Riek Machar & the rebels are not ready for peace

BY: Peter Mayom, USA, JUL/28/2014, SSN;

“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle the conflict by peaceful means,” Ronald Reagan.

With world’s attention turned to war between Israel Defense Forces and Hamas and the fight between Russian-backed separatists and Ukraine government, which subsequently led to the downing of Malaysian passenger airplane, South Sudan’s peace talk will now be put on the back burner. The focus is on brokering ceasefire in the Middle East and the shooting down of Malaysian passenger plane in Ukraine.

As the rest of the world deals with these new crises, it is time for Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to stop facilitating, encouraging, and sponsoring Riek Machar’s futile regional tours.

Two months ago he was flown to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to sign ceasefire and to commit to formation of transitional government within 60 days with President Salva Kiir. However, Riek Machar has forgotten the reason why IGAD or AU brought him to the Ethiopian capital.

Instead of devoting his time to peace negotiations, he and his top lieutenants are busy winning and dining at some of the finest restaurants or hotels in the region while his followers, Nuer peasants, are battling the elements and starving in South Sudan.

Five months in the bushes would make anyone crave for delicacies long-left in Juba after the war broke out. Living like kings, enjoying modern amenities, and shaking hands with leaders of the region alone would not help the people currently crammed in the UNMISS camps in South Sudan or refugees lacking basic needs in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

Machar needs to recall the condition he was in two months prior to his arrival in Addis Ababa, which I think was still a luxurious one compared to the living conditions of his fighters.

He must think about the children dying right now fighting his useless war and has to be serious about bringing this conflict to an end.

Not mindful of the situation he left his rebel forces in when he flew to Addis Ababa, Machar has done everything except making peace a first priority. Right after he signed and later violated the ceasefire with President Salva Kiir, he visited Nairobi, Kenya to meet Uhuru Kenyatta.

Then he took off for South Africa to hold talks with Jacob Juma. And not long after that he went to Djibouti.

He alleges that his visits are meant to educate the leaders of those countries on the genesis of the war and how to bring about a long-lasting peace to South Sudan.

Well, let Machar be reminded that peace will not come to South Sudan while he and his group are occupied with telling foreign leaders how bad Salva Kiir’s government is and what these leaders can do to make him step down as president. He and his group need to stay put in Addis Ababa and negotiate peaceful settlement to this conflict.

The visits Machar made to the above mentioned countries have no any bearing on the peace negotiation process. While he was in Djibouti, he was given tours of Djibouti River port, fiber optic and telecommunications systems, according to Sudan tribune.

Other then getting inspired by the advancements in Djibouti and mentally escaping temporarily the enormity of the war he is fighting, how are his regional tours helping people who are facing death from hunger and diseases due to lack of access to food and medicines, respectively, because of war?

They (tours) are of no significance at all. He should be ashamed of himself talking about construction of oil pipeline and exporting oil through Djibouti while his people are dying.

The rebels’ leader has to stop the campaign, tours, and devote time to peace negotiations in Addis Ababa. He should know that African leaders are desensitized by wars and the leaders he talks to would not tell him that he is fighting a senseless war.

He must know that there are also economics and political interests in wars. For that reason, some of these leaders would want to cozy up to him in case he wins the war or becomes the country’s president.

Our country cannot afford this wait-and-see games; it needs peace. Moreover, those mediating the peace are getting paid handsome money. It is sad to say but true, the longer these negotiations go on the better for their pockets.

This is not to negate that IGAD or AU does want to see the war stop. Nevertheless, the burden rests completely on the shoulders of South Sudan’s leaders to end this war. There are no winners in it because we lost and still are losing innocent people who were not party to the genesis of this conflict.

And if Riek Machar still believes he can win this war militarily and install himself president, then he is completely delusional and should seek help before it is too late. He has failed to get rid of Salva Kiir and must give peace a chance.

South Sudan’s civilians living in deplorable conditions in UNMISS and refugees camps deserve peace and they need it now. There are times when individuals who consider themselves leaders rise above their personal interests and work for the good of the masses. This is one of those times.

It is a known fact that Riek Machar wanted to get even with Salva Kiir after he ran away from Juba. That was the reason he mobilized his tribesmen. He surely would have liked to run Kiir out of Juba the way he ran him off.

But that dream was long dashed months ago. What is attainable and at his disposal is to work on bringing peace back to the country and alleviate the suffering of his people.

Is Riek Machar really ready to negotiate peace? The answer is no. He is not there in Addis Ababa to bring peaceful settlement to the conflict.

Here are some of the reasons why I believe he is not ready for peace. Right after he was happily airlifted out of South Sudan, he has been busy creating, doing and calling for things that are most likely to prolong the conflict.

His formation of the so-called “National Committees” is an indication that Machar is not there for a quick solution to the conflict. He is preparing the rebel movement for a long haul. There is no need for these committees if he is willing to hurriedly end the war.

It is understood that “An empty mind is a devil’s workshop”. The leader of the rebels is probably afraid of the proverbial devil and it could be the reason why he is creating the committees because he does not want his elite rebels to saunter the streets of Eastern Africa capitals.

Insistence on the withdrawal of Uganda People’s defense Force (UPDF) tells us that rebels are not yet there to negotiate peace. They want to try again going to Juba after UPDF withdrawal. Signing peace and withdrawing UPDF are totally irrelevant.

The call for federalism at this moment is another reason I believe Machar and the rebels are intentionally trying to delay peace. Federalism is being used as one of the obstacles to peace negotiation process.

The once orphaned and now rebels’ leader-adopted kid called “federalism” did not cause this suffering of our people. He knows really well he is not fighting because of lack of federal system. When he was in the government for eight years, Machar did not do anything to advance the case for federalism.

Why is he calling for federalism now?
First, he wants to get support from Greater Equatoria region, which at least voiced the need for federalism before the war started. He knows the government has the propensity for knee-jerk reaction.

The calculation is that should the government start detaining, prosecuting, muzzling or killing the Equatorians calling for federalism, mass rebellion would ignite in the heart of the government.

The rebels’ leader needs to read the tea leaves. Those scenarios and the joining of his movement en masse by those calling for federalism are not going to happen.

Greater Equatoria does not want to see its cities brought down to ashes as the rebels’ movement has done to Greater Upper Nile region. It will peacefully make its case for that system.

One thing was learned from the rebels after they took control of towns in the Upper Nile region. They do not have respect for national infrastructures or properties.

If they could destroy, ransack or loot their own towns, those whose towns where not reached by the rebels can only imagine what they would have done to their towns had the war gone beyond the Upper Nile region.

Riek Machar and rebels’ intention is to see the whole of South Sudan engulfed in flame. The uprising rebels want to see in Equatoria will not be good for Equatoria and all Equatorians must shun it.

Debate about federalism should not be denounced. There is always going to be the “forbidden fruit” craving. When the government seems to restrict talks about federalism, the more people have the urge to talk about federalism.

And if there continues to be incidents like the one that happened in Maridi County, the government will continue to see the already lower political stocks plummet.

However, before debating federalism, we need to have peace in South Sudan. Whether or not to have federalism in the country is second to stopping the bloodshed taking place right now.

It is my belief that anyone who has not taken up arms and who insists that an endorsement or acceptance of federalism by the government at this time must be a prerequisite to ending the war is a rebel.

The demand for federalism by the rebels is a cheap political maneuver to drag out the war and no one should fall for it. First thing first, let the war end. Then we can talk about federalism.

There are law-makers in the Parliament who represent all sections of South Sudan. They must be part of and parcel to this debate about the system of government.

Federalism is not and will not be the solution to South Sudan’s problems. War didn’t break out in Juba because Riek Machar wanted to have federalism implemented but Kiir refused.

Let’s not deceive ourselves that ushering in federalism will produce an economic mobility in the country. The gap between the haves and the have nots will predictably stay the same no matter what the system is.

What is needed is a political will by the leaders in the country to put people first. Putting the system on paper is not going to change anything as long as the leaders want to seemingly show to the ordinary people that they are extraordinary.

The system the country has now needs to be tinkered with. Presidential powers must be shrunken. For example, the power to remove or appoint governors must be taken away from the president. All states should be allowed to carry out the powers enumerated in the Transitional Constitution.

Proponents of federalism who think that adopting it (federalism) alone will accelerate development and lead to equitable distribution of resources are hallucinating.

Federalism coupled with creation of more states, as Machar and his group propose, would not stop the select few from pocketing the oil money as they did since the signing of CPA. More states would definitely balloon the already huge government’s payroll. And it will be just another recipe for division of the country already divided tribally.

China has 1.3 billion people with only 34 provincial-level administrative units, which are working just fine. The USA, which midwifed South Sudan’s independence, has over 300 million people with 50 states and it is the envy of the world. The notion that creating more states will solve South Sudan’s problem is false.

The campaigns or so-called “charm offensives” Machar is pursuing are self-serving. He knows the atrocities committed by the rebels are going to implicate him. Therefore, he is lobbying the leaders of the region who would work behind-the-scenes to help him avoid going to the International Criminal Court.

Telling people that he is there to explain the genesis of the problem to those leaders he visits with is a pure lie. Knowing very well that he got away with the 1991 Bor Massacre, Machar would be a damn fool if he does not put up some fight diplomatically. And it is the reason why his schedule is loaded with plans to meet African leaders. I would be surprised if he does not take his campaigns to the West.

As I said before, what is needed now is a complete stop to the senseless war. To have federalism or not ought to be debated after guns are silent. The child soldiers dying as we speak do not deserve to die. They want peace and they want it fast.

Prolonging the war will make it difficult to achieve peace. Here are things that will likely happen if peaceful settlement to the conflict is not achieved in short time.

First, the rebel movement could disintegrate into several factions, which will likely turn against themselves.

Second, the mistrust among the rebels’ commanders living lavishly in hotels in Addis Ababa and those in the trenches will start to grow if the war lasts for long. As a result, the ones in the trenches might not honor the agreement even if peace agreement is reached. And that will create militias for South Sudan to deal with long after this conflict comes to an end. Sudan would be there to nurture the militias.

Third, Sudan will start creeping into the disputed areas because it knows South Sudan is a divided house. And sadly, Abyei issue will be shelved for good.

Both government and rebels’ negotiators, this coming round, have to be serious about bringing this war to a halt. How, what and who started the war are of no use at this time.

What the country is longing for is peace. No introduction of new conditions such as federalism and creation of more states are needed to be discussed in order to return the country to normalcy. END