Without the guns falling silent, peacebuilding will be impossible. But even with a ceasefire and some sort of a return to the provisions of the Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (ARCSS), or an equivalent initiative that embraces new armed groups, any resumption of the peace process will likely be illusory, ineffective and short-lived.
This is because the underlying driver of conflict will persist. Any peace process will ultimately collapse unless it addresses, head on, the annexation of political power and authority by South Sudan’s Presidency. The “king of the hill” type politics, championed by President Salva Kiir Mayardit, will inexorably drag the country back towards conflict.
From independence, South Sudan’s ostensibly progressive political system has been systematically subverted. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) has become a vehicle by which the ruling elite have sought to entrench their monopoly on power and associated opportunities to accumulate wealth. Most prominent among these is President Kiir, who has over the years consolidated his personal authority by significantly extending the powers of the Presidency to the detriment of all other state institutions.
It has been said time and again, that South Sudan’s political leaders, whether in government or in opposition, have been callous about the lives of their people, not just in terms of the violence they have inflicted on the populace but also in terms of diversion of national resources, theft and flagrant disregard for the people’s expectation of public goods and services.
Consequently, all other institutions have been emaciated to the extent that South Sudan is now run almost entirely from the Office of the President. Without any meaningful oversight and with unrestricted access to state finances, this over-centralization of authority has enabled deeply disruptive patronage networks to develop, thrive, and ultimately undermine the rule of law, institutional capacity, and effective governance.
In this context, a power struggle within the ruling elite was inevitable. Even the recent appointment of governors points to the fact that the Office of the President had simply become too great a threat to some and too tempting an opportunity to others. The Presidency will continue to be a driver for conflict in South Sudan. It has now become the single most destabilizing factor in South Sudan’s social, economic, and political environment.
And yet, despite a devastating civil war, triggered by an unbalanced political order, President Kiir continues to hoard and jealously guard political privileges.
Report of several arrests within and even outside of Juba by the NSS. Recently the staff of one of the international organizations within Juba was arrested and detained without any reason for the arrest stated. Kiir under dubious circumstance got the legislation that granted the NSS wide-ranging Powers of surveillance and detention without judicial oversight approved.
It is really not fun to be constantly seen by the political and social elite of one’s country as a pestering voice who is constantly nagging about the frailties of leadership and the inequities in the system the society has come to take as normal.
But it important to voice it out that by focusing almost exclusively on a ceasefire, and a misguided roadmap to elections, South Sudan continues to treat the symptoms and not the disease. Without a root and branch reformation of South Sudan’s increasingly authoritarian and repressive political landscape, any ceasefire will not be sustainable and any election will not be credible.
Given past form, the National Dialogue process initiated by President Kiir, is also likely to be a tightly controlled process that reinforces the President’s authority, as author and de-facto patron of the process, rather than challenging and abrogating his significant power grab.
Similarly, those South Sudanese who condone the over-centralisation of power by President Kiir – perhaps in some misguided belief that it will bring peace and stability to the country – must be reminded of a salient quote by the Greek philosopher Plato:
“This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs: when he first appears, he is a protector.
Reference:Citizen Lagu Website