South Sudan has to survive its apparent descent into self-annihilation – “slow motion political suicide,” as one international figure recently described it.
And, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon memorably captured it following the spate of violence in Juba three weeks ago, “rarely has a country squandered so much promise.”
Perhaps the proposal that has been doing the rounds internationally that the country should be put on “life support” ought to be seriously considered.
As of mid this week, UN agencies were reporting tens of thousands of people having fled the fresh outbreak of violence in the country, as well as mass killings, looting and forced recruitment of child soldiers.
Other reports indicate that forces loyal to embattled First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar are poised to attack Juba, even as both sides in their mistrust have been hurling accusations against each other over the fresh fighting and failure to keep to the Addis Ababa Peace Accord.
As Hilde Johnson, the former Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to South Sudan was quoted by BBC pointing out, the lack of trust at the top has filtered down to the troops on the ground leading to their deadly face-off.
And the swearing in last week of Mr. Taban Deng Gai, former SPLA IO peace negotiator, to “temporarily” replace Machar as South Sudan’s First Vice President has not helped matters.
Dr. Machar was on Al-jaazera terming the replacement as “illegal and violated the Peace agreement”, a position the UN agreed with a warning.
But President Kiir is not listening, having just fired four ministers and reshuffling the second in command, all of them allied to Riek Machar.
In the meantime, it could be that, as appears the case, there’s a lack of communication and command and control of the different factions. But as long President Kiir and Dr. Marchar continue with their mistrust and grandstanding, recurrence of violence is not only inevitable, but could this time around completely annihilate the nation in a manner that it may never come back together.
The UN Security Council’s two-week extension of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), ostensibly to allow time for its membership to consider options on adapting the operation’s mandate, ends on Friday next week.
In the interim, it is a wait-and-see situation after President Kiir met with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and again with Festus Mogae, the chair of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), to discuss possible deployment of a neutral AU-backed battalion.
JMEC is mandated with supervising implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement between President Kiir and Dr. Machar.
But it seems nothing was destined to work in the volatile country, thus the foregoing suggestion to put it on “life support” – that a strong external hand should take charge.
It goes as far back as December 2015 when, in a bid to drum up support for the alternative view, a US Senate Hearing was informed that the fractured “SPLA … cannot act as unifying institution” with the continuing rivalry and ambitions; meaning “that security for the peace process must come largely from outside.”
The person pushing for this view was Princeton Lyman, US special envoy to South Sudan and Sudan from 2011-2013 and former ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria.
And in a recent article in the Financial Times, he and Kate Almquist Knopf, director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies who had previously served as director of USAID in Sudan and South Sudan from 2006 to 2007, further elaborated on how this could be achieved (see “To save South Sudan, put it on life support”).
They observe that international administration is not unprecedented and has previously been employed to guide Kosovo, East Timor and other countries out of conflict.
For a lasting solution, they suggest, an executive mandate for the UN and the AU to administer the country should be established until institutions exist to manage politics non-violently and break up the patronage networks underlying the conflict. This will realistically take 10-15 years.
It is admittedly a controversial proposition that, “in effect, would [turn South Sudan into] an international protectorate.” But it is probably worth pursuing.Follow https://twitter.com/gituram