The address to the UNSC by the Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr. Francis Mading Deng, presented the Government of the Republic of South Sudan’s (GRSS) response to the concerns raised by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms. Navi Pillay and the UN Special Advisor on Prevention of Genocide Mr. Adama Dieng. Instead of addressing the root causes of the conflict and proposing a just solution; the Permanent Representative of the GRSS to the UN went ahead to defend the violent (genocidal) campaign of the government known as the Juba Massacre, while heaping blame on what he termed as rebels.
It is highly regrettable that such a renowned personality with such an illustrious career as a diplomat, a prominent elder, and scholar would defend a massacre that took place before the eyes of the whole world. It is ironic that almost exactly to the twentieth anniversary of the Rwanda Genocide the former UN Special Advisor on Prevention of Genocide would be giving a speech in defense of a massacre on the floor of the UNSC. This amounts to a moral and professional betrayal of his previous duty as the UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, and of the principles on which the UN was founded.
The UN Permanent Representative of the GRSS started with remarks in which he invoked democratic principles of legitimacy stating that; “It is indisputable that the Government must bear primary responsibility for protecting its citizens without discrimination on ethnic or any other ground, and be accountable in that regard.” The Permanent Representative is either naïve about the genesis of the conflict, or is complacent in trying to cover up the crimes against humanity that took place in Juba between the 16 – 18 of December 2013.The UN Permanent Representative for South Sudan seems to forget that the conflict arose because of the government failure to do exactly what he suggests is the responsibility of the government. He goes on to say: “However, that cannot justify placing a democratically elected government on the same moral, political, and legal grounds with a rebel group using violence to overthrow that Government.”
The objective of what the Permanent Representative has labeled as rebels is not to overthrow the government using violent means; it is instead, a war of resistance against a government that without provocation killed, according to an International Crisis Group (ICG) report 10,000 and other online sources 20,000 of its own citizens in three days based on their ethnicity. It is worth noting that wether it was 10,000 or 20,000, it is the quality of the crime rather than the quantity of the crime that is appaling. The government committed these murders in the name of thwarting a coup that has now been shown to be unfounded. This however, has not stopped the Permanent Representative from continuing to push the coup narrative, in order to discredit genuine voices for change in the country.
The coup narrative has been rejected by the world, as reflected by the statement of the assistant secretary of state for African affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield in her report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on South Sudan crisis: “We’ve not seen any evidence that this was a coup attempt, but it certainly was the result of a huge political rift between Riek Machar and the president.” The people of South Sudan at the grassroots level have also rejected the coup narrative and the only reason their voices are silent is for fear of victimization from the authorities. This fact became even clearer after the Army Chief of Military Intelligence testified in court that he could not connect the four to the alleged coup, leading to his dismissal.
The coup was fabricated by President Salva Kiir and his inner circle in order to purge the leadership of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), a leadership he saw as a threat to his underhanded plan of holding on to power through illegal means. This plan started to become apparent when the president on the 15th of November, 2013 illegally dissolved the structures of the SPLM: “The SPLM has dissolved itself by itself, it is only the office of the Chairman that cannot be dissolved; nobody can dissolve it” he remarked. This is illegal.
The massacre in Juba occurred in the wake of this fabricated coup, I don’t see the connection between an alleged coup attempt and the need to massacre thousands of civilians (women and children) in cold blood. The Permanent Representative’s argument of the legitimacy of the government is a diversion to draw attention away from the fact that the massacre of between 10,000 and 20,000 innocent civilians brings this very legitimacy into question. This was what brought the legitimacy of Mohamad Morsi into question, and more recently it has brought the legitimacy of Viktor Yanukovych into question. The President of the Republic of South Sudan has murdered more of his own citizens than these two Presidents combined. This begs the question: how many citizens does President Salva Kiir have to murder before his legitimacy comes into question?
The UN special Representative for South Sudan is either misleading, or being misled when he asserts that; “The President also spoke to me about the constructive discussion he had with US Secretary of State, John Kerry, to whom he expressed his willingness to meet with rebel leader Riek Machar in the interests of speedy end to the war.” Though this is very courageous on the part of President Salva, the record sadly shows that the president is not for peace as he continues to keep foreign mercenaries in the country in violation of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (CoH).
The recent appointment of the former Governor of Northern Bahrgazal, Gen. Paul Malong as the Chief of General Staff and Marial Nuor as Chief of Military Intelligence, both architects of the Juba Massacre and other atrocities prior to the 15th of December, is a further indication that there is no desire for a “speedy end to the war”. The recent Massacre of 190 trainees and their families in Mapel, Western Bahrgazal State, as reported by Sudan Tribune (on April 26, 2014) is a testament to their brutality and also another indication that the government is not for peace.
In regards to the Agreement on the Status of Detainees, although we salute the courage of the President when he released the four detainees, the fact that more pressure had to be put on the government to allow the four SPLM leaders to travel is an indication that the President is not sincere about his respect for national judicial process and a desire for a “speedy end to the war.” It is not the speed with which we achieve peace that will end the suffering of the people of South Sudan, but a just and honorable peace. The violation of the two agreements signed between the SPLM and the GRSS sets a treacherous precedence for any future agreements that may be reached between the two parties.
The leadership of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) 70% of which has deserted the government has no policy of recruiting child soldiers as alleged by the Special Representative who unambiguously said that: “on specific issues raised by the reports of the High Commissioner and the Special Advisor, the allegation that both sides are recruiting child soldiers is an example of the moral equivalency that clouds the facts and the need to place responsibility where it belongs.”
This is paradoxical, and in order to understand this paradox we have to again revisit the root cause of the conflict. As already mentioned, the murder of between 10,000 to 20,000 innocent civilians in Juba was the catalyst that led to the White Army Uprising. In an article for the New York Times (on April 03, 2014) Journalist Jackie Fortin interviewed one of the White Army local militia referred to only as Mr. Wiyual; “…we are fighting the government for killing people,” he went on to say; “we aren’t fighting for Dr. Riek.”
The Juba Massacre has militarized the youth of Nuer ethnicity in their cattle camps and villages and they are understandably angry. The troops that are under the Command of Comrade Dr. Riek Machar are regular SPLA Soldiers from various divisions that upon hearing of the Juba Massacre rebelled and captured Bor Town. The cycle of revenge started almost immediately with reprisals in Akobo and Bentiu where more innocent civilians lost their lives, in all these cases the loss of life is regrettable and unjustifiable; however, we must acknowledge that the catalyst for all this is the Juba Massacre that the government is trying to cover up.
The fact is, that had Comrade Dr. Riek Machar and Comrade Taban Deng fallen victim to the dastardly plot to murder them in the name of a failed coup, we would be in a more dismal humanitarian situation. There would have been no leadership on the ground to attempt to organize this anger felt by the Nuer youth in their cattle camps and villages. The White Army local militia could have gone on an unchecked orgy of killings that would have taken a long time to stop and would have led to an unending cycle of reprisals. The leadership of the SPLM – SPLA is trying against all odds to turn the current crisis into an opportunity by organizing the anger caused by the Juba Massacre and turn it into an opportunity to bring about fundamental change in the country.
The bold stand by Comrade Dr. Riek Machar to organize this anger demonstrates leadership, in a time where historical leaders are shying away from their responsibility to the people. The stand of Comrade Dr. Riek Machar, Comrade Taban and many more Comrades is what has created a glimmer of hope, an opportunity to turn this despicable tragedy into an opportunity to reconcile our communities at the grassroots level. The failure to do this since 2005 is a major contributing factor to the current crisis as old grievances from the days of the civil war are still haunting us.
The President of the Republic of South Sudan admission that he formed a private army outside of the SPLA is on record. It was reported in the Sudan Tribune (February 17, 2014) that; “…the president tried to justify the formation of the unauthorized army, saying the intention was to have…a reserve force…in the event that military action was needed…” He went on to say; “…it was on this basis that somebody mobilized and recruited some youth…” This is the very private militia that was used by the presidency to commit the atrocities in Juba that plunged the fledgling nation into the abyss.
It is difficult to understand how the President could form any credble “high level committee, chaired by the former Chief Justice, to investigate gross violations of human rights and hold accountable those found responsible”; the same person that trained and equipped the militia that went out on a rampage killing between 10,000 to 20,000 people in three days. The president according to the UN Permanent Representative also said, “anyone targeting members of the Nuer community in his name was against him”. This is a clear indication that the president was aware of the crimes being committed, and his response was feeble in the face of such heinous crimes.
The UN Permanent Representative for South Sudan has accused what he terms as rebels, “of massive abuses and ethnically targeted massacres,” which he claims “have become a conspicuous part of their war strategy.” The leadership of the SPLM – SPLA in a historic conference in Nassir held from the 15 – 18 of April, made it clear to the world what the SPLM – SPLA is struggling for. The SPLM – SPLA is strugling to establish a federal system of government in fulfilment of the aspirations of the people of the Republic of South Sudan. The allegations made by the UN Permanent Representative are baseless, and are tantamount to propaganda.
Then after malevolently accusing the SPLA forces of committing atrocities the Permanent Representative goes on to justify a massacre that recently took place at the UNMISS camp for IDP’s in Bor. The “war was provoked when the Youth of Bor town heard the IDP’s in the UN compound celebrating the capture of Bentiu by the rebels,” it is regrettable that the former United Nations Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide would justify a massacre committed along ethnic lines. This is double standards.
The Permanent Representative also claims that “the Government sees UNMISS as a critical partner in South Sudan”, this is in contradiction to the statements made by the President of the Republic of South Sudan as reported by the BBC News Africa (on 21 January, 2014) in which the President claims he “…did not know when the UNMISS was brought to South Sudan, they were brought as a parallel government with the government in South Sudan;” he then went on to say “they fell short of naming the chief of UNMISS as a co-president of the Republic of South Sudan.”
The reality is that the Government of the Republic of South Sudan has abdicated its responsibility to the people of South Sudan to the United Nations. The government antagonizes UNMISS and yet they expect them to “…protect civilians, deliver humanitarian assistance, and promote respect for human rights.” This is the work of the government, and it is the failure to deliver the peace dividends nearly a decade on from the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (in 2005), that has also contributed to the conflict as the youth feel they have nothing to lose.
There is no excuse for the current state of institutional collapse in the Republic of South seeing that there was tremendous social and political will, both internally and externally. The governments of the IGAD countries and those of Troika spared no expense in providing opportunities to the young state for capacity building. The Republic of South Sudan has not been short of “understanding, compassion, and support in building a nation that can ensure peace, security, and development for its people” as the UN Permanent Representative for South Sudan would like the world to believe.
The Permanent Representative would also like the world to believe that “the reasons why charges against the four accused were eventually dropped was to foster efforts towards peace and reconciliation. The truth however, is that the case against these detainees was weak and the judge was going to throw out the case. “The Government has noticed that the court is going to prove that we are not guilty” stated former political detainee and legitimate Secretary General of the SPLM, Comrade Pagan Amum upon his release.
The government after supposedly releasing the detainees in the name of “efforts towards peace” detained their passports and denied them travel for medical treatment in violation of their civil rights and liberties. “The reason they didn’t travel is because some of them are giving irresponsible statements, and we did not cancel the case but we dropped the process. So if they do not change their attitude we will reopen the case again,” stated the Minister of Information. This kind of intimidation and aggressive posturing does not build confidence, and is in principle an obstacle to peace.
The way forward out of the current political deadlock, and military stalemate is to have an honest, all inclusive dialogue that will address the root causes of the conflict. The solutions of the past have not worked, solutions such as “…balancing accountability with mutual accommodation” as suggested by the Permanent Representative is what has not worked in the past and has led to current dissatisfaction with the system. This is the reason that the masses of South Sudanese are now demanding a federal system of governance, which is what they have bravely fought for since 1947.
In conclusion the “forgiveness and reconciliation” that the Permanent Representative is referring to cannot be achieved unless we address the root causes of the conflict. The current crisis in the country started as a crisis within the SPLM, which after December 15, has become an alarming national crisis. It is awfully disappointing that Dr. Francis Mading Deng a distinguished personality with such an illustrious career as a diplomat, a prominent elder, scholar and the former UN Special Advisor on Prevention of Genocide would defend a massacre that took place before the eyes of the whole world on the twentieth anniversary of the Rwanda Genocide.
Cpt. Mabior Garang de Mabior
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia