6 January 2018

Africa: Are Kenya, Uganda Obstacles to South Sudan Peace?

Photo: U.S. Mission to the African Union
South Sudan shares borders with six African countries.

South Sudanese lobbies have spelt out four key issues that could be obstacles to the February peace talks.

The groups say that the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) should address the lack of a mechanism for monitoring ceasefires and armed groups that were left out of the cessation of hostilities agreement such as that led by Gen Peter Gatdet; the continued confinement of Dr Riek Machar in South Africa; the controversial 32 states; and the role of two key Igad members Uganda and Kenya, who are perceived to have taken sides.

Experts on South Sudan say that unless these key issues are addressed, the talks could be in jeopardy from the various interest groups.

Rev Paul Yugusuk, the Anglican archbishop in charge of the Equatoria Province, told The EastAfrican that the lack of serious monitoring mechanism is the biggest weakness to the peace process where warring parties violate a ceasefire comfortable in the knowledge that there would be no sanctions.

He said that the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, led by Festus Mogae, and the Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism, have proved that they are incapable of holding the antagonists to account.

Since the cessation of hostilities agreement was signed in Addis Ababa on December 21, both the government of President Salva Kiir and the rebel Sudanese Peoples' Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) have traded accusations of the five violations that have occurred.

Foreign interests

The second biggest issue concerns the interests of Uganda and Kenya, which are seen to be an obstacle to the final solution.

Uganda, having deployed troops on the side of President Kiir when the war started in 2013, civil society claim that Kampala is opposed to an arms embargo since it is the main supplier of weapons to government forces.

According to the chairman of the Senior Youth of South Sudan, Gabriel Dak, the issue of interests of some countries in the region has been an obstacle.

"Uganda has been part and parcel of the war. Although President Yoweri Museveni has tried to unite three SPLM factions, there is concern that Uganda's support emboldens President Kiir to continue pursuing a military solution," said Mr Dak.

Kenya -- which is the rapporteur of the August 2015 peace agreement -- is now being accused by the rebels of favouring President Kiir by allowing the abduction and deportation of SPLM-IO members who live in the country.

After facilitating the deportation of the former spokesman of Dr Machar, James Gatdet in 2016, Nairobi is now being accused of allowing the recent abduction and deportation of rebel appointed governor of Kapoeta State, Marko Lokidor Lochapio, who was abducted from Kakuma Refugee Camp.

According to the SPLM-IO deputy military spokesman, Col Gabriel Lam, Mr Lochapio was driven to Nadapal where he was handed over to South Sudan national security service.

The third challenge is the government's opposition to the inclusion of the controversial 32 states in the Igad revitalisation programme with insiders saying it is an internal matter, while the regional body has identified it as source of fresh conflicts that are not related to the dispute between President Kiir and Dr Machar.

The fourth challenge is whether to allow Dr Machar to directly participate in the process.

"The main objective of the revitalisation process is to identify the problem and Dr Machar is one of the problems, so he should be allowed to part of the solution," said Mr Dak.

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