Speaking Notes in the meeting with members of the UNSC
We have a written position explaining why we do not think that it is a good idea to form the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGoNU) on 12 November 2019. I will share it with you and therefore will not repeat what came therein. This contribution is to bring the discussion into context.
The English adage has it that “once bitten, twice shy”. The Sudanese put it more dramatically that “he who has been bitten by a snake will fear the pulling of a rope”. It was in October, this month, in 2015, two months into the three-month Pre-Transitional period, when disagreement came into the open on whether or not the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) should be formed on time. This disagreement was precipitated by the Order issued by the President dividing the country into 28 States in contravention of the Peace Agreement and the Constitution of South Sudan. Both documents stipulated that the country will be governed on the basis of ten (10) States.
This matter was resolved only through the intervention of the IGAD Council of Ministers which resolved in its 55th session that the Order was indeed a violation of the Peace Agreement, that its implementation be suspended and a national commission be formed to look into the number of states to complete its task within a month. It went further to state that in the event that the commission fails to reach agreement on the number of states, the country shall revert back to the ten (10) States stipulated in the Agreement. The decision sounded fair enough and practical enough. But was it respected?
After the decision of the IGAD Council of Ministers was taken, there was regional and international chorus that the TGoNU must be formed without delay. Tremendous pressure was brought to bear on the Opposition urging them to accept that position. Dr Riek Machar was pressured into going to Juba before the completion of the force that was to accompany him as provided in the Agreement. He was promised that the rest will be transported after he assumes his office in Juba. The Opposition took these promises seriously and it accepted the formation of the TGoNU in April 2016. But what happened thereafter? No troops were transported to Juba and the President ignored the decision of the IGAD Council of Ministers and refused to form a commission to look into the number of the States. The South Sudanese were left on their own till the bloody shootout at the State House (J1) took place in July 2016 and war erupted again at the cost of hundreds of thousand lives. The rest is history.
Today, we are in October discussing the same two issues: security arrangements and the number of States in the country. We saw and lived what happened when these issues were glossed over not long ago. We get amazed when some people tell us that these matters can wait to be resolved after the TGoNU is formed. We also get amused when the same people say so in the name of our suffering masses, whose security, not only that of the VIPs, the Agreement was aiming to safeguard. Are we not repeating the same failed experiment? This time the security situation will be more serious. Formation of the TGoNU before completing putting together the necessary unified force (NUF) would mean not two armies as was the case in 2015 but multiple armies. That would be a tinder box ready to explode. On the number of states, the government’s insistence to form the TGoNU before settling the issue is driven by its desire to impose its 32 States as a fait accompli. What incentive has those whose lands were grabbed as a result of the creation of these mini-States to join such a government?
We better give ourselves two more months to get things right rather than rush as we did in 2016 to form the government just for it to collapse in two months and the country goes back to war. There can never be a shortcut to security matters. We learned that in a hard way.
Dr Lam Akol,
Chairman of the NDM and
Secretary General of SSOA.
20 October 2019.
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