By Jon Pen de Ngong
From my reading of the situation around the talks and of the document as a backbencher participant throughout the negotiation period of both the ARCISS and now HLRF Talks (since February 2014), this Agreement (Khartoum) is weaker than ARCISS (Agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan), which was violated and broken up in a bloody showdown of July 2016.
The most damaging violation that drove the last nail on the coffin of the Addis Ababa Agreement of 2015 is President Kiir’s decree (Executive Order No. 32 of October 2, 2016) unilaterally dividing the country into 28 states, later increasing them to 32.
This violation has compounded the war and has, very unfortunately, been enshrined in this Revitalized ARCISS in Khartoum, hence a faultline for the failure of the Khartoum Agreement, as other parties have withdrawn their signatures. The malice was inserted into our Agreement during the impromptu Entebbe shuttle deal, referred to as the Entebbe Proposal.
Personally, I do not blame the dissenting parties because the Talks have been shrouded with the cloud of mistrust. For instance, some parties arrived days after the Khartoum Declaration was made between President Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar.
Do not forget that some preliminary deal was signed by the petroleum ministers of Juba and Khartoum even before the handshake by the duo, as if to oil the agreement. This already seems to have compromised the mediator, the Government of Sudan, whose interests are now enshrined in the Agreement.
I am writing what I witnessed, myself, in Khartoum before I quit with some of my fellow civil society representatives upon realizing we were already being considered an ‘insignificant group with a non-essential voice’.
War has been shifted from the parties to the people! In Article No. 4 (32 states) of the Khartoum Agreement (Please, read the initialed pages of the Agreement lest I mislead you), Salva Kiir will win the referendum in December or thereabouts.
The referendum will come about as the composition of the Independent Boundaries Commission (IBC) will make it impossible to let the commissioners nullify the decree that has imposed the 32 states on the Agreement as has been the case on the people.
The consensus building is crafted in such a way that the IBC, should they disagree, will not revert their decision to the resolution of the 55th IGAD Communique (resorting to original ARCISS’s 10 states).
To apparently solve the predetermined impasse in the IBC, the Agreement has gone ahead to recommend a referendum to be conducted after the 90 days of IBC stalemate and before the end of the Pre-Transitional Period of 8 months. That means the referendum will be around the end of this year or early 2019.
This is the game changer! By December 2018 or January 2019, Dr. Riek and other ‘insignificant groups with their non-essential threats’ will not be in the country, and by extension, not in the counties, yet. Only the generals and their cantoned soldiers could be there.
Therefore, the referedum campaigns will be conducted under Kiir’s incumbent TGoNU under the supervision of AU and security of IGAD (Uganda and Sudan as per the Khartoum Security Arrangement).
Did I just write ‘referendum’? No, it is actually the ’32 referendums’ (referenda)! How this? The number of states will not be necessarily answered with a YES or NO vote. Like 32 versus 23 versus 21 versus 10 states. I am still wondering what formulae the Referedum Commission will adopt.
For the case of boundaries, each state will design its own mechanism of solving their problem. Remember, the administrators (32 state governors and their over 300 county commissioners) will still be Kiir’s very own within those stipulated 8 months of the Pre-Transitional Period during which this abrupt plebiscite (people’s consultation) will be conducted.
How About Taking War To The People?
Now the slogan will change from ‘taking towns to the people to taking war to the people’! Why is this?
There will be no free and fair decision as the presiding governors, ministers, commissioners, etc. will see this as a referendum on their own positions. Remember, this leaders were not elected by the people but appointed by President Kiir to replace the people’s elected ones.
To tickle your memory a bit, the last time we exercised our rights to voting in elections and referendum was when we were Sudanese. My leaders of the new nation are allergic to elections. This should explain why the legitimacy extension has been by the blood or by the money of their people as is now the case, and will be.
Some tribes and clans (say, people) will have their decisions over the emotive border issues overridden. Yes, by those or any other means, the peoples of South Sudan will be disenfranchised.
The 32 states will still win! Some states, which are already feuding over boundaries and marginalization now, will contest the results. The other day, one opposition governor swore that “the war will shift to the kith and kin if the referendum is rigged this time!” This is when I told him he would not be there to safeguard his vote as a governor or voter in his village a few months on the line. It is designed that the referedum take place before the parties are at home.
Some opposition parties will hereby purport to champion their people’s cause. The usual means here is characteristically the violence. In this case, the plebs of each state will fight their own war, as such disputes have already taken place over boundaries and lands.
The conflict will have been thus exported to the people by making them wrangle over the decision they had not originally made. People make decisions by plebiscite, not through decrees.
Excuse my doomsaying, but this arrangement can throw our whole country into chaos unless handled with the people-centred interests. What are they? Let me assume my readers must have already known these through their post-independence war.
As if that is not enough, why is this 32-state saga so emotive an issue? It is not only because it was a result of dictatorship, that is, a decree by one person, nor is it because it is the stark violation of the ARCISS; no, it is emotive because of the motive.
What is this motive? They are now motives as per the agreement. Winning 32 states referenda by the end of Pre-Transitional Period means winning the elections by the end of the Transitional Period for Kiir and his chunk of the SPLM, including his oyee-chanting opposition parties ‘made in Juba’.
The resource sharing, say development, will be based on this decision, if not division. My politics-in-poetics series calls it a ‘divide-and-ruin legacy’ by President Salva Kiir Mayardit. Yes, when a controversial notion that once broke up the parties is thrown to the lower end of the fledgling nation, what do you think the people will do with it? The same!
This being my personal analysis, my war-generated anger is anchored on the African leadership style of the liberator owning the liberated forever, including handing them over to his family lineage or a clique of colleagues. This is a total doom when such liberators are only gifted with the talents of liberation and not that of development.
Here is the case in point. Zimbabwe is now busy rebooting to the factory settings the Mugabe’s liberator ‘achievements’, which have thrown his people from the independence victory into the dependence misery for amlost four decades of decadence.
South Sudan is on this ‘Harare Highway’, given our leaders’ chest-thumbing manliness against the ‘khawaja’ over whom the Arabs are now being preferred as our new saviours to manage for us our peace and its implementation, with our oil and its extraction– just 7 years after we extracted ourselves out of their grip!
My worry is compounded by the fact that Kiir with his undefined system is being fronted as our eternal father by the two longest ruling dictators in the neighborhood (in the region and the continent). He has already caught the liberator-father feelings and is now busy catching this longetivity virus from his African peers.
These are my fears. They are also my mother’s and children’s. So I stand by my words come the repercussions. Because I love my country, not my leaders.
Say, ‘Cry the De-loved Country’!
By Jon Pen de Ngong,
Originally published on ‘The Eased Africa I Want’ blog.