The Honourable Ismail Wais
IGAD Special envoy to South Sudan,
Re: Letter Presenting United Voices of South Sudanese in the Diaspora to the High Level Revitalization Forum
1. This letter is presented jointly by South Sudanese diaspora community based organisations advocating for peace, reconciliations and unity of South Sudanese people, it include the South Sudanese in Australia, America (Canada and USA) and UK in Europe.
2. We express our appreciation for your leadership and for that of the IGAD head of states, IGAD peace mediators and the support given by the AU, UN, Troika (Norway, UK, USA) to the ARCSS revitalization process. We encourage all of the participating parties to continue their engagement in the IGAD led peace mediation, recognizing that the people are suffering; children, women, disabled and elderly and other vulnerable people in the displaced and refugee camps are starving and have inadequate medical care.3. We commend the HLRF Facilitators for their perseverance, and we further encourage you and your support team to insist that the South Sudanese negotiating parties move forward with the revitalization process to save lives and restore peace and rule of law in the country.
4. We acknowledge that a good negotiation and mediation requires the parties in conflict to show willingness, cooperation and respect to the mediators as facilitators. This negotiation should not be a zero-sum game, in which people strive to outwit each other in order to get the best deal they can at the expense of their opponent. This negation should first and foremost aim to stop the violent armed conflict and to serve and protect innocent lives and livelihoods of the South Sudanese people.
5. We commend the South Sudan Council of Churches for conducting people to people conversations with the stakeholders seeking to get all to recognize the essential need to work together to stop the suffering of the people.
6. We are most disappointed for the lack of responsibility and care shown by both negotiating parties and the IGAD Heads of State to allow self-interest to overshadow the interests and critical survival needs of the ordinary citizens of South Sudan. Basic survival needs, such as food, water, shelter, and healthcare are denied on a daily basis, while the parties in conflict seek to advance personal, political objectives rather than recognizing their responsibility to the governed.
B. Our Observations
1. Although the difficulties and challenges faced in peace mediation is inevitable, we have some observations to make which we believe can positively help inform the next phase of the peace mediation process and these include:
2. The TGNU insists upon the superiority of its legal position and makes demands for advantage over its opponents. TGONU, as currently incorporated has failed the people of South Sudan to the point of our questioning its legitimacy. The quest for positions of power must not be the basis for negotiation. A revised TGONU must be established which derives its power from the people, is responsible to the people, is selected by the people, and can be removed by the people.
3. The government (TGNU) in its position of power should take a lead in breaking the stalemate in the conflict as follows:
a) Withdraw voluntarily all armed forces from the frontlines to the specified cantonment areas with immediate effect. Other armed forces must similarly withdraw and move to specified cantonments.
b) Release all political detainees and POWs;
c) Lift restrictions on freedom of speech and association;
d) Allow unrestricted humanitarian access to the people in need; and
e) Cooperate fully with the IGAD, AU and UNSC.
4. The opposition groups should also unite their ranks for easier peace negotiation. They have to present themselves as part of the solution;
5. The TGNU should compromise on the expansion of the government. South Sudan need an inclusive but lean governance structure. The idea of expanding the government extends the suffering of the people in the country where the larger sum of revenue goes toward salaries. Peace and service is what South Sudanese needs and it is their basic right.
6. The main expected priority for the people of South Sudan is establishing permanent cessation of hostilities, security control, and law and order. This will ensure the safety of citizens by allowing free access to humanitarian services, freedom of movement, association, and freedom of speech, with the principles of creating, without prejudice, a positive and enabling environment and conditions for institutional reform, genuine peace, truth, justice and reconciliation. It is therefore our position that:
a) We need a transitional government that can guarantee or ensure the above conditions are successfully achieved within a specified period of time, recognising that the current TGONU failed to do this since it was formed in April 2016. It is important the IGAD focus its priorities on who or what can effectively end the armed conflicts permanently and create a favourable political environment for the democratic process. It is this expectation that the people of South Sudan are keen to find the right body (not self-imposed) that can meet their expectations without failure and disappointment.
b) One of the strategies to force the warring parties to comply and secede from their hard line positions is to reduce or remove their military powers. Removing this power would create the conditions that can expedite a genuine negotiated settlement of the conflict in South Sudan. We, therefore, propose the following:
• Create a National Peace Protection Force (NPPF), a combination of UNMISS (AU/UN Protection Force), selected forces from the TGNU and some selected police forces from the three regions, (Bahr El Ghazal, Equatoria and Upper Nile);
• The NPPF should operate under the joint command of UNMISS and this force should be in charge of the security and protection of all government and opposition personnel;
• Total demilitarisation of Juba the capital city of South Sudan, and the ten state capitals as specified in ARCISS. Although some of our communities may feel this would infringe the sovereignty of the nation, we are also aware the security of the country should be under total control of South Sudan Nationals, but this option is necessary as a temporary security control measure for the purpose of establishing confidence and trust of the citizens who do not feel safe after enduring sever pains and atrocities in the hands of armed groups from the government and rebel groups; we are without prejudice motivated by the principle that armed personals should be kept away from residential areas;
• The NPPF should be divided into two categories: a) National Security and b) Public Security Forces to maintain law and order;
• All of the other government armed forces and the rebel forces should be cantoned in special centres, supervised by the NPPF;
• All police and other organised forces should be placed under the state authorities.
c) The private face to face meeting between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar should also include the main representative leaders of South Sudan Opposition Alliance, and Paul Malong, to resolve personal differences and to seek forgiveness, this should take place before the next phase of revitalization begins, and this exercise may establish trust and confidence. The leaders should soon after this address the public, stating their commitment to ending the armed conflict permanently. They should apologise to the people of South Sudan for the suffering they caused, just as the political leaders in Kenya did, although Kenya’s political problem is different than South Sudan’s.
d) IGAD should study and analyse the information provided during the HLRF consultations and workshop discussions, then produce a final report recommending the best compromise that is fair to all negotiating parties. After completing the report, IGAD should invite only the leadership of each negotiating group, the observers and guarantors to come and sign the agreement. There should be no more meeting of the large group as it is important that we are reminded of the starving people sleeping in the bushes. No South Sudanese should enjoy any privilege while others are suffering.
e) The missing power at the negotiating table is the will to fulfil the interests and needs of the South Sudanese people. People need peace the most and very urgently. The people want to see an end to war and starvation from lack of food. It is the physical and emotional impediment of the people that could not allow them to draw a line in the sand, to rise against those effecting their lives, but their patients is running out.
f) Before the next HLRF begins, we would like the IGAD mediators to ask the negotiating parties in conflict to sign a declaration that if they failed to agree in the fourth session of the HLRF, the IGAD, AU and the UNSC must take strong measures against the parties that protect the suffering of the South Sudanese Civilians as a priority.
g) IGAD should also begin to hold accountable the identified peace spoilers not to allow them in the peace negotiation process.
7. IGAD should clarify its position on the specific time limit of the ARCISS, TGNU and the TNLA in order to help speed up the peace mediation process, this peace talks should not go for ever without, a strict time frame should be set and observed.
8. IGAD, the UN and AU should all cooperate to provide a specific and united front on how to enforce consequences for violations of COHA. We sense there are differences within the IGAD states about how to deal with the peace mediation. We would like to appeal to IGAD, UNSC, the Troika and other nations with a vested interest in South Sudan to put the interests of the suffering South Sudanese above their own national interests.
C. Participation of the Diaspora in South Sudan’s Peace
1. The South Sudan Diaspora play a key role in advancing conflict or peace in South Sudan via remittances, social media and regular communication with family, friends and political connections on the ground. It is important to highlight that the diaspora community have direct and indirect influence over the parties in conflict, the diaspora also have access to the media and freedom to expression, which can help change the balance of influence. The diaspora a missing key stakeholder in the South Sudan Peace negotiation.
2. The United Voices of South Sudanese in the Diaspora represented in this letter call on IGAD, TROIKA and All the Peace negotiating parties to include the Diaspora (Europe, North America and Australasia) in the next round of the HLRF and beyond. South Sudanese Diaspora is an important constituent of South Sudan and their energy must be channel in a right direction of peace and stability.
3. We also call upon our host governments represented through TRIOKA and UNSC to support us to supplement your efforts for peace in South Sudan.
4. The south Sudanese Communities in the diaspora are well organised, we have got good communication network, we would encourage you to engage our diaspora community who are equally affected by the war in South Sudan.
Thank you for your kind cooperation, hope you will consider our appeals and not forget our community again, looking forward to hearing from your esteem office;
1- Mr Nyok Gor: South Sudanese Australian Peace Alliance Network (SSAPAN) in Australasia; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
2- Mr Reuben Garang; Coalition of Advocates for South Sudan (CASS) President (Canada); email: email@example.com
3- Mrs Aluel P. Mayen; Coalition of Advocates for South Sudan (CASS) Representative (USA); email: firstname.lastname@example.org
4- Mr Benjamin Avelino South Sudanese Community Leadership (UK in Europe);
Contact: Benjamin Avelino;
Email: email@example.com; Mobile; +44-70962206688
cc: Troika and all parties involved at the HLRF