The Politics and Consequences of IGAD Intervention in the Republic Of South Sudan

Published on 15th August 2016

In this article, I will discuss, first the role the international community and United States of America should have played as soon as peace descended on South Sudan in 2005. The second part will discuss how some IGAD countries are making it difficult for peace to reign in South Sudan, magnificently, for their own vested interest. This part is also intended to make South Sudanese particularly the politicians to be aware of the fact that, the IGAD is not the same IGAD they knew in the past. Rather, it is the IGAD run and managed by a new breed of leaders for their own survival. I will conclude the article with what the international sponsored regional proposed arms embargo and economic sanction will bring to bear on peace to reign in the Republic of South Sudan.

What the International Community Failed to do for Peace to Reign in South Sudan

At the onset, I would like to start my article of what the people of South Sudan expected from the international community and particularly the United States of America, who midwifed the birth of their country as an independent state and Britain as the former colonial master, to a lesser extent.

Firstly, the people of South Sudan expected that, the international community would have helped them start sustainable socio-economic development in their new country. They expected the rehabilitation of the projects and infrastructure totally destroyed during the war. This could have been carried out through the pledged multi-donor fund as soon as peace descended on South Sudan in 2005. The people of the South Sudan had also expected the international community to assist their young nation to organise itself politically, socially and economically.

Secondly, the people of South Sudan assumed that the United States government would have come in with its abundant resources and expertise in all disciplines in aid and assisted them. as soon as their region, had become an independent state. This could have undoubtedly enabled the people of South Sudan to establish a democratic system of governance. Instead, USA waited until the South Sudan descended into the senseless destructive December crisis and started holding stick on the warring parties without carrots.

The people of South Sudan believe that the US Government is well placed to influence the international community not to destroy this unfortunate vulnerable five year old country with threats of economic sanctions and arms embargo. The silent majority of the people of South Sudan strongly believe that the US government consult all the experts in the country, some who have made researches and have written books about the people of South Sudan on how best it will take to bring an amicable solution to the ongoing crisis in their younger nation.

Thirdly, the people of South Sudan expected Britain, a former colonial ruler, knowledgeable on the historical development and the social fabric of South Sudan people, to guide the European and IGAD partners; not to speculate or think of punishing South Sudan. Britain should have pursued better ways of bringing peace to the world’s youngest nation, regardless of how long it would take to bring peace. Britain should have assisted South Sudan in the hope that; like other former colonies, South Sudan would join the Commonwealth of Nations. Unfortunately, Britain is planning, on no clear ground, to punish South Sudan whose people have been suffering because of its colonial legacy.

Fourthly, the people of South Sudan expected the United Nations, whose purpose is to moderate, mediate and reconcile all the disputes that arise between UN member states,  not to side with the IGAD mediators, some of whom the people of South Sudan believe are wolves in sheep’s cloak.

Regrettably, the United Nations’ lack of neutrality was recently revealed by its very Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who has continuously made statements which are inconsistent to the role of the United Nations as a peace making and global regulatory body to resolve issues between nation states and not intervene in internal matters of one individual member state. Undoubtedly, the Secretary General statements do clearly endorse the imposition of economic sanctions and arms embargo on the two parties to the ongoing conflict in the Republic of South Sudan.

As a peacemaking body, the people of South Sudan expect that UN should resort to high ground diplomacy aimed at finding ways and means of providing solutions amicably to the South Sudanese people, regardless of how long it may take to bring acceptable permanent peace to South Sudan. Precisely, the decisions recently reached by the IGAD countries in connivance with the Troika and European partners to impose a solution on the two warring parties on the ongoing crisis in South Sudan; however good intentioned, may sadly, add more fuel to the already smouldering fire.

Regrettably, the UN and Troika countries have not learned lessons, from Britain and the United States; when they innocently and on impromptu reports declared war on Iraq on the assumption that the latter possessed weapons of mass destruction. Recently, the British Royal Commission, formed to look into the alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction by President Saddam Hussein regime announced that, there were no alleged weapons of mass destruction found. If they did learn lessons from the unfortunate Iraqi invasion, USA and Britain would think twice about their new crave of adventure in South Sudan.

In a nutshell, the silent majority of people in South Sudan, have been expecting US, as an assumed friendly country to South Sudan, should have not allowed herself dragged into supporting the IGAD countries, some of which apparently, have vested interests; like the republic of Sudan for instance, that has directly or indirectly, been, allegedly fanning the rebellion in the South Sudan, in an effort to reclaim its lost paradise. The following are bitter experiences which came as a result of misguided actions, and which should be good reminders to the international community, US and Britain to avoid pushing South Sudan into such regrettable situations.

The IGAD  in Historical Perspective

The word IGAD is an abbreviation of the inter-governmental authority for development. Fundamentally, this regional body came about in the eighties when five eastern African countries, Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda, apparently concerned of what the desertification encroachment would bring to bear on their region, met together in Addis Ababa and formed what became known, at the onset, as the intergovernmental agency for desertification and development (IGADD). But as this important body became well evolved and organised, the term was changed and became known simply as the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD). In this regard, IGAD was conceived and born as a developmental body and not a political entity, to say the least.

Essentially, the first interest the IGAD countries had on South Sudan came about following the intensification of the Sudanese conflict, which was galvanizing and appeared to engulf the entire country by the hour. In effort to avert the impending catastrophe on one of the founding member state (Sudan), IGAD set up a sub-committee for peace in Sudan. The IGAD Sub Peace Committee was chaired by the former Kenyan President, Daniel arap Moi.

As the chair of this important regional body, President Moi delegated his foreign affairs minister to bring the two warring parties together to devise ways and means of how to bring peace to Sudan, at a round table conference. President Moi, whose tribe has blood affinity with the people of South Sudan, decided to unite the South Sudanese leaders, the Khartoum based Internal Front and the SPLA/SPLM, in order to discuss peace with Sudan government as a united front.

During the meeting in Nairobi, in September 1987, attended by the leaders of the South Sudanese political parties namely, the Union of Sudan African Parties (USAP) and the Sudan people Liberation Movement (SPLM), President Moi told them that, it would be better and easier for them to discuss peace with the Sudan government as a united Front. President Moi; added that, Kenya would spare no efforts and resources to make sure that peace and stability is restored peace for the benefit of the people of South Sudan. But, when the war galvanized and appeared to take its operations to the very doorsteps of the Sudan Capital, Khartoum, and in effort to salvage its member state (Sudan), with the approval of IGAD heads of state and government, President, the two principal leaders of Sudan government and the SPLM were brought together in a serious face to face talk aimed at attainment of peace and stability, in their war ravaged country. This latter move led to the signing of the Machakos Frame Work Peace Agreement through which a final peace deal would be reached.

It was against this backdrop, that President Moi appointed General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, who was then the Chief of general staff of the Kenyan National Army, to exert serious efforts to bring peace to the IGAD member nation state, Sudan. At this juncture, General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, brought the two Sudanese warring principals to a roundtable conference namely: the then Sudanese regime strongman and First Vice President, Ali Osman Mohamed Taha, and the SPLA/M rebel leader, Dr John Garang de Mabior. It was there and then that the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA), was successfully negotiated and finally signed on January 9th, 2005. As we all know, Africa’s longest conflict, which had lasted for more than two decades, with a loss of over two million lives, was finally brought to a halt. That was fair enough. But what has become of the IGAD of today?

Regrettably, the current IGAD, is not the same IGAD the people of South Sudan initially knew in the eighties. It is an IGAD run by new breed of leaders with their own vested interests to protect, in case of Kenya and Ethiopia, and to reclaim the lost paradise, in case of Sudan, as indicated in the following discussion.

Firstly, the republic of the Sudan, which had grudgingly conceded for the breakaway of its oil rich region, South Sudan, has been and still is, desperately trying to move heaven and earth to reclaim its lost paradise. Hence Sudan, for all intent and purposes, would like to see South Sudan weaken by all means not to exist comfortably as an independent state at its next door. It is apparently in that setting that Sudan has been engaged in proxy wars in the South Sudan. It was also in this light that Sudan had influenced the making of the current impracticable peace agreement, plausibly designed not to be implemented but in the hope that the South Sudan warring parties would resist its implementation, a move which would invite the wrath of international community and approve the imposition of economic sanction and arms embargo on its former colonial region.

Undeniably, Sudan is at the forefront of the IGAD ongoing attempt to bring intervention force to disarm and strain the warring parties in the South Sudan. If, God forbid, South Sudan, were to collapse; economically to maintain itself and to function as a government, Sudan with nostalgia, would immediately move in and re-annex it to its ungovernable nation of God.

Paradoxically, despite the clear fact that Sudan has been fighting ceaseless destructive wars for decades against those who are opposed to its Islamic agenda, no leader of the IGAD countries in which she is a founding member, has ever raised a finger and condemned President Omar al Bashir for killing thousands of his own citizens in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile states to near annihilation. Instead, IGAD countries are protecting the Sudanese leader Omar al Bashir from indictment.

Secondly, Ethiopia leader, who is leading the move to bring in regional intervention forces to destroy the Republic of South Sudan, apparently for her own interest, has forgotten or intends to ignore the vital fact that, its regime has been fighting the Oromia and Amhara Liberation Fronts, from the largest ethnic regions in the country. Ethiopia leader’ very survival is pinned on the support of the people of the Gambella western region, largely inhabited by the Nuer nationality. In that light, Ethiopian leader, would be too glad to have a Nuer in Juba as the president, in a move which would plausibly, please Ethiopian Nuer citizens, whom he believes will steadfastly continue to defend his regime against the Oromia and Amhara rebels.

Thirdly, the Kenya government, reportedly, has a problem with the South Sudan President, Salva Kiir for allegedly supporting  Raila Odinga during the last Kenyan elections, which President Uhuru Kenyatta nonetheless, won. The Kenya government has been giving South Sudanese rebel leaders, VIP treatment, while at the same time, posing as an honest broker in effort to bring about a durable peace deal to South Sudan. Understandably, the above allegations can give credence to the  current move to bring in a regional force, apparently to cause a regime change for obvious reasons.

Is South Sudan the only country at war with itself in the IGAD region! Understandably, the three leaders of Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya do not need to be told that the entire region is awash with rebellions. If the IGAD leaders are really genuine and serious about making peace to reign in the Republic of South Sudan, they should rather jointly condemn out rightly, all the rebellions in the region. They would thereafter take joint action against the rebel leaders who would not cooperate to accept comprehensive peace to reign in his country. Sadly, Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenyan leaders, with vested economic interest, have unfortunately, singled out the rebellion in the Republic of South Sudan, as a special rebellion which needs urgent attention and special treatment.

What is so special about South Sudan rebellion that the three eastern African leaders are holding their sticks against her with threats of sanctions in case its leaders do not cooperate to stop the war and accept peace? For fairness sake, will it not be better for the IGAD countries to bring the same pressure, which is now being brought to bear on South Sudan, equally, on the rebel leaders in other conflict affected countries in the region? I leave these two questions as food for thought for those who will read this article.

In a latest development, General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, speaking to the media last week appealed to IGAD Plus to leave South Sudan people alone to sort out its own problems. General Lazaro Sumbeiywo, in his speech to reporters, strongly underlined that, left alone, the traditional leaders in the South Sudan, are better placed to bring peace to South Sudan than the IGAD Plus countries. One would totally agree with General Lazaro assertion, because during the war (1983-1988), the SPLA forces under the Command of General Salva Kiir Mayardit and the South Sudan independent movement forces led by Dr Riek Machar that had been fighting deadly wars against one another, were brought together by the Nuer and the Dinka traditional leaders at Wunlit village in western Upper Nile region where they reconciled. Remarkably, the Wunlit experience was a prelude to the subsequent successful negotiation and the signing of the CPA at Naivasha Lakeside Resort, Kenya in 2005.

Food for thought for IGAD Plus Leadership

As food for thought, IGAD Plus present move to interfere in the internal affairs of South Sudan will predictably complicate matters than providing solutions to the conflict they are trying to resolve. The implications of their intended intervention in the Republic of South Sudan could, at best, be demonstrated by what happened, in the not very distant past, to three oil rich countries which were once peaceful and prosperous. Somalia, Libya and Iraq are the three bitter experiences in point.

The first bitter experience to revisit in effort to support my argument has to do with the fate of Somalia. As we all know, as soon as Somalia obtained her political independence, its people managed and organised their country politically and ideologically. Under President Siad Bare, Somalia adopted a socialist mode of development. But as the Somalia people, were planning to move their country forward to progress and prosperity, unfortunately, through the connivance of former colonial masters, President Siad Barre, was overthrown; and accused of being a communist oriented leader. After the overthrow of President Siad Bare, the republic of Somalia, the once peaceful and prosperous country, was unfortunately split overnight, into two hostile and weak countries; north and south.

Whereas, the people of northern Somalia (Somaliland), appear to be coexisting harmoniously to a certain extent, the people of Southern Somalia (Somalia Republic); despite the fact that they are indigenous and homogeneous; speaking the same one language, having the same culture and the same religion, Islam, have been fighting mercilessly and ceaseless wars, without remorse, among themselves: tribe against tribe, one sect against another sect, ethnic groups against other ethnic groups. Even the current attempt by eastern African countries to bring peace to reign, the Republic of Somalia unfortunately is not at peace with itself and has not yet become a state.

The second bitter experience to revisit, has also to do with Iraq. As we also know, President Saddam Hussein, during his four and half rule, managed and stemmed out, the Iranian sponsored Shi’ite religious group fanaticism. But when the USA led coalition launched attack on Iraq and killed President Saddam Hussein, hell broke loose as the oil rich country, has, miserably, been turned into breeding grounds for terrorism. Currently, terrorists roam about, killing thousands of their people and destroying properties at will, without due regard to humanity or religious ethics. As I write, no neutral bodies have come up with genuine plans to bring the Iraqi western sponsored government, and rebels to negotiate peace in amicable manner.

The third bitter experience to revisit as food for thought has also to do with what has been happening in another oil rich country, Libya. When President Muamar al Gadhafi, who had for forty-two years, controlled Islamic fanaticism and stemmed out religious bigotry, was killed by NATO allied countries. With no alternative democratic systems put in place, Libya has become a breeding grounds for terrorism.  Regrettably Libya has become ungovernable with three governments in place: one in Sirte, the second in Tripoli and third in Benghazi. Unfortunately, thousands of its citizens have been pushed into what the western media euphemistically called the desperate journeys. Tragically thousands of Libyans are perishing daily at the Mediterranean Sea, as they try to cross over to reach the European countries that are responsible for the demise of their once stable and prosperous country.

As a dire caution and advice to the IGAD countries, they should avoid the Somalia, Iraq and Libya bitter experiences to happen by all means to the world youngest nation, the Republic of South Sudan. Advisably, IGAD and the international community should rather resort to high ground diplomacy in their effort to bring peace to South Sudan. The better approach that would succeed to bring peace to the South Sudan is for the international community and the IGAD Plus countries to consult with experienced experts who best know the history of South Sudan and the social fabric of its people.

The Impact of Arms Embargo and Economic Sanctions on South Sudan and Consequences

Looking critically at what may happen, if economic sanction and arms embargo were imposed on South Sudan, as presently being proposed by the IGAD Plus countries with the UN sanction, and; in the event, I strongly believe that several predictable scenarios, would happen. These possible scenarios are enumerated here below for scrutiny and perusal.

Firstly, it is my humble opinion that, the pre-conceived impromptu arms embargo by some IGAD and Troika countries will not address the situation in South Sudan because, the country is already awash with thousands of illegal arms in the hands of scores of tribal militias and armed cattle rustlers, roaming at will in the countryside. With no armaments coming from outside the, government may embark on black market arms sale or alternatively resort to disarming and collecting thousands of illegal weapons and use them to defend itself against external intervention, as they did during the Anya Nya and SPLA wars of liberation.

Secondly, as a consequence of the proposed economic sanction; the government of South Sudan, apparently with no money to maintain itself, may survive at the skin of its teeth. Understandably, South Sudan with no sufficient resources to meet its obligations, as a government; many of its officials may be forced to leave the cities and walk to the countryside; where they will be faced with the similar bitter experiences of the Republic of Somalia, God forbid. In any case the IGAD leaders should not forget that the people of South Sudan for fifty years, fought voluntary wars against the successive Sudan governments without having a government of their own and external help.

Thirdly the IGAD countries need not be told that, the people of South Sudan have been fighting their wars of liberation without external help; first for seventeen years 1955-1972 and later 21 years 1983-2005. IGAD countries should understand that, if the long term economic sanctions and arms embargo did not bring peace to reign in the Sudan and Zimbabwe for instance, it will never bring peace to South Sudan.

In conclusion, it is very worrying that, this important regional body has become an NGO which is being run by interest groups. Advisably the international community and IGAD countries should approach the ongoing conflict in the South Sudan without prejudice and with wisdom.

By Hon Arop Madut Arop

The author holds a Diploma in philosophy of Education and pedagogy and MA in international Journalism. He is the author of two books: Sudan Painful Road to Peace, a full story of the founding and development of SPLM/SPLA (2006) and The Genesis of political consciousness in South Sudan (2012). He is also author of a number of unpublished books. He can be reached at [email protected]

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