SOUTH SUDAN: Bringing peace puzzles regional big men
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | The Nov.12 deadline for forming a government of national unity in South Sudan was never going to be met. A tripartite summit where President Museveni met both President Salva Kiir and his former vice president-turned-rival Riek Machar on Nov.7 at State House Entebbe resolved to extend the deadline for another 100 days. It was the third face-to-face meeting of Kiir and Machar since they both signed a major peace deal last year.
Abdalftah Alburhan, President of the Transitional Sovereign Council of Sudan, Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka, Kenya’s Special Envoy on South Sudan, attended the summit too.
Museveni and other regional leaders have been talking tough but analysts fear the situation in South Sudan will either not change or worsen. Part of the problem is the lack of an honest peace broker.
At a meeting in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, held on Oct.14 to launch peace talks, Museveni used a mixture of Arabic and English as he lambasted Kiir and Machar. He said it was wrong for them to pride in their status as tribal chiefs.
“It is absolute rubbish to waste even one afternoon to talk about hawiya (identity). I tell you to go to hell. These mistakes have been going on because of this rubbish hawiya of tribe, religion etc and we have killed each other,” he added, “When you want to bring prosperity to the people yet you front identity, then what are you going to do?” Museveni asked.
Museveni’s strong language has been liked to that of former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn who once threatened to arrest both Kiir and Machar if they did not sign a peace agreement in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Desalegn was said to be at the end of his tether with the two leaders.
Uganda is the guarantor of the South Sudan peace agreement signed in September 2018 between Kiir and Machar and Museveni is looked up to in the Great Lakes region as an elder statesman. He remains an intimate player in the South Sudan peace process but also appears to be running out of patience in as far as finding a lasting solution to the conflict. He also stands accused of contributing to it.
During the recently held Geopolitics conference at Makerere University in Kampala, Jacob Chol, a Senior Reader of Political Science at the University of Juba shared some insights on the tricky path forward for his country.
“Last year alone, over 20,000 weapons crossed over from Uganda to South Sudan,” Chol said to a startled audience. Whereas Uganda is the guarantor to the South Sudan peace deal, it is also partly responsible for the mayhem that occurs there regularly.
Chol added “For South Sudan to be stable, Uganda has to be more stable, for South Sudan to be more stable, Sudan has to be stable.”
Chol is also founder and Executive Director of the Centre for Democracy and International Analysis (CDIA), a research and an academic think-tank based in South Sudan.
Observers say the alleged gun running in Uganda could be fuelling conflict in South Sudan. Ugandan troops that massed in the country after the war in 2013 also remain an issue of contention.
When President Museveni deployed UPDF troops in Juba in December 2013 after war broke out, Kiir is said to have been handed a lifeline because the UPDF troops are what stood between him and an annihilation by forces loyal to Machar.
Now Museveni appears to be pushing conditions seen by some as hindrances to peace in South Sudan.
According to sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations to bring peace to the country, Museveni has reportedly directed that Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, widow of former leader John Garang, hold one of the five slots of Vice Presidents of South Sudan.
These slots were created by the September 2018 Revitalised Agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict of South Sudan (RARCSS) signed in Addis Ababa.
Nyandeng is an ally of Machar who heads the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement In Opposition (SPLM-IO). There has also been concern about whether the extra vice president positions would not create more centres of power and thus ground for conflict.
But Uganda is just one of several complications surrounding the failure to find peace in South Sudan.