Salva Kiir and Riek Machar must go if they Care the Future of South Sudan, says FDP/SSAF

Africa ExPress Special Correspondent
Saba Makeda
Juba, 15th July 2016
The eruption of fighting on 7th July 2016 between the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the SPLA in Opposition ( SPLA – IO) in  Juba and the huge loss of life and casualties as well as the destruction of properties that it has caused are clearly an indication of flaws of the Compromised Peace Agreement.

Clearly the Compromised Peace Agreement is in tatters and there is an urgent need to address the key shortcoming of the  agreement and in  particular  for IGAD mediators to consider the meaningful  inclusion of diverse voices from South Sudan both political as well as from Civil Society.

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In 2015, during the negotiation of the Compromised Peace Agreement in Ethiopia, Senior Generals and Politicians from the SPLM-IO were already dissenting and defecting  from SPLM-IO and accusing rebel   leader  Riek Machar of poor leadership because of provision of the Compromised Peace Agreement.

At the time, General Peter Gatdet, a hardliner famous for the capture of Bor in the aftermath of  December  2013, was one of the early defectors who rejected the proposal  for the formation of  Transitional Government that included both President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar and consequently vowed to fight both sides. At the time the significance of Gatdet’s defection was downplaid by SPLM-IO.

In August 2015, prior to the singing of the Compromised Peace Agreement, the South Sudan Federal Democratic Party/Soth Sudan Armed Forces (FDP/SSAF) broke away from the Riek  Machar lead Sudan People Liberation Movement – In Oppositions (SPLM – IO). The chairman and commander in chief of FDP/SSAF is H.E. Gabriel Changson Chan, is the former Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports.

The FDP has an armed wing called South Sudan Armed Forces (SSFA) initially lead by General Peter Gatdet. However by April  2016  there was  a formal separation between  FDP and  General  Peter Gatdet  as the latter had formed the National Defence Alliance (NDA). During the same period, reflecting the fluidity and complexity of South Sudan politics, the FDP suffered the defection to the Government of Gen. Gathoth Gatkuoth, Gen. James Malith Gatluak and Brig. Gabriel Gatwech Puoch.

During the negotiation of the Compromised Peace Agreement and in particular in August 2015, matters were not much better on the Government side. Because of these tensions and  dissentions, President Salva Kirr signed the Peace Agreement, with reservations on 26 August  2016, almost 2 weeks after  the  document had been signed by Dr Riek Machar (SPLM-IO) and Mr Pagan Amun –  the reinstated Secretary General of  the SPLM South Sudan  who  signed on behalf of the  former detainees – a group of high ranking politicians briefly jailed in the aftermath of the events of December  2013.

During an interview given to the Sudan Tribune on 11 February 2016, HE Gabriel Changson Chan stated:
“……. Depending on the peace agreement as the basis  of the Transitional Government of National Unity ( TGoNU) without  constitution will lead to failure in the implementation of the peace  agreement. “

“The agreement will be dead as soon as the First Vice President takes oath of office as the First Vice President

“The President will then govern the country with un –amended constitution and shall have the liberty to appoint and dismiss the First Vice President and the cabinet minister because there will be no constitutional  protection for them.

In April 2016, Dr Riek Machar finally arrived in Juba and the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) was formed.  Though people wanted to hope for the best, the general feeling in Juba  was that the formation of the TGoNu  had simply reset the country in the same position as it was in 2013 with the same  players and tensions in place.

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Earlier this month, fighting reminiscent of December 2013 erupted in Juba, causing more than 300 deaths, and the displacement of  over 30,000  people in Juba. In Addition  the fighting  was not restricted to Juba as almost simultaneously armed clashes were reported in Wau, Torit, Bentiu, Lainya, Yei , Kajo Keji. Though it is not possible to say that there was a deliberated coordination it is clear that there was a widening of the conflict throughout South Sudan.

Thought the ceasefire in Juba is most welcome, it is disturbing that:

  • Dr Cirino Hiteng g Deputy  Foreign Minister  – was unilaterally removed  from his  post by  President  Salva Kiir  following the IGAD press  release of  12 July 2016  condemning  the  eruption of fighting  on 7th July 2016 between the Sudanese  People’s Liberation Army(SPLA) and the SPLA in Opposition ( SPLA – IO) in  Juba and the huge  loss  of life and casualties as well  as the destruction of properties that  it  has  caused. The  dismissal has been strongly condemned by the SPLM Former Detainees and in  particular   Dr Cirino Hiteng himself, who during an interview with Radio  Tamazuj ( 14 July 2016  radiotamazui/en/article/cirino-hiteng-says-his-removal-violates-peace-deal ) stated that :
  •  “He has no right to do that because this is the coalition government and I have my group. We should discuss the issue, and if the Former Detainees are convinced, than it is up to us to look for a replacement.”
    • Cabinet Minister of the SPLM – IO Minister of Energy Dr Dhieu Mathok Ding Wol was arrested. It appears that the Minister has been seriously beaten.  Dr Dhieu is the Secretary General of the SPLM-IO and hails from Bahr El Gazal region, homeland of President Salva Kiir and his SPLA Chief of Staff Paul Malong.  This event lends  credence to  recent  reports that  certain Dinka  member of the SPLM –IO  are under  pressure to  defect
    • The apparent  targeting and killing, because of his Nuer  ethnicity, of  John  Gatluak Manguer  Nhial a journalist and  radio  manager
    • The killing of the SPLA body guards to Brig General Lul Ruai, the spokesman  for the SPLA
    • The Government is preventing  South Sudanese  from  crossing into Uganda, or from leaving from Juba Airport.

    On 14 July 2016, I interviewed HE Gabriel Changson Chan, former  Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports and present   chairman of the Political  Committee of the Federal Democratic Party (FDP) and commander in chief of the South Sudan Armed Forces (SSAF). He  explained  that recent events in South Sudan clearly demonstrate that the compromised Peace Agreement is very weak  and that there are no safeguards to ensure its viability and implementation. The mistrust and  antagonism  between  President Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Machar is  such  that it is not possible for the  two  personalities to  work  together  in particular in light of the fact that both expect to contest the 2018  elections. Changson  claims that during the negotiation phase of the  Compromised  Peace  Agreement  IGAD  was informed of the concerns  about the ability of President Kiir and  Dr Riek Machar to overcome their mutual antagonism, however such concerns were ignored .

  • According to the SSFDP Chairman the way forward is as follows:
    1. Immediate military and political intervention by IGAD  and partners to :
      1. Stop the fighting, maintain law and order and  prevent South Sudan from descending into total chaos
      2. Oversee the restructuring of the security sector institutions to reflect the diversity of South Sudan. In this regard  HE Gabriel Changson Chan stressed the importance of the complete demilitarisation of  Juba and  all other  major  towns in South Sudan and that South Sudanese forces must be  assembled in specific cantonment sites with clear buffer zones between them .IGAD/UNMISS to take up the responsibility of security in the country.
      3. Support the setting up of truly inclusive Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) without President Kiir and First Vice President Riek Machar. The SSFDP  Chairman  explained that the  in the event that the two  leaders are to continue to participate in the TGoNU,   then it should be clear that  they   are doing so  only in  a caretaker  capacity and are not  to contest any  future
        1. Support the voluntary resettlement of  IDP’s and Refugees to  location of their  choice in South Sudan.

    Such stabilisation action would then support: The process of reconciliation in the country and in particular the:

    1. The Democratisation of the country including a well-studied and participatory process to decide on the type of Federation as well as the number States that will comprise such Federation.
    2. The establishment of Transitional Justice and  Accountability  for  war  crimes and crimes against  humanity.
    3. The development of a comprehensive economic recovery programme  for the country.

    H.E. is of the view that in the event that IGAD and partners fail to take immediate action to stop  the fighting, maintain law and order and  support the setting up of a truly inclusive  Transitional Government of National Unity ( TGoNU), the current conflict will expand as the South Sudanese People will  look to take such action as they deem  necessary to protect their rights.

    Makeda  Saba 
    makedasaba@ymail.com

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