By Fred Oluoch
To mark the fourth anniversary of the South Sudan peace agreement this month, John Andruga Duku, former South Sudan ambassador to China and a key negotiator in the 2018 Addis Ababa and Khartoum peace process, talks about the implications of the extension in early August of the transition government by 24 months.
He discusses the challenges the country faces and its hopes.
The government you support pushed for the extension of the transition period for two years till February 2025. What led to this?
The position of SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] was that we must go for elections to break the stalemate. But it was not a secret that there were some provisions of the agreement that had not been implemented and it could not happen within the remaining period before the end of the transitional period.
After consultations, President [Salva] Kiir decided to come up with the 24-month road map and put it on the table to the parties to the agreement. Initially, some partners in the agreement misunderstood the intention [and thought] the president wanted to extend his term indefinitely.
But later they came to realise that the only way to go forward was the extension because we could not finish implementing certain provisions of the peace agreement and hold elections on time.
What is the guarantee that the remaining provisions of the 2018 agreement will have been implemented by February 2025, given that the Troika had expressed doubts?
I believe that we will implement all the provisions by that time. But it is not about South Sudan but peace in the region as a whole. Peace in South Sudan is by extension peace in Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Kenya, and Sudan. It is in the interest of the region and Africa not to wait for the Troika to give us peace.
But now, the Troika is using the funding as leverage to put pressure on South Sudan. That is why I believe that it is sabotaging the peace agreement. This is because when President Kiir was preparing to hold elections, it is the Troika that shouted at the top of their voices that South Sudan could not hold elections before key protocols were implemented.
Then the parties to the agreement said that if that is the case, then let us extend the transitional period. But again, the Troika insisted that we could extend the transitional period. So, what do they want? The parties cannot hold elections before they implement key provisions of the agreement and at the same time, they were not supposed to extend because they would be violating the provisions of the agreement. The intention of the Troika is simple – regime change.
Are you saying that the main agenda of the Troika has always been regime change?
The Troika will be the first to shout that Kiir’s term has expired, yet they were not willing to support the implementation mechanisms. The Troika is simply focused on the Hybrid Court, which they are eagerly willing to fund. But the Hybrid Court is not the solution to end the conflict in South Sudan. You must approach the agreement holistically.
The ceasefire is holding, only for pockets of inter-communal fights over boundaries. Revenge killings and cattle rustling – these cannot be promoted as the continued conflict in South Sudan. Why was it possible to reach an agreement in Khartoum within two months which we could not do in Addis Ababa for two years? The Troika has promised the AU that they have put aside money for the Hybrid Court but are unwilling to fund other chapters of the agreement.
In the African context, if you look at South Africa after apartheid and Rwanda after the genocide – they chose truth and reconciliation instead of retributive justice. National healing and reconciliation are more important. Why are we not seeing the International Criminal Court in Iraq and Libya?
It appears that Juba has a beef with the Troika. What are the issues and why do you think that the Troika is after sabotaging South Sudan?
Whatever the objective of the Troika is only known to them. The Troika refused to guarantee the September 2018 peace agreement so they have no business lecturing those who agreed to support the agreement. But for us who are in the system, our belief is that the Troika wants regime change and they are not comfortable with the government of President Salva Kiir.
They tried to encourage the holdout groups to push for regime change. That is why you see people like Pagan Amum pushing for a caretaker government of technocrats controlled by the United Nations. We agree that regimes can be changed, but it has to come through the ballot by the people of South Sudan.
What is the role of the Troika, once they refused to guarantee the agreement? It means they disagreed with the agreement. They encouraged the holdout group not to sign. I was a member of the negotiation team in Addis Ababa, where we could agree during the day but at night, the Troika encourages the holdouts to boycott.
That is why we moved to Khartoum, where the Troika did not have leverage. It was to be finalised in Nairobi, but Uhuru Kenyatta said that there was no need to disturb the momentum. He insisted that the talks must be concluded in Khartoum.
Do you subscribe to the view that the Troika is more interested in South Sudan’s resources than peace?
There are cartels eyeing South Sudan resources, just like in the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo], but the world is silent on these people seeking to benefit from the South Sudan resources. As a neighbour, I cannot say that I like your children but I don’t like the people who gave birth to you – your parents.
For instance, as an ambassador, my role is the same as that of the US, British and Norway ambassadors and our work is to further bilateral relations. They are all credited to South Sudan and present their credentials to the president.
How can you present your credentials to the president and then say that you don’t recognise the same president that approved you to work in his country? What is the Troika? It was a body that was helping the peace process between Sudan and South Sudan. So they cannot be a permanent institution in South Sudan.
There is the issue of the Rome Process between the government and the holdout groups. How will the extension affect this process?
The Rome Process depends on the Troika accepting the agreement. From my personal view, I don’t see the Rome Process going on unless the Troika embraces peace. The Troika pretends to accept peace. If it accepts peace, there will be an agreement in Rome’s process. You cannot dismantle the majority to accommodate the minority.
The Troika aside, do you think the East African Community, Igad, and the AU are playing their role in pacifying South Sudan?
The AU made it clear that 2020 was the year for silencing the guns in the continent. South Sudan’s agreement in 2018 was in line with the AU agenda of silencing guns. We silenced the guns through the cessation of hostilities agreement. But this agreement is not being supported. The silencing of the guns means ending the war followed by disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR).
The EAC invited South Sudan to embrace good practices. Do you think the bloc is playing its due role in bringing peace to South Sudan?
The EAC has played its role. But most importantly, it has been led by Kenya through Uhuru Kenyatta. But now there is a new administration coming in. We can only wait and see how the new administration will take up the leadership. If the new administration embraces the agreement that is on the table, we will make progress.
South Sudan has not conducted elections since independence in 2011. What is the guarantee that it will ever hold elections?
The country was supposed to hold elections in 2015, but this could not happen because the war broke out in 2013. However, the election depends on electoral rules. That is why we are insisting that we must have an Election Act. Once we have it, it will guide us on how to conduct elections.
You cannot reinvent the wheels. But we need to tailor the elections to the interests of each country. We have to adjust elections to our peculiar situation because elections are not an event but a process. Today, Kenya, with the recent disputed elections, cannot stand and say we are the best in the region. In South Sudan, people are confusing the census and the return of the refugees with the election.
In 2011, we had a referendum, which was more important without a census and the return of the refugees. In the census, even children are counted, but they don’t vote. An election cannot be tied to the census or the return of refugees. The refugees can vote for the president but the elections will only be for those on the ground.
Would you attribute the continued inter-communal conflict to the destruction of livelihoods brought about by the 2013 war?
It is basically due to revenge attacks arising from cattle rustling that has been there since time immemorial. But the current challenge is the easy availability of guns that arose from the war. Before, cattle rustling used to be done through crude weapons like spears and arrows, but now the availability of the gun has made it more deadly. The solution is massive disarmament and the removal of arms in the wrong hands.
President Kiir encourages household farmers to engage in agricultural activities to improve livelihood
JUBA, 24th September (Office of the President) – His Excellency President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Saturday had encouraged every household farmer to engage in agricultural and other productive activities in order to collectively improve the livelihood of the people.
A statement the President made while on inspection visit to his Rice and Maize plantation farm in Luri.
President Kiir said some of the plantations like Rice and Maize at his farm are ready for harvest.
President Kiir has ventured into farming during some of his free time mostly on Weekends as an example to lead and encourage the people to engage in agricultural activities in order to collectively improve the livelihoods.
The President also appreciated those that responded to his call and are using some of their free time to engage in agriculture and other productive activities, something that he urges every individual South Sudanese to embark on during their free time.
“This is the rice plantation, some plantations ready for harvest. if every household across the Country does this, we would have sufficient food, and we would not be complaining of food shortage and hunger. I encourage every household to do something productive and innovative for themselves.” said President Salva Kiir at his farm in Luri during the inspection today.
Speaking to the Press after the field visit, the Executive Director in the Office of the President Hon. James Deng Wal said the people of South Sudan are blessed with a very fertile land that don’t need fertilisers for productivity.
Wal added that the President is encouraging every household to take up the tools and carry out farming for personal consumption.
Meet Garang Kuot, National Democratic Alliance Secretary General
After its official launch, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) announced its Secretary General – Garang Kuot Kuot.
“In accordance with the ordinary sitting number seven of 18th September of 2022, the global steering committee for the establishment and registration of the National Democratic Alliance unanimously nominated and endorsed the appointment of Mr. Garang Kuot Kuot as Global Secretary General with effect from 21st September 2022.
Garang Kuot said that his appointment came after critics claimed the new party launched last week was just a faceless internet thing.
“This is the only appointment done by the NDA, and the purpose was to put a human face on the organization so that people would not think that NDA is some kind of internet thing and the people leading it are afraid to be known. This is the reason we at NDA wanted to reach many people and give them confidence in the NDA as a legitimate political force,” Garang said.
National Democratic Alliance is a youth-led political party backed by former child soldiers popularly known as the Red Army.
South Sudan ready to mediate peace in Sudan: VP
September 23, 2022 (NEW YORK) – South Sudan’s Vice President, Hussein Abdelbagi Akol has pledged his country’s readiness to mediate an end to the conflict in Sudan.
Akol, also the Chair of the Service Cluster, told the United Nations General Assembly meeting on Thursday that South Sudan is surrounded by conflict-affected countries.
This, he told the assembly, persuaded South Sudan to pursue peace as a strategy to end its internal political contradictions and mediate in other regional countries.
“As part of its obligation to promote peace and stability in the region and beyond, South Sudan successfully mediated the armed conflict in Sudan which resulted in the signing of the Juba Peace Agreement in 2020 in Juba. South Sudan stands ready to mediate the current conflict between the army and the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) in Sudan so that Sudan can finally enjoy lasting peace”, said Akol.
He cited diplomatic efforts to mediate and end tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia after disagreement over the building of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
“Recently, South Sudan also offered to mediate tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia over their disagreement on the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). We further demonstrated a willingness to mediate the internal conflict in Ethiopia between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Forces (TPLF). The Republic of South furthermore availed itself ready to mediate border issue between the Republic of Sudan and The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia”, said Akol.
South Sudan views itself as having an important role to play in ending the conflict in Sudan, embarking on concerted efforts to strengthen its security forces to maintain peace and stability in the region. These efforts were frustrated by the October 2021 coup in Sudan which saw the military component of the transitional government assert itself over a civilian-led regime.
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