On Thursday Government of South Sudan informed IGAD and observers that it will be boycotting the second round of talks in Addis Ababa. Earlier in February, the Government Spokesman, Michael Makuei warned against the habitual behaviour of IGAD and its tendency in current negotiations to dictate rather than mediate. Makuei was quite explicit then, compared to the careful statement the delegation made in Addis on Thursday.
The move to boycott the talks was well anticipate by the so-called Troika (US, UK, Norway) and the EU before it was even announced and they went on an undiplomatic tirade and threatened to give anyone who impedes the talks with a bloody nose i.e. “there will be consequences” should the Government of South Sudan or rebels for that matter boycott the talks. The schoolyard bullying behaviour of the Western Countries is not surprising because they still have the “Berlin Conference Syndrome” 126 years later and insist on every whim they have being fulfilled regardless of interests of South Sudan or its government. The undiplomatic behaviour and language the of neo-colonialists is hypocritical because if any diplomatic mission behaves in the way they behave in South Sudan, on their soil, they certainly would not be able to get away with it.
Nevertheless, the Government of South Sudan has proceeded to boycott the talks and J1 has been unequivocal that:
(1) It will talk with anybody bearing arms against the government of South Sudan without preconditions i.e. in this case Riek’s Group.
(2) It will not negotiate with the seven (7) ex-detainees because:
They declared themselves not to be part of Riek’s group and have formed their own group.
(3) The two principal participants in the armed conflict are Riek’s Group and the Government of South Sudan.
(4) The Government and Riek’s Group are capable of resolving their differences without the added complication of the supposed Civil Society Activists, most of who are financed by the West.
Therefore, it is clear that there are two distinct issues, namely:
(a) An armed conflict that needs an urgent solution from the two sides only (the Government and Riek’s Group) since those of Yau Yau, Oliny and Baping have laid down their arms.
(b) A divided party opposition, which has two distinct groups i.e. Group of Seven and Riek’s Group who have different positions, aims and motives.
It therefore defies logic that the two issues should be mixed and confused in Addis during the talks. It is paramount to decouple the two issues. It is important to staunch the blood flow first and as soon as possible and focus on other matters later. It is in this light were the Government of South Sudan thus appears to be saner than IGAD. The mediators should recognise this and let the Government negotiate with those holding arms first. The Government’s position that it should negotiate a meaningful end to bloodshed with those who are bearing arms first is justified due to the scale of suffering among the civilians and so it should be encouraged, facilitated and not impeded.
On the issue of the Seven (7) ex-detainees negotiating with the Government, it is important to acknowledge that they are not actively involved in shedding blood and are interested in reforming the party and not overthrow of the Government whose legitimacy they acknowledged. It is important then to open a different forum for them. This forum could be done through friendly parties not countries such as the ANC who has already offered to mediate among SPLM members and has an existing partnership with the SPLM. The SPLM Leadership has also already offered other mechanisms in form of a Political Bureau Meeting and a meeting of the SPLM NLC to discuss the current crisis and any other underlying issues. In addition, the Government should offer the Group of Seven safe passage to Juba.
Therefore the Government of South Sudan is right to boycott the Addis Talks because the negotiations are stalled due to numerous and irreconcilable differences among the three parties and should do so until the issues have been decoupled and each addressed in a systematic manner. The current agendas and the manner of negotiations will neither stem the blood flow nor bring peace. Amalgamating the issues of Group of Seven, who are aiming for party reforms, and issues of Riek’s Group, who are aiming for removal of Salva and toppling the government, are irreconcilable and should be decoupled. Thus the government should stay away until the mediators realise that these issues are separate and warrant to be treated separately.
IGAD mediators should not complicate the talks by confusing, and mixing agendas and issues that can easily be broken down and solved one by one in stages in a similar manner in which Riek rejoined SPLM in 2002. The IGAD must also resist the divergent agendas of so-called Troika and the EU who are financing the negotiations on behalf of the regional group. Failure to apprehend the will of the Government and people of South Sudan to bring the conflict to end will confirm the allegations that the mediators are dictating talks and not mediating.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the position of the New Sudan Vision.