‘DEKIIREES IN DEMOKIIRACY’: Salva Kiir Appoints Salva Kiir to Dialogue with Salva Kiir…!
“I, Salva Kiir Mayardit, President of the Republic of South Sudan and the Patron of the National Dialogue, do hereby issue this Republican Order for the FORMATION OF THE NATIONAL DIALOGUE STEERING COMMITTEE composed of the Members as hereunder…”.
TEN REASONS WHY KIIR’S ‘NATIONAL DIALOGUE’ IS NOW A ‘NATIONAL MONOLOGUE’
FLASHBACK: President Kiir’s hijacking behaviour towards our would-be nationally unifying initiatives is annoyingly unbecoming. In December 2013, he pushed in a controversial SPLM party convention which was boycotted by the disgruntled half. The national delegates voted for a ‘cow-horn ballot system’ (show of hands), contrary to the country’s constitution and modern ethics of democracy based on secret ballot. Tensions built up and burst the country into the ongoing flames, with traded blames here and there.
In 2014/2015, he grabbed and decreed the concept of Federalism from the opposition. This is the so-called Executive Order No. 36 declared barely 36 days after appending his loose signature to the Accord for the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (ARCISS). The Order ushered in a now frail, if not failed, 28 states from the previous 10 states, forcefully and unilaterally. Wait a minute! This state-awarding politics aimed at winning more tribal allegiance will continue towards 64 states, based on 64 ethnic groups.
As if that is not enough, in December 2016, he again rushed at a breakneck speed with an agenda that was proposed by almost all South Sudanese citizens, especially after a 14-page document was advanced in writing by the SPLM’s Former Detainees (G10+).
It was expected to provide the so-called ‘African Solutions for African Problems’, an alternative answer to our personal grudges, which gave birth to our national clashes now ongoing. Unfortunately, Gen. Kiir’s domineering rule by decrees has made failure being anticipated in a series of peace processes. The writer has attempted to sum up these causes into a 10-point outline, thus:
1- THE ‘DEKIIREE’ FACTOR
President Kiir’s rule by some ancient monarchical decrees has interfered a great deal with the hopes of South Sudanese, especially those outside the government, who wanted a relief through this process. The ‘I-factor’ by which the president, who is party to the conflict, has planted himself atop the National Dialogue system is watering down the faith invested in the South Sudanese homegrown attempt at their chronic problems. In the dialogue, Kiir will be discussed both as a person and as a president. Imagine him seated in the main chair with his Tiger and National Security operatives rolling their eyeballs across the halls!
2- INTEGRITY OF THE CONVENERS
Hot debate is still raging in the social media and local venues about the integrity of the institutions and individuals appointed by the president to provide technical facilitation. The president in his December 19 state of the nation address in the parliament, later reinforced with a decree of the formation of the National Dialogue Steering Committee televised on SSBC, has decreed 3 institutions, namely The Sudd Institute, Ebony Centre for Strategic Studies, and Centre for Peace and Development (University of Juba). The writer has observed the following from the ongoing public interactions, which may affect the public faith in the Dialogue:
i- Sudd Institute: It is based in Juba. One of its directors was quoted in the research the Institute authored after the ‘December War’ supporting the attempted coup claims by the government on the oppositions. Same was echoed on his social media opinions. Another director was seen in a shuttle diplomacy conducted by the SPLM-IO Taban wing in Uganda and USA after the July’s J1 flare-up. His role among the pro-Taban Team was generally dubious, but specifically obvious in line with the team’s tour objectives: to market the new SPLM-IO under Taban after the First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar was expelled from Juba. The institute’s affiliation to the Jieng Council of Elders was manifest in one of its officials’ confession on a social forum to have helped in ‘editing the language’ of the JCE’s proposed 28 states’ text, which was later put into an Executive Order No. 36 in October 2015…as a few to mention.
ii- Ebony Centre for Strategic Studies. Its director, Hon. Dr. Lual A. Deng, is a member of the National Legislative Assembly in Juba. He also doubles as an adviser to one of the ruling party’s (SPLM) secretariats. Though the Centre is an independent think-tank, observers may fault Dr. Lual’s ‘independent consultancy’. In addition, ECSS runs a forum (DPF — Development Policy Forum), which feeds the government with policy recommendations. It is based in Juba.
iii- Centre for Peace and Development Studies, University of Juba: The Centre’s director, Dr. Luka Biong Deng, was expelled from the country under controversial circumstances following the convening of a public lecture on the said Executive Order 36 (28 states) in October 2015. This was attended by opposition leaders, civil society, Jieng Council of Elders, among others. Independent observers blamed the JCE chairman’s role in the sacking of Dr. Luka, the host of the debate, especially after he was heckled by some speakers and members during his attempt to justify the EO36 (28 states) order. Besides, the University’s vice chancellor, Prof. John Akech Apuruot, whose boss is the president himself (university’s chancellor), has endorsed a number of the presidential decrees, including authoring an opinion justifying such decrees in reference to the ancient system of governance. With the Centre tasked with providing technical and professional consultancy to the National Dialogue, conflict of interest cannot be ruled out.
NB: By the way, one of the most important institutions has not featured prominently in the Presidential Decree here: The non-think-tank Civil Society. The CSO groups are still waiting for explanation, especially the writer, also being a leader of some diaspora civil society coalition. Unless this important development partner (CSO) is assigned to the fate of the opposition parties by the government, this ‘National Dialogue’ will always be seen as a ‘National Monologue’, some sort of an intra-party talk.
3- PHYSICAL CONDITIONS OF THE ELDERS
Majority of the Steering Committee members, including the ‘Patron’s Advisers’, are either septuagenarians or octogenarians (from the age bracket of 70 and 90). This means, by practical theory from their physical appearances and medical conditions, our elders of the nation such as Uncle Abel Alier, Gen. Joseph Lagu, Mr. Aldo AJou, Mr. Machar Kachuol, Bishop Paride Taban, Bishop Nathaniel Garang, among others, may not sustain a whole day sitting in our trademark heated debates. In our churches, elders like Nathaniel Garang-dit are not allowed to attend long sessions in church services or other gatherings. Imagine a month-long series of political and social sessions in such dialogues…! Methinks, the president, in his decrees, is using our ‘National Uncles” pedigrees to hoodwink the public into supporting his unilateral dialogue, isn’t he?
This limitation only gives the whole floor to the energetic ones, who have unfortunately happened to be the real troublesome politicians of the feuding parties, as shown on the attached unilateral list of the 30 members. Methinks, the president just wanted to tap into the rich reputations and experiences of these eminent personalities of our nation. Who knows, in president’s planned nationwide tour to market the dialogue, the elders may act as ‘human shield’ to insulate the long-awaited presidential visitations in conflict-infested states of South Sudan.
4- NEUTRALITY OF THE VENUE
Any multiparty conflict resolution venue must always be in a non-compromising location. This does not mean taking it outside of the country, but the environment must be conducive for the members to freely express themselves. For instance, delegates of the armed opposition (SPLM-IO -Riek) may not perform well in scenarios where security personnel are hovering over the hall. This situation played a role in the December 14 showdown in 2013.
5- ISOLATION OF THE OPPOSITION
From the naming itself, the National Dialogue is automatically an amalgamation of representatives from every political party, community and institution comprising the nation. From President Kiir’s decree on the composition of the National Committee shown on this list, nothing makes it a national representation. A national selection as such must have a ‘natural selection’ features. It is mainly from members based in Juba. Actually, point No. 5 is the killer reason to the National Dialogue’s proposal. It talks of inclusion; so it must be taken care of. For instance, some key members of the opposition have had their passports ‘cancelled’ by the government, should they be invited today, how would they come? This, therefore, calls for the president, now the patron, to do some background clearance of his previous decisions before taking off with the wide drive of his project.
As seen from various official statements from the Former Detainees (Pagan), the SPLM-IO (Riek), the National Democratic Movement (Lam), the Church (SSCC) after their consultation in Nairobi and other places the week following the ‘December Decree’, the civil society and individual responses all over the nation and the world, President Kiir has no national character of that dialogue, leave alone his track records of the violation of his own agreements.
Therefore, Gen. Kiir should have consulted wisely and widely, including inviting delegations from the opposition groups outside of the country. To continue with the so-called national dialoguing in Juba while the conflict is raging on in the country is hypocritical of the reality of our peace search. As sung a thousand times, this dialogue must be inclusive of every one affected by – or effecting – the conflict.
6- THE RAGING INSECURITY ALL OVER THE COUNTRY
With news of attacks on all outlets from the capital to the states, and fierce battles raging around and within Yei, as well as from other parts of the country, convening the National Dialogue exclusively from those in Juba is putting the card before the horse. There must be at least some semblance of a cessation of such hostilities from around the venue of the dialogue, itself. From my experience as a civil society leader attending the 2012 All-Jonglei Communities’ Accord, 52 attacks by Murle and moderates by others greatly undermined the then sessions of the 6-tribe dialogue. Members of the group attacked would intermittently storm out of the venue in protest. This does not only delay the talks but also pokes holes of mistrust in the peace process of the people.
In this case, Mr. Kiir in consultation with the ARCISS partners and the armed opposition should device means of showing cessation of hostilities in order for the delegates and the communities to put faith and safety in the dialogues. No shortcuts will ever cut across the national divides of this country. War must first stop the war if genuine peace has to come in from the right doors.
7- THE DILEMMA BETWEEN ARCISS AND NATIONAL DIALOGUE
From the look of things, the president might be seen to be using the National Dialogue to evade or even invade the burdensome ARCISS (Accord for the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan). As he intends to avoid the other partners to ARCISS, the president will not escape the temptations of incorporating his previous ’17 Reservations’ that were bulldozed with him into signing the agreement in August 2015. This document, ARCISS, is superior to the national constitution, meaning it can ‘swallow’ the Transitional Constitution through the National Constitutional Amendment Commission (NCAC)-something not forthcoming since August 2015. So if ARCISS is such bigger than even the constitution, what miraculous decrees will the president perform to make the ND parasitic to the ARCISS in his favour?
Before we wait and see, I would rather we seek and wade through mini-dialogues for to build pressures to safeguard this comprehensive agreement (ARCISS) from political invasions by the desperate politicians. I mean those war crime suspects, who are definitely falling prey to the agreement through Chapters 2, 4 and 5 (Security, Financial and Judicial reforms preceded by justice and accountability). In short, it’s this Chapter 5 that makes the president and his cohorts failing to implement the whole agreement, and instead, meandering and toying around with other crafty ensnarement to lure the unsuspecting public into supporting their moves like in the previous tricks.
The blackmailing argument, that seems to set up those who try to challenge this unilateral national dialogue as guilty of denying us peace, is misleading. Peace is already documented in systematic details in ARCISS. Why not go ahead and implement it to provide an enabling atmosphere to such series of serious dialogues? Such diversions with twists and turns are what is responsible for the ongoing bloodshed in our country.
In a nutshell, the president, I mean here the self-appointed ‘Patron of the National Dialogue’ should tread very carefully through this dialogue so that it addresses our original South-South Dialogue leftovers that have overs-pilled into the current ‘December War’ of 2013. The distinctions should be drawn.
8- FINANCIAL CONSTRAINTS
The country is already engulfed in economic meltdown triggered by the currency devaluation blunder, coupled with the war plunder. Funding the war is the leading project at the moment. Health and food security are even direr than the real war itself, but who cares? ARCISS has not been implemented smoothly due to lack of funds excuses. Where does the money for the project of National Dialogue come from? In the President’s speech on December 19, he immediately signaled the Minister for Finance to move in. Alas, the CMC saga is imminent here! I mean another project like the ‘Crisis Management Committee’ that wasted millions on much ado about nothing in 2014.
Do not tell us the ‘donors’ will complement. No! Donors always come in where they have also participated in. In other words, funding partners, especially of peace processes, always do have a say from the word go of the process. Now that we are experimenting our African solutions for African problems, the donors could tell us, “How about African money for African problems?”
In short, the ND funding should come from within as well as from without if we want it successfully implemented. I have talked of the Jonglei Peace of 2012, which the president took along with him to his palace. From then, there has not been any money for facilitating the Jonglei communities’ agreement to date, but there has been money for Yau-Yau’s ‘peace and development’ projects in the Office of President Salva (OoPS); and money in excess for the likes of Agows and Wols to waste! This way: money comes for well planned and implemented projects, with integrity above all.
9- THE INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS’ FAITH
As exhausted in the funding section (No. 8) above, this is subject to the approach by the authorities. Donors look at the nature of the projects, which win funding. A project announced by decree unilaterally in the name of the majority may undergo funding bottlenecks. As I am typing this line, the UK diplomats are meeting President Kiir with a condition that the ND must involve all the aggrieved South Sudanese parties if it means real peace worthy of their real tax-payers’ money. That means they are ready to contribute only if other parties have their lists incorporated into the ‘Patrons’s list’ of 30 members decreed on SSBC on December 20, 2016. It is about trust, faith and then support. If the process is not credible, it may not attract wider support, hence doomed to fail. Kiir’s National Dialogue is destined for a national or even party or personal monologue unless he reverses his Presidential Order and include the parties concerned. Then the international partners will not fund it as requested and as they have already indicated.
10- WEAK INSTITUTIONAL SYSTEM TO IMPLEMENT THE OUTCOMES
This is the killer problem for the nascent republic. It is even a hereditary problem. But it becomes perpetual when reforms are being frustrated as seen in the case of ARCISS, which is dominantly a reform agenda…read ‘Regime Change Agenda’, if you are a government beneficiary. This, therefore, means that the resolutions of the National Dialogue are destined for the archives unless the implementing institutions are overhauled and reconstituted.
However, it is a fact well noticed with Kiir’s government that most of the strategic institutions are too deformed to be reformed. Any attempt to reform them brings fresh war itself. We have seen this in July 2016 and way back to December 2013. Independent reports like from AU and UN have converged on that fact: the need for institutional reforms as a priority. Unfortunately, as the political adage goes, ‘the buck stops with the president’, the reforms should begin from the Presidency! That explains why the president MUST be the patron, else ND negotiators may kick off with reform agenda from the top, something worrying the boss. So, where do we begin?
In conclusion, we have just begun…from the President’s decreeing of the National Dialogue; a very plausible move. That means there is no conclusion here. The conclusion, right from this analysis, should kick off with an inclusion…a debate by readers, leaders and everybody concerned and affected till the resolutions of the dialogues. That can only be possible if the patron, say, president, can humble down and assign the roles of running the National Dialogue to a neutral body and non-partisan personalities. Like the Addis Ababa Peace Agreement of 1972, which was facilitated by the All African Council of Churches, why not using such an institution to give us a chair, then put our Lagus and Garangs as members? Persons like Bona Malual, the JCE chief adviser, are also complicit in the mess.
On a sad note here, if the president sees his own political survival in our national dialogue, then the process will still fall back to the 28 states’ status.It must be ours, not his or theirs. It must not be another nation-wide, politically blackmailing gimmick by which the populace will crudely endorse Kiir and the regime to continue running their on show on our people’s blood and resources. No, the National Dialogue must be inclusive, local and people-centred. Amen?
FOOTNOTE: President Kiir is well known for his afterthought orders, or disorders for that matter. It’s hoped that he reverses after these widespread outcry against his unilateral decision of appointing himself to negotiate with himself, thus put: Salva Kiir appoints Salva Kiir to dialogue with Salva Kiir! The president is hereby urged to desist from this embarrassingly habitual decrees of shooting first and aiming later; or shooting fast and aiming last. I hope he will surely aim better later.