Africa ExPress Special Correspondent
Juba, 5th August 2016
On 8th July 2016, for the second time in less than three years, the compound occupied by First Vice President Rieck Machar has been attacked by the SPLA forces loyal to the Salva Kiir government. Once again, the First Vice President and his supporters had to flee Juba under fire. Since then, there has been much speculation as to the whereabouts of Dr Riek Machar. Though his location is not know it is clear that this time he and his supporters are not moving to Upper Nile but rather they are remaining in the general area of Central Equatoria.
The escape, from Juba, of the First Vice President and the SPLA–IO troops was effected despite the fact that the SPLA, commanded by General Paul Malong, has superiority both in men and arms and in theory is operating in an area under their control.
Though the SPLA, in Juba, was not able to prevent the escape of the First Vice President, it has been able to perpetrate crimes against the people of Juba , raping , looting and deliberately destroying property including UN warehouses.
The rapes specifically targeted Nuer women. According to UN reports more than 120 Nuer women have been raped. Other women have not been spared and humanitarian workers continue to be the targets of abuse, harassment and killings.
So far, in regard to the crimes committed by the SPLA in Juba, President Salva Kiir ‘s government has neither condemned the actions nor has he taken any action to bring those responsible to account. Such silence and lack of action in this matter is an eloquent statement by the SPLA as to how it views the general population in South Sudan.
The question that must be asked is: “How can leaders who are willing to allow such devastation on the South Sudanese people be expected or trusted to lead the peace process ?”. Rape under any circumstance is a heinous crime, in the case of South Sudan, it is a weapon of terror and a crime against humanity.
Soon after the fighting stopped in Juba, President Salva Kiir gave First Vice President Riek Machar an ultimatum to return to Juba, to continue to work with the Transitional Government of National Unity or to be replaced. The First Vice President, declared himself available to return to Juba, he however requested the intervention of a protection force and in particular the demilitarisation of Juba.
In response, President Salva Kiir, has opposed the deployment of a protection force and has engineered the removal of Dr Riek Machar and most of the Ministers he has appointed. On 23 July, the Minister of Mining Tabang Deng Gai, was appointed as First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan. The appointment was achieved through a process of intimidation, coercion and possibly corruption of SPLA-IO ministers and party members remaining in Juba
This action is a continuation of a style of ruling that is based on divisive and unilateral decision and is epitomised, among other things, by the progressive removal of elected Governors. The most recent removal was that of the Governors of Western Equatoria (Joseph Bankasi Bokasaro) and the Central Equatoria (Clement Wani Konga).
The process of unilateral and divisive decisions continued in October 2015 with the formation of 28 States. Such a decision was taken after refusing to discuss such a division as part of the IGAD Sponsored Peace Agreement. Accordingly the Peace Agreement was developed on the basis of 10 States. The formation of 28 States required a retroactive amendment of the constitution, by a compliant parliament, to have effect .
President Salva Kiir and Taban Deng Gai have now proceeded, through a series of decrees (i.e 291 to 2916 of 2016) to nominate their cabinet The result is that 50 Ministers recently appointed by Dr Riek Machar have been replaced. Though this process a new Government has been formed however it is not the Transitional Government of National Unity it is a theft , a highway robbery and the destruction of the Compromised Peace Agreement as summed up by the fateful words of the Minister of Agriculture Lam Akol (National Alliance Party):“There is no more peace agreement to implement in Juba.”
This sentiments is echoed by the 2nd August press release of FDP/SSAF which states that “The agreement (meaning the Peace Agreement ) will be dead as soon as the First Vice President designate (Tabang Deng Gai) 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 cabinet ministers because there will be no constitutional protection for them”
Throughout this process the government in Juba continues to refuse the intervention of a protection force and has even recently threatened the Joint Monitoring Evaluation Commission (JMEC) with expulsion.
A dispute over the form of the federal system that the Republic of South Sudan and specifically as to the nature and extend of the powers that should be vested in the President , has split the SPLA and has resulted in armed conflict that is now evolving into another civil war in South Sudan. A War Lord style conflict with loose and opportunistic alliances, that may not be able to be cohesive for long enough to share a common purpose, but they will nevertheless be very destructive of the people and the country.
Armed opposition groups are presently active in Western Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria, Upper Nile, Unity, Warrap, Western Barhr el Gazal and in all of these locations at present there is an active conflict. In Lakes state and Greater Pibor Area also the situation is not stable. They are busy recruiting and looking for weapons.
Already, as at the start of August 2016, there are over 60,000 additional South Sudanese that have fled to neighbouring countries. Those who have reached safety are reporting that men and specifically young men and boys 11/12 years old are being stopped from leaving the country and seeking safety. It is expected that many of them will become soldiers and child soldiers to fight with one of the many armed groups now operating in South Sudan. Sadly this sacrifice will not be for the benefit of their communities but of ruthless and thoughtless leade