S. Sudan's rebel leader writes to UN chief over “shortcomings” in IGAD proposal
June 18, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – South Sudan’s former vice-president, Riek Machar, who leads an armed opposition faction against president Salva Kiir’s government, has written to the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki Moon, over what he said were “many shortcomings” in a proposed draft agreement by the East African regional bloc, IGAD, in order to end the 18-month long civil war in the young country.
- South Sudanese rebel leader Riek Machar gives a press conference in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on 12 May 2014 (Photo: AFP/Zacharias Abubeker)
Machar said the document which the IGAD special envoys proposed mainly on power-sharing and security arrangements, and distributed to regional heads of state and government as the basis for a final peace agreement, would not bring peace between the warring parties.
“I am writing to point out the shortcomings in the IGAD Special Envoys’ document that is distributed to the Heads of State and Government…However, this document has many shortcomings and leaves a lot of problems unaddressed,” partly reads the letter to the UN secretary general, dated 11 June, which copy Sudan Tribune has obtained.
In the six-page long letter, Machar narrated to the UN chief in details “fundamental” issues that should have been addressed by IGAD proposal, but not addressed, and the faults in their proposal in regard to various outstanding issues.
For instance, the armed opposition leader criticized IGAD proposal for leaving out the issue of compensation and reparation of victims of what he said was a genocide in the capital, Juba, and beyond that allegedly left over 20,000 people dead, mainly from the Nuer ethnic community, killed in cold blood by president Salva Kiir’s presidential guards and allied ethnic Dinka militias from his home region of Bahr el Ghazal.
He also reiterated his call for release and publication of report of the African Union’s (AU) Commission of Inquiry on the crimes committed and for those responsible to be held accountable, saying non-disclosure of the report implied lack of transparency. He also decried the dire situation faced by over a hundred thousand internally displaced persons in the UN camps across the war-torn country.
The rebel leader said a hybrid court to try those responsible for the war crimes and crimes against humanity should be established outside South Sudan, and that a program of reconciliation should also be anchored to final peace agreement. He stressed that many of the present problems persisted because the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between South Sudan and Sudan in January 2005 did not address the issue of reconciliation internally in South Sudan.
The opposition leader further argued that federal system of governance should be part and parcel of a final peace agreement and implemented in the transitional period, saying this had been a popular demand of the people since 1947 and should not be referred to future permanent constitutional making process.
On institutional reforms he said there was need to overhaul the system in all its sectors and expressed pessimism that such a change would not take place under the current leadership in South Sudan.
“The current regime has been described as kleptocracy. I agree with this description. It is corrupt. It is difficult to envisage any reforms under the current leadership. However difficult, fundamental reforms must be done in the economy, security, public service, judiciary and political pluralism practice,” he said.
In the area of security arrangements, Machar attacked the IGAD proposal, saying it only limited scope of ceasefire to the three states of the oil-rich Upper Nile region, which included Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei, leaving out the other seven states of Central, Eastern and Western Equatoria states in the greater Equatoria region and the four states of Lakes, Warrap, Northern and Western Bahr el Ghazal in the greater Bahr el Ghazal region.
He said war started in the national capital, Juba, and spread to the other states, adding that the war was also raging and spreading to the other two regions.
Machar also argued in the letter to the UN chief that although the intensity of the war was being felt in greater Upper Nile, government forces fighting in the three Upper Nile states came from all the ten states of the country.
He proposed that the national capital plus all the ten states capitals and other major towns must be demilitarized and the United Nations peacekeepers in the country take over the security of these capitals and major towns.
The rebel leader further said both the opposition forces and forces of the government should be cantoned, and described IGAD’s proposal on security arrangements as only biasedly targeting the rebel forces.
“Cantonment must include regime’s forces. IGAD proposal tackles only SPLM/SPLA forces. It is a project for disarmament of SPLM/SPLA, that is a disaster plan and cannot contribute to peace,” he said.
He also added that the proposed 18 months for reunification process of the two rival armies during a transitional period was not feasible as the process needed a lot of activities before they could come under a unified command.
“Unification of both SPLM/SPLA and GRSS forces involves selection, amalgamation, integration, training, deployment of the unified forces (Army, Police, Correctional Services, Fire Brigades and Wildlife and National Security) under unified command. This task cannot be completed in 18 months period,” he told the UN secretary general.
On the ceasefire agreement signed between the two warring parties since 23 January 2014, he said this could not hold because one of IGAD’s member states, Uganda, plus “four” Sudanese rebels and Chadian rebels involved in the war on the side of president Kiir’s government.
“This agreement was born dead,” he said.
On power-sharing he said this should be applied across the ten states of the country, including the other seven states of Bahr el Ghazal and Equatoria, not only in the three states of Upper Nile region. He also questioned the logic behind IGAD’s proposed 33% of share to the government, saying populations in Upper Nile region had risen against the government. He added that war was also going on in the other regions against the government.
Machar further stressed that the document failed to share power in the Council of States, an upper house of the national legislature.
He also criticized the draft proposal for giving more percentage to only “10 individuals” known as former detainees than all the 16 opposition political parties combined in the country. He said these individuals were also lumped with 7% share in Upper Nile region although some of them did not come from the region.
The rebel leader also criticized IGAD for going against the 75% decision-making threshold at executive and legislative organs as initially agreed by the warring parties and instead introduced 67% threshold.
He accused the regional bloc of playing to the tune of tribal politics by proposing a divisive power-sharing deal for the regions and states.
“Is IGAD submerged in tribal politics in South Sudan? We cannot understand this mindboggling logic. South Sudan is one country striving to create a multi-national, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural nation based on equality, justice, freedom, democracy that shall prosper in the Nile Basin,” said the opposition leader.
On illegitimacy of the current government in Juba, Machar said both the national legislature and the president had become illegitimate, explaining that their elected terms in office had already expired on 8 March 2015 for the national legislature and on 21 May 2015 for the president.
He also added that president Kiir became illegitimate with additional counts including the act of genocide in Juba and beyond, usurping power of the people and fabricating a coup that led to the current war, a case he said the president lost in his own court in Juba.
Machar in the letter to the UN secretary general further accused the national legislature of usurping the power of the people of South Sudan in amending and enacting laws extending their lifespan and that of the president when the national legislature itself was already illegitimate.
The amendment of the constitution done by the national legislature after 8 March 2015 by an “illegitimate” body, he said, was unconstitutional.
“An illegitimate president and an illegitimate national legislature are now ruling South Sudan,” he told the UN chief.
“Finally, we urge the world to declare president Salva and the national legislature constitutionally illegitimate on July 9, 2015,” he concluded.
The former vice president however said his organization was committed to the IGAD peace process and welcomed the new IGAD-Plus mechanism, saying there was need to allow the parties to the conflict to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the conflict.