ADDIS ABABA (HAN) August 4.2016. Public Diplomacy & Regional Security News.By Abiy Hailu. In yesterday’s edition, The Ethiopian Herald has published the first part of the interview with Kahssay Gebereyesus, a researcher and consultant in governance and conflict resolution who also has been serving for five years with regional and international organizations, which advise the South Sudanese government about the conflict in that country. The interview focused on the root causes of the prolonged conflict in the troubled country. Hereunder follows the second and last part of the interview which focuses on conflict resolution in and future prospects of South Sudan. Excerpts:
Ethiopia has been in the front seat in terms of making the South Sudanese reach peace agreements and resolving conflict. This is contradictory to what you just said. How do you deal with this fact?
It is easy. You cannot end the conflict with reconciliation limited among the top leaders. Such an approach of mediation in reconciliation could not come up with a solution even during the armed struggle. All of the reconciliation processes up to now have been based on Top-Down approach. They [the parties involved in the conflict] could not participate in real negotiation and be part of the solution. As a result, either party could not develop faith in the outcome. This is what the leaders said when they signed the last agreement as usual.
On the other hand, the agreement could not hold because they do not have a professional army with military discipline, which the leaders could have control over. The SPLA and SPLA/IO are composed of many commanders having their ethnic based followers, who can decide alone any time anywhere. They [the leaders] do not have the capacity to control them. All the necessary work has not been conducted in terms of building their political capacity to bring them together, providing support to creating party structure and institutional leadership. That is why now the South African ANC started to advice SPLM as a political friend. ANC as a political party and the ruling party in South Africa on its part has its own problems related to corruption and maladministration. While the current instability in South Africa is attributable to the political problems within the ANC itself, it is consulting the SPLA. But, the Ethiopian government and the EPRDF are just next-door, and could not influence the South Sudanese. While EPRDF has managed to establish a stable political system exemplary to Africa and at the same time accumulated adequate experience even with given shortcomings, it could not influence the situation. Why? Do we take the issue of South Sudan as ours? In terms of propaganda and diplomacy, yes. However, practically, the necessary job has not been carried out from the bottom to influence the situation and resolve it.
Up till now, many agreements have been reached. How do you see these agreements?
During the time of the military struggle alone, three agreements were signed. Yet all of them were not respected. They make reconciliation at one time and engaged in conflict another time. A lot of blood have been shed and large amount of property have been damage. Large number of cattle have also been smuggled out of the country. Particularly, the dispute between the Dinka and Nuer is much more difficult to handle. This is because the structure of the army is divided between the Dinka and the Nuer.
Following independence, there have been agreements reached within and outside of the party. These also do not have a single political objective. They have centred on group and individual allocation of authority and control of resources. They have not been participatory.
Including the last one, all agreements were initiated from the top. It is IGAD who formulated the agreements and give them [South Sudanese leaders] to sign it. They signed the agreements because they do not have other alternatives. Other than that, there is nothing which proposes how the two armies should merge. Both armies control Juba, yet they do not have a common political goal. So how in the world that peace prevails?
As you said the conflict is deep rooted. It has historical background and foreign or external influence. Is there a room for IGAD to deliver a lasting solution to the problem besides giving temporary solution to controlling the conflict?
IGAD could play a role by coming up with sustainable solution. But it requires a process. It is not a one time task. Of course, it is impossible to get rid of conflict. There might be conflict from time to time. Because, there is always conflict of interests within a party, between parties or even within a society. The question is how could we manage or resolve these conflicts by taking the interest of the people into consideration? There is no such thing called lasting solution. Everything is process.
Hence the first action of IGAD might be controlling or managing the conflict. But what is next? You can only divide it in different chapters. The first step you take is the base or spring board for the second action. So do the solution of IGAD incorporates this fact? Allowing two conflicting armies or parties to be in one place without the presence of any force to control the situation does not show the application of proper conflict resolution mechanism.
Taking past and present developments and IGAD’s role, how do you see the future prospects of that country?
The issue of South Sudan has no political glue. Political glue means common goal that connects different groups. It is the source of unity. In the absence of this, it is impossible for a political community or party to decide its main objectives and future courses of action. That is what historical and current facts tells us.
SPLA is an army. And some take SPLM as a movement. But SPLM has not been registered as a political party because it does not have any programme. SPLM does not have a political programme. The movement is the collection of military factions which do not have strategic alliance. But tactically, they are interrelated for the sake of short term interests. This is the background and this is still the case. They call themselves ‘us and them’. Therefore, where is the political glue? They do not have common goal. But we still think there is a governing party in South Sudan. That is not right. There is no party. As it is a collection of militants.
What IGAD has been doing is to create a temporary peace. Its approach is not in line with the appropriate conflict resolution mechanism. Temporary solutions could not bring about sustainable peace. In fact, it is shallow. It is impossible for two armies to sleep side by side without having a centralized leadership or a buffer zone. There is nothing done to create unity between the army and the people. The only thing IGAD has been doing is to mediate the negotiation between the conflicting leaders. And the leaders do not have an agenda. Their only goal is the scramble for the wealth of that country. They do not have differences in objective as they do not have unity in the first place. As a result, all the agreements were not successful. Bringing lasting political solution is a difficult task for IGAD.
As for me, in the next 10 to 15 years, the issue of South Sudan would not be resolved. Because, the necessary tasks have not been carried out from the bottom. There are interested groups who would like to see the conflict continue. On the other hand, those parties such as Ethiopia do not like to see the conflict continue as it is a national security threat. Yet, they do not exert influence on the situation at the desired level and the conflict and violence would continue. Especially, it has direct impact on Ethiopia. This shows a lot has to be done economically, politically and diplomatically. Hence it is imperative to see the issue in relation to Ethiopia’s national security.
There are analysts who claim that South Sudan would become another Somalia, if the conflict continues this way. As you closely know the country and the government, what’s your view on this?
South Sudan will never become like Somalia. There are many reasons for this claim. First South Sudan is not a coastal country with a port outlet. Thus, there would not be a situation where outsiders enter the country and intensify the conflict.
Second, same ethnic groups live in neighbouring countries. For instance, there are Nuers in Ethiopia as well as in South Sudan. Hence, there is no room for others to interfere in the conflict. It is also similar for Kenya, Uganda or Sudan. However, in the border with Central Africa and Congo republics, there might be source of problem. This is because of the presence of vast landscape which is not easily controllable hence might open an opportunity for bandits to freely move. However, it could not be said that this would disintegrate the country like Somalia. At least in the long run, the UN and the international community might form a caretaker government. And the South Sudanese might accept it. And hence, South Sudan might not end up like Somalia.
By taking what you have analysed so far, can you explain the reason behind the violation of the last peace deal and the return to conflict by both parties?
Riek Machar had become vice president and entered the palace. He never got out of the palace. His office was there too. The armies of both are also in the city. Hence, he knows he would be under attack at some point.
Second the extraction of the oil resource has not started as he thought it would. The pledged foreign donation was not also materialized. Thus, there was no money to pay the salary of soldiers. How do they cover their expenses? As the army has no political orientation and only serve their leaders, they engaged in robbery. The robbery is widespread. Though the recent conflict was reported to occur in one checking station, it is just a coincidence. But the basic thing is what I mentioned above.
The other issue is that other nationalities have also started to raise questions. They also have their own army. They also want to govern their regional areas. And they want this to be recognized by the federal government. For instance, we can mention west, east and central Equatorial regions. This question is also another issue.
Let’s talk about the solution. What is expected from stakeholders to bring about sustainable peace in that country?
The international community has to support IGAD. IGAD on its part has to exert direct influence politically, economically and militarily. The parties have to be identified. The questions of the people have to be identified. IGAD has not shown any initiative in identifying the questions of the people. What has been done so far is just for the sake of resolving the disagreement between the factions or parties.
Because of national security issues, the Ethiopian government has to carry out various tasks to raise its political influence and the public’s participation. Unless and otherwise, it is impossible to resolve the issue from its root. If the problems are not resolved from their roots, it is inevitable that they would explode like time bombs in the future. Further, it is also necessary to engage individuals and professionals who have better knowledge about that country.