Originally printed by The Conversation on September 3, 2015 - On paper, the South Sudanese government led by President Salva Kiir and its armed opposition, commanded by former vice president Riek Machar, have agreed to declare permanent ceasefire.
They also agreed to establish a transitional government, collaboratively work towards a permanent constitution and legislatively establish reconciliation and peace-building institutions. All these are stipulated in a peace agreement that both the government and the rebels have reluctantly agreed to sign.
But, fighting has already resumed and senior military officers have publicly shared their disapproval of the deal. Given the well-known problems of underdeveloped military discipline and command structure in both armed groups, the imminent disruption of this peace agreement’s implementation is highly probable.
It does not help that neither party says this was a reasonable compromise. Kiir said the agreement looked like a roadmap for regime change. Machar argued that the agreement gave Kiir’s government the “lion’s share” of everything. Press reports speculate that Machar’s two generals, Peter Gatdet and Gathoth Gatkuoth, fell out with him because of differences over the deal. Forces loyal to the two generals remain an unpredictable presence.
So why did the government and the opposition, who are unhappy with the content of the agreement, sign it anyway? And what are the potential consequences of this induced peace accord?
Understanding the conflictTo answer that, we have to take note of one thing about the conflict. It resulted from power struggles within the ruling political party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). The party-level issues have been addressed in a separate deal called the Arusha Proccess, which restored the situation as it was before.
The peace process, led by the East African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), has largely been about restoring the status quo at the level of government, but it repeatedly failed over the last 20 months. Each failure seemed to trigger more intense military action and wide spread human rights violations of an outrageous nature.
It was unsurprising, therefore, when US President Barack Obama expressed extreme frustration on his recent visit to the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. Obama met with African leaders to discuss the South Sudanese conflict but deliberately excluded the parties to the conflict. The logic of this arrangement was made abundantly clear by the State Department. Obama was not there as a mediator, but as a coalition builder for peace.
The coalition Obama was trying to build worked because IGAD Plus, a brainchild of the International Crisis Group, consisting of IGAD countries plus the African Union, the US, China, the UK, Norway and the EU, took centre stage. Obama’s consultation with the “key stakeholders” (excluding South Sudanese) arrived at August 17 as the deadline for a peace agreement authorising permanent ceasefire within days.
A quick-fix ceasefireThis firm call for ceasefire has broad support in South Sudan and internationally. However, the deadline only gave everyone involved in negotiations about three weeks to resolve a 20-month-old conflict that has pre-independence roots.
How much time did the parties and the mediators have to really negotiate? My guess is not enough. Sustainable conflict resolution requires at least three things:
There are three main drivers:
Both will be legislated and funded by the Transitional National Assembly of South Sudanbut will assume supremacy over the national executive, legislature and judiciary. They will be led by non-South Sudanese with diplomatic immunity which means, once they are instituted, South Sudanese sovereignty will be curtailed. Kiir’s supporters have branded this a “trusteeship”. These provisions have the potential to turn public opinion against the agreement.
Another potential spoiler of peace lies in one provision of the hybrid court. The court will be empowered to indict anyone and such indictments would be tantamount to disqualification for pursuing any elected office towards the end of the transitional period. These provisions have the potential to undermine the agreement and therefore need to be revised to give peace a real chance.
Chief Publisher of the World Report News Africa News column and of all African news publications at WRN, Zirra Banu also serves as a ECOWAS Peace Ambassador and was the managing editor of Face2Face Africa. She is the founder of the Sapel Gold Foundation and the co-founder of Water For Life Nigeria. Zirra received her Master's degrees in International Relations, International Economics, and Conflict Management in Africa from The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.