South Sudan: Flimsy compromises are to be blamed for the crisis

 29 Jul 2016 - 0:53


By Thembisa Fakude

South Sudan recently replaced the First Vice President of the country Dr Riek Machar after he failed to report to duty as “demanded” by President Salva Kiir.  Machar has been missing since the start of the renewed conflict in the capital Juba on 07 July 2016.  
      The renewed conflict erupted between the forces of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement In Opposition (SPLM - I O) living scores of people dead and injured.  President Salvo Kiir “demanded” on 21 July 2016 that Machar return to Juba to work with him towards rebuilding peace, he gave Machar 48 hours to respond to the initiative.  
     The failure by Machar to meet the 23 July 2016 deadline led to the appointment of Taban Deng Gai, a former chief negotiator of the SPLM - I O as the Acting First Vice-President.  Mr Taban Deng Gai was recently fired by Riek Machar as the chief negotiator of SPLM I O after reports emerged that he had defected to the SPLM.  
      These latest political developments are going to escalate tensions in the region which is still recovering from decades of war and political instability. This is the second resumption of hostilities between the two parties since the birth of the new nation.  The first conflict resulted in thousands of people killed and over 1.6 million displaced.
The creation of the state of South Sudan was based on flimsy political compromises.  South Sudan seceded from Sudan on 09 July 2011 following years of war and political discontent.  
At the heart of the war were accusations of religious intolerance, racism and lack of service delivery. According to the BBC the cessation was more closely linked to ethnic discrimination, with those seen as “Arabs” given preferential treatment over those perceived to be “Africans”.  
The cessation of South Sudan from Sudan received an overwhelming majority support from the Southerners, 99% voted in favor.  It has been argued that the separation legitimised religious and racial intolerance and tribalism in Sudan, a serious indictment on the leaderships of Sudan and indeed that of the African Union (AU).  Both leaderships allowed a detrimental political precedence in a continent riddled by tribalism.
In December 2013 the rift between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar led to a political conflict between forces loyal to SPLM and SPLM – I O.  In an attempt to stabilize and avoid state collapse an agreement sponsored by the neighboring states, AU and the UN was reached in Addis Ababa on 17 August 2015.
 Included in the agreement was a “political compromise” which allowed for the reappointment of Dr Riek Machar as the First Deputy President of South Sudan.  
Unfortunately political compromises in Africa through governments of national unity have failed to yield political stability.  It was only in South Africa and to an extent Kenya where this political experiment succeeded.  Key to its failure is tribalism and the unwillingness by parties involved to embrace genuine national political dialogue.  
The political agreement in South Sudan allowed the existence of two military forces each loyal to SPLM and SPLM – I 0 respectively.  This reality has contributed to the ongoing conflict in that country and has slowed down the democratization process.  
Sadly the political and economic stalemate has negatively affected millions of South Sudanese who are languishing in refugee camps in neighboring Uganda.  
In conclusion, the United Nations (UN) agencies currently provide 80 percent of basic services to South Sudan.  The financial mismanagement of the state resources and oil revenues has crippled any possibility of economic resurrection.  
This is further exacerbated by the lack of appropriate skills to manage government and the economy.  According to Al Jazeera English the public debt in South Sudan have climbed from zero at its independence in 2011 to $4.2bn as of June 2016.  
The continued involvement of Sudan particularly in the oil profit sharing could never be discounted as a contributing factor to the political woes of South Sudan.
 The Agreement on Wealth Sharing (AWS) was an important component of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed between the governments of Sudan and South Sudan in 2005.
The ongoing sociopolitical interruptions in South Sudan benefit Sudan, the creator of this political chaos.  
What is clear is that entrenched tribalism and adverse political compromises are the main obstacles towards a prosperous South Sudan.  
These obstacles were taken for granted by all stakeholders who were part of the formation of the state of South Sudan.


The writer is a Researcher at Directorate Studies Centre, Aljazeera Network.