S. Sudan Conflict: IGAD Must Go Back to the Drawing Board

Published on 23rd March 2015

(L-R) President Salvar Kiir and Riek Machar
Power sharing has become another means of elucidating differences between opposing powerful politicians in Africa. However, President Salva Kiir Mayardit of S. Sudan said categorically that he's not ready to share power with his nemesis Dr.  Riek Machar. Mayardit was quoted saying, "I don't agree with the suggestion that Riek be given the position of vice president." He also disagreed with the idea of having two armies that was proposed by IGAD.

Mayardit’s new move has brought a cudgel to the peace talks that have been going for 15 months since the conflict erupted in this new and young nation. To jumpstart the talks so that they can move forward, IGAD needs to tweak its proposal to be acceptable for both sides. For those who know how power in Africa is, having two armies in one country is like being at war. It is an expensive and unenviable option. It can't work for the president and vice president to have independent armies under their disposal and commands in one country. It has never been tried anywhere in Africa. So if IGAD wants to help S. Sudan, it must come with applicable and practical and possible solutions.

Even sharing power itself is questionable due to the nature of the conflict in S .Sudan. Essentially, IGAD needs to peel the onions by observing the hidden layers of the conflict. What is being seen currently is but the tip of the iceberg.

IGAD should think out of the box by analyzing the conflict in South Sudan. IGAD must consider all situations from the history of S. Sudan, realpolitik and geopolitics of the day. For, instance, when IGAD proposed that the two must have two separate and independence armies, it forgot that N. Sudan would seize this opportunity to arm one against another. In this conflict, it is obvious and clear who would be armed. By doing so, S. Sudan would embark on an arms race between the president and his superimposed vice president. The army is an integral party of the executive and must be owned totally by the president who is the Commander- In-Chief. There is no way there can be two C-I-Cs in one country.

IGAD needs to underscore the fact that the Government of Nation Unity (GNU) is not a magic bullet that can fix all problems. If I were to be consulted as an academic and professional in the field, I would recommend that there must be ceasefire first. Secondly, I'd argue that the UN peace building mission be sent to S. Sudan to see to it that the already secured volatile peace does not evaporate. The presence of Green Berets may change the whole situation apart from being able to contain the conflict so that it can be easily managed.

Mayardit is dead right for refusing to allow another army in his country or sharing power. Having two armies will exacerbate the conflict.  Apart from undermining the power and the office of the president, having two armies will create more mistrust and muscle flexing depending on who has what it takes. Such a move will be utilized by spoilers in the region to see S. Sudan become a failed state or pariah. Remember. S. Sudan has black gold that can easily allure even those you don’t expect to be in the big picture.

The conflict in S. Sudan is also about relationships. Instead of looking at what the duo wants, one needs to know the history of their relationship. IGAD needs to know how much these bedfellows offered to each other. IGAD should avoid a quick shot based on securing a signed agreement. Instead, it must allow what John-Paul Lederach, who is a renowned among Peace and Conflict Scholars calls going “sideways” to find a solution out of the prescribed template. Mayardit and Machar must be told that violence will lead to more destruction and intervention of regional powers to the detriment of Sudan.

By Nkwazi Mhango

Author of Saa ya Ukombozi, Nyuma ya Pazia (published in Cameroon) and Peace and Conflict scholar based in Canada.

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