se, but rather lack of implementation of measures put in place to ensure its implementation and some challenges related to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Through lessons leant from past and recent wars and agreements, it is through joint monitoring of Cessation of Hostilities Agreement that clashes/Ceasefire Violations could be reduced or avoided, while talks for a final peace deal continue gradually.
The author also sees sense and reasonability in the stance taken so far (as reported,) that: “while the division remains in SSOMA and also in Malong’s divided SSUF/A, the mediators and guarantors pledged for all parties to be involved in the talks demanding that any internal differences can be resolved on the sideline or perhaps at any other time” after the current round of talks conclude on Tuesday.
Further, the author would like to recommend that let all involved in the peace process take into consideration the fact that while some parties that make up SSOMA (both then or now) are armed movements, others are not. This means that that fact has to be reflected when SSOMA is sending their representation to the Ceasefire Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM) structures per The February 2020 Rome Resolution for joint monitoring of compliance of the parties with the cessation of hostilities agreement. The logic has always been known to almost all involved in peacemaking, and it is that when an armed movement/party is not part of a ceasefire monitoring mechanism, reports that are damaging and not factual could be made against them by such monitoring mechanism. In the current case of South Sudan, that may complicate things and allow many unpredictable to happen.
Some of the arguments that A or B within SSOMA have been suspended because they established contacts with X or Y are not considerate about the full picture of the realities of wars and the current crises. Many people also know that many parties/movements within SSOMA for years have been and upto now, are in contacts with X or Y, albeit, in various ways and from time to time. During armed conflicts, especially when some from within your own comrades (Alliance) plan sabotage or conspiracies against you, you also explore ways to protect yourself. This happens within the right to self-defense, or such a belief.
All in all, it is still possible to amicably resolve the ongoing problems within SSOMA and the parties that make up the Alliance at the time of its formation last year. And if they finally decide to split now, the concerns expressed above by the author, including the fact that lasting peace in South Sudan is achievable through inclusion and not sabotage/ malicious exclusion of some from peace process, all have to be taken into consideration.
2- Orientation and Confidence Building
The author believes that most of the factors that lead to failures to implement peace agreements in South Sudan could be attributed to lack of trust and lack of understanding of philosophies (reform agenda) behind such peace pacts, both within and among signatory parties, especially some of their top leaderships. These have always let to the fear of the unknown, leading to deadlocks.
I remember interviewing a number of political leaders or those involved in peace negotiations from various parties in recent peace agreements, and, unfortunately, the disconnect between their understanding versus the democratic reform agenda set-out in those agreements have been so huge. Meanwhile, the effects sometimes go down to some of their supporters, who are sometimes politically unprepared to further the ideals and democratic reform, their top leaders, and in fact, together with the government, sign up to build. The result is a focus around who gets what position in government without a balancing focus on whether they shall go there together contribute to building peace through what their leaders originally signed.
Therefore conducting concise workshops and trainings for top leaders involved in peace negotiations and their supporters (as many as possible) on issues around South Sudan peace process would help remove the fear of the unknown and build the needed confidence for achieving lasting peace. They should be enlightened on the facts that when peace agreements stipulate that institutions and laws be reformed and enacted to make them democratic, the stipulations are not intended against any person or tribe. Rather, these are measures taken to build a modern Country, a democratic country. The measures in turn help address grievances of the people, leading to peace, especially grievances that arise from bad governance (whether intended or unintended bad governance). When grievances are not addressed despite peace agreements and inclusion of oppositions into government positions/army, and when good governance is not reflected on the ground, people automatically find justifications (or believe so) to continue or start armed conflicts. This has been happening in South Sudan for years and it is time that things change for the better. So, democratic reforms (both institutional and legal) are not enemies but measures towards achieving lasting peace.
3- Systems of Government
While the South Sudan Opposition Movement (SSOMA) in their Declaration of Principles signed on August 30th, 2019 in The Hague, The Netherlands declared that one of their objectives is to “Establish a strong democratic federal system of governance based on the devolution of powers and resources to the lower levels of government,” the author of this article would like to make some crucial matters clear to all. The matters are as follows:
There are several parties in South Sudan, including in the current government under the Revitalized Peace Agreement that also want a federal system in South Sudan. They made that clear through their documents, etc.
The Revitalized Peace Agreement (R-ARCSS) already provided that the Parties reaffirm their commitment to the ARCSS (of 2015) that a federal and democratic system of governance that reflects the character of the Republic of South Sudan and ensures unity in diversity be enacted during the permanent constitution making process. (Article 1.4.11 of the R-ARCSS).
To those who may not be knowing, since gaining Independence in 2011, South Sudan continues to operate under a Transitional Constitution. One of the mandates of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity is to oversee and ensure that the Permanent Constitution-making process is successfully carried out and completed before the end of the Transitional Period (Article 1.2.5. of the R-ARCSS).
So, in Chapter Six on the Parameters of the Permanent Constitution, The Revitalized Agreement provides that the RTGoNU shall initiate and oversee a Permanent Constitution-making Process during the Transitional Period which shall be based on the principles of: Supremacy of the People of South Sudan; Initiate a Federal and democratic system of government that reflects the character of South Sudan in its various institutions taken together, guarantees good governance, constitutionalism, rule of law, human rights, gender equity and affirmative action; Guaranteeing peace and stability, national unity and territorial integrity of the Republic of South Sudan; Promoting people’s participation in the governance of the country through democratic, free and fair elections and the devolution of powers and resources to the states and counties; Respecting ethnic and regional diversity and communal rights, including the right of communities to preserve their history, develop their language, promote their culture and expression of their identities; Ensuring the provision of the basic needs of the people through the establishment of a framework for fair and equitable economic growth and access to national resources and services; Promoting and facilitating regional and international cooperation with South Sudan; Committing the people of South Sudan to peaceful resolution of national issues through dialogue, tolerance, accommodation and respect of others opinions.
Some of the individual leaders or parties that are against the Revitalized Agreement since it was signed in 2018 have been against it not because the Agreement has not provided an opportunity for establishment of a Federal system in South Sudan. While some were misled into rejecting the Revitalized Agreement, some have been against the Agreement due to ulterior or malicious reasons that include the following: a) Being against the former President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir or the Sudanese government, since the Agreement was negotiated and initialled in Khartoum in 2018 before being finally signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. So, some of those parties were merely for sabotage. So as to send a message that Bashir or Sudan is/were failure. That was despite of the fact that it was the 32nd Extra-Ordinary Summit of the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government that mandated former President Bashir to facilitate the Khartoum Talks. And that was despite of the fact that that whole process was not a new peace process but a Revitalization of the 2015 Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan which was not making progress due to resumption of armed conflict, and as their response to the circumstances that emerged in South Sudan at the time, the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government in a Communiqué on 12, June 2017 mandated the IGAD Council of Ministers to “convene a High Level Revitalization Forum (HLRF) of the parties to the ARCSS including estranged groups to discuss concrete measures, to restore permanent ceasefire, to full implementation of the Peace Agreement and to develop a revised and realistic timeline and implementation schedule towards democratic election at the end of the Transition Period.” The Revitalized Agreement and the current relative peace and reduction in violence/clashes in many parts of the Country are fruits of those processes.
b) Theatrics to Score Political Points, rather than genuinely addressing the crises.
For some of those who rejected the Revitalized Agreement of 2018 and are now taking part as parties in the Rome process, the issue of Federal system is about scoring political points. The assumption is that, through the Rome Peace Process, a Federal system shall be imposed, thereby giving them credit. And the assumption is that this would politically disadvantaged the rest of the parties that signed the 2018 Revitalized Peace Agreement and are waiting for the process of Federalism through the participation of South Sudanese public during the Permanent Constitution making process, as enshrined in the R-ARCSS.
Perhaps those individual leaders or parties who fall within the category of those using the issue of Federal system of governance as theatrics and attempts to score political points instead of genuinely addressing the crises need to be reminded or enlightened about some lessons in ETHICS AND REVOLUTION and some basic classical political philosophy. Can a revolution be justified as good, perhaps even as necessary and justified not merely in political terms i.e. justified with respect to the human conditions such as, to the potential of man in a given historical situation? According to one of my favourite philosophers, and I agree with him, in his answers to those questions are here: “This means that ethical terms such as “right” or “good” will be applied to political and social movements, with the hypothesis that the moral evaluation of such movement is (in a sense to deprived) more than just subjective, more than a matter of preference. Under this hypothesis, “good” and “right” would mean serving to establish, to promote, or to extend human freedom and happiness in a commonwealth, regardless of the form of government. This preliminary definition combines individual and personal, private and public welfare. It tries to recapture a basic concept of classical political philosophy which has been all too often repressed namely that the end of government is not only the greatest possible freedom, but also the greatest possible happiness of man, i.e. a life without fear and misery, and a life in peace.”
So, Federal system of government is just a system of government. What a party/movement or revolution should (can) do is simply create a conducive environment for the people (South Sudanese) through a peace agreement or agreements for the people to decide for themselves the system that shall best work for the whole Country. Even among the current parties, leaders and their members who want Federal system in South Sudan, some of them stand for different models or types of Federal system.
I keep saying South Sudan cannot afford Constitution-Making Processes every after few years. Hence getting things right at once, through a wide consultative process that bring the people of South Sudan into a common understanding shall help give legitimacy to the system that shall be established (whichever type of Federalism) and also ensure lasting peace and its success. This is because a body of laws (Constitution) without ownership is nothing much. I personally believe a Federal system when well explained and understood by South Sudanese, shall help in resolving the crises in the Country. But that does not mean a single party or coalition of parties can or should bring it without involving the people.
Talking about creating a conducive environment for the people (South Sudanese) through a peace agreement for the people to decide for themselves the system that shall best work for them automatically leads to what is known as Security Arrangements, or as is known in the vocabulary of Peace Agreements in South Sudan: “PERMANENT CEASEFIRE AND TRANSITIONAL SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS”. This is where among many other things, to ensure sustainable peace, provisions are made/mechanisms are put in place to facilitate the operationalization of Transitional Security Arrangements, including coming into force of Ceasefire Agreements, voluntary repatriation, resettlement, rehabilitation and reintegration of returnees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), disengagement and separation of forces in close proximity, withdrawal of allied troops and opening of humanitarian corridors, training of different formerly warring parties to become unified forces of the military, police and other security services.
Chapter Two of the Revitalized Agreement (R-ARCSS) is about PERMANENT CEASEFIRE AND TRANSITIONAL SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS is known as one of the best in the history of recent conflicts in the Country. It makes provisions on many issues including on those mentioned here above by the author, as well as on obligating the parties (signatories) to it to ensure that all non-South Sudanese armed groups leave the country within the Pre-Transitional Period (which ended without being honoured). (The issue of non-South Sudanese armed groups has been controversial both in war making and peace-making in the Country and the region, albeit not so much talked about publicly.)
Now, since Chapter Two of the Revitalized Agreement (R-ARCSS) on PERMANENT CEASEFIRE AND TRANSITIONAL SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS is known as one of the best in the history of recent conflicts in the Country, why are its terms not being implemented as they should? The answer revolves around the (perceived or real) intentions of some of the factions or parties that pulled out of the Revitalized Agreement or its signing and why there are still reports of violence/clashes involving them and the rest of the parties to the Revitalized Agreement, despite their recommitments to the Ceasefire and Cessation of Hostilities Agreement through the Rome process. For more answers, go back and read Point 1 on the top of this article, together with Part One of this article which was published on Friday. Other answers revolve around regional politics and (real or perceived) attempts to maintain stability, with some regional leaders fearing the unknown, thereby choosing to tactically slow-down progress in the South Sudan peace process.
As indicated in the opening of this article, the South Sudan Opposition Movement (SSOMA) in their Declaration of Principles signed on August 30th, 2019 in The Hague, The Netherlands declared that one of their objectives is to “End the South Sudan civil war by addressing the root causes of the conflict; and seeking a permanent solution to the insecurity and humanitarian disaster.” They, together with their supporters and those involved in the peace process, definitely should remember or underline that “root causes” of the conflict in South Sudan cannot be addressed without addressing factors that result to factionalism/splits when signing a peace agreement is nearing, and why SSOMA have not been able to send their representatives to the Ceasefire monitoring body so that the ceasefire is jointly monitored and clashes minimized or avoided while dialogue continue.
However, looking at the positive side, the formula being jointly tried by all involved (the South Sudanese parties, the region and international community), including the positive outcomes so far, if continued in good faith, shall help South Sudan attain lasting peace and the freedoms and democratic reforms so deserved, including being able to freely decide on the system of government (whichever type of Federal Democratic system) that shall work best for the Country and all its people. The formula shall also be able to help other Countries in the Region, the African Continent and the World free themselves from wars.