Solutions to South Sudan’s crisis are with South Sudanese

Solutions to South Sudan’s crisis are with South Sudanese
First Vice President Dr Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir pose for a photo in a past state function. [Photo: Courtesy]

EDITORIAL: Since the outbreak of the conflict in December 2013, South Sudan has seen a wave of mediations to bridge widened gaps among warring parties.

The notable organization that led and still continues to lead the mediation process is the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

The IGAD’s mediation effort is predicated under Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter. This chapter stipulates that regional organizations can undertake activities in the area of conflict mediation and resolution.

Indeed, under the auspice of IGAD, the country made some positive progress. In January 2014, the mediation effort of the regional body culminated in the signing of two landmark agreements on the cessation of hostilities and the release of political detainees.

Though the aforementioned achievement was short-lived in less than one year, IGAD pushed to deliver on its mandate the years following.

In February 2020, it led to the formation of the revitalized government of national unity. This was followed by the establishment of state administrative structures. That’s a laudable job.

However, IGAD appears to be struggling to leave up to its mandate – which is to ensure the complete process of the revitalized peace agreement, particularly Security Arrangements enshrined in Chapter II of the document signed by nine parties.

On Tuesday this week, IGAD Special Envoy to South Sudan, Dr. Ismail Wais, made a wailing plea to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in his visit to Kampala. Mr. Wais appealed to Museveni to intervene and solve the current political differences in South Sudan.

“I seek your leadership, guidance, and wisdom in helping the leaders of South Sudan to resolve the deadlock on the sharing of command structure. Help the leaders to expedite the unification and deployment of forces, and help to organize support to implement TSA through logistics, training, capacity building,” Dr. Wais quoted by the CHIMPREPORTs to have said.

Museveni, who at one point described South Sudanese as “blue people” apparently because of their skin pigmentation, is one of the guarantors of the peace agreement.

While IGAD’s call on Uganda’s Head of State sounds noble, it also reflects a fading vigor to genuinely resolve South Sudan’s political crisis.

Earlier this year Kasaija Phillip Apuuli, an academic from Makerere University’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration, published a research journal titled ‘IGAD’s Mediation in the current South Sudan Conflict: Prospects and Challenges.

In the paper, the author puts it precisely that the authority’s mediation process is destined to fail for a number of reasons, including the authority’s structural problems and lack of leverage to enforce its will on the parties to the conflict.

IGAD has failed to tap into its mediation experience gained during the Sudan and Somalia peace processes. There is only one thing keeping the regional body afoot; the recognition from the African Union and the United Nations.

That Dr. Wais reached out to Museveni for intervention is not only worrying but a reflection that a regional-led international mediation could once again be on the verge of failing a country in a moment it’s needed the most.

What can South Sudanese politicians learn? The solution to the crisis at home is right on their desks. As such, they should acknowledge where they got it wrong, shelve their egos, and mend their differences.

Of course, mediation by a regional or international body is necessary, but the will belongs to the principals of the conflict. If they are unwilling, no regional-led mediation efforts would succeed, including with Museveni’s intervention.

So, it is time South Sudanese leaders craft solutions to the problem only they understand the root cause because, after every 60 seconds, a minute passes.