By Biel Boutros Biel.
Opinion – Since its wake, the month of February 2016, for South Sudanese public spectrum, on various media outlets, continues to witness different interpretation of the Communiqué on South Sudan which was issued by the Council of Ministers of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). The IGAD Council of Ministers in its 55th Extraordinary Session held on 30-31 January 2016 in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, availed a version of 15 points regarding the steps forward for the implementation of the Peace Agreement signed by the warring parties and other stakeholders in August 2015.
Different persons have since then begun to interpret the Communiqué, unfortunately incoherently; picking the parts that suit their interests. Some have been doing a preferred interpretation with intention that could be read to mean nothing more than flattering political bosses and supporters! While others, approach the matter from sheer ignorance of the realities being unfolded by the Communiqué. Imperatively to note though, others have dived well in bisecting the language which the IGAD Council of Ministers has diplomatically used.
For clarity, it is only logical to read the Communiqué in a coherent manner. Thus; articles 1 to 4 assert only the Council’s appreciation of the steps forward, taken by the warring parties in the implementation of the Peace Agreement and the undeterred focus of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), which encourages the parties to faithfully move on despite the constraints.
Articles 5 and 6 reveal the Council’s utmost disappointment due to the continued violence in Western Equatoria and Western Bahr El Ghazal States that inflict much pain on civilians. Articles 8 and 9 call on other political parties to ensure that they participate in institutions implementing the Peace Agreement. Here, the government is equally urged to facilitate such participation of the parties not allied to it. Council’s sharp demand on parties to unconditionally implement the Peace Agreement has too, been projected.
Article 10 calls on the parties to demilitarise South Sudan’s capital city Juba not later than the first week of February as the implementation of the first phase of the Transitional Security Arrangements. This, the Council argued, would provide conducive atmosphere for the establishment of the joint government.
Article 11, echoes the Council’s call on parties in the would-be Transitional Government of National Unity to stamp off, in a quickest time possible, the humanitarian, economic and security challenges tearing apart South Sudan.
Whereas article 15 only reiterates the Council’s call on the African Union Peace and Security Council and United Nations Security Council to support JMEC and hotly, to clearly show the sword on parties, should they fail to implement the Peace Agreement in its full terms.
Arguably, it appears that most of the commentators on the Communiqué have had a fair settlement on articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 15 of the Communiqué as being less controversial and direct.
The most deliberately misinterpreted parts of the Communiqué are however, articles 7, 12, 13 and 14. This article, in a bid to demystify the interpretive maneouvres, it coherently goes further to outline what the Council has diplomatically intended to communicate under these provisions as follows:
Article 7 projects the concern of the Council over the Government of South Sudan’s willful violation of Peace Agreement by its creation of twenty-eight(28) states to constitute the territory of South Sudan. This is contrary to the existing ten(10) states as confirmed in the Peace Agreement. The Council, states in clear terms that the creation of 28 states and the decision of the government to implement the Order, is an act inconsistent to the Peace Agreement.
The Council’s wordings though, are very direct as it condemns smartly the government’s violation of the Peace Agreement, because the government is one of the main signatories but has gone contrary to the very document it has signed. Simply, if devoid of diplomatic wording, it can be described as ‘bad faith!’
The other part of article 7 has been witty drafted with handy appeals to the parties that, though the creation of 28 states and the decision to implement the Order remain inconsistent with the terms of the Peace Agreement, yet for bigger picture to restore peace and prevent the country from somalisation and economic collapse, a new government-the Transitional Government of National Unity-must be formed with urgency.
Here the Council seems convinced that, with an inclusive new government in place and since it appears different groups have no difficulties in having more states though not necessarily 28 in number or not in a manner through which the 28 states were imposed, then a dialogue on the states which would constitute South Sudan, could be instituted to chart a way forward for consensus on states.
The Council’s suggestion of having a dialogue on states under new government strikes a balance to abridge the parties’ demand as it interprets their intentions on the variedly suggested states. For instance, the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement or Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) has, before the Peace Agreement was signed, suggested that South Sudan should constitute of 21 states based on former British colonial boundaries. This was dropped during the negotiation, once the government rejected the increase of the states. Still, one would argue that; this notion of having more states proposed by the SPLM/A-IO hasn’t been abandoned but rather pushed to the making of the Permanent Constitution as that time would warrant broad discussion on federalism discourses including states.
Significantly to note, if the parties only differ on procedure, constituents and timing of having states, then commonsense would dictate that the interest of having a country than let it fall apart just because of one group’s inconsiderate acts, should painfully prevail. Bluntly put, noting the divergence in opinions over the states, procedure and time, it could explain why the IGAD Council of Ministers has suggested that a dialogue on states should be inclusively attempted by the new government.
Equally important to bring to the fore is that, the argument against the creation of 28 states is not the question of numbers or who inked the creation of such states but rather, in author’s view, the matter is entwined in three issues namely; firstly, a willful violation of the Peace Agreement that was signed on the basis of 10 states and with power-sharing well defined. Secondly, the intention of the Establishment Order that spirited the 28 states has been badly meant to curve off the ancestral lands of some communities and scooped it for other groups.
Since the creation of these states, Malakal town being land of Collo (Shilluk) has been maliciously added to the newly created Dinka dominated Eastern Nile State, leaving Collo dangling on half side of the west Nile, painfully being kicked out of their own town. Thirdly, it is patriotic to mention that a half of the country should not be given to one ethnic group in expense of other 63 ethnic groups to share only 16 states out of 28 states.
With all such unconcealed implications brought about by the intention that shot up the creation of the 28 states, yet emphatically, the IGAD Council of Ministers has a momentum to encourage the parties to swallow the bitter parts of the intentions and procedural notoriety. Articles 12, 13 and 14 which seem more controversial shall be interpreted in the next edition under part II and coherently with article 7 explained above.
The author; Biel Boutros Biel is lawyer and currently member of the National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC). His areas of research interests are in democratisation, rule of law, constitution, transitional justice, refugee law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The views expressed in this article do not represent any of the institutions he is associated with”…