South Sudan: Mabior - Partial Execution of Juba Peace Deal Undermining Democracy

Mother and daughter in Unity State, South Sudan (file photo).

South Sudan Assistant Minister for Interior Garang M. De Mabior, who resigned from the Transitional Government on June 3, after only four months in office, spoke with Fred Oluoch.

You resigned saying President Salva Kiir's side has no intention of implementing the agreement. What evidence did you have of this?

If you follow the implementation matrix of the Revitalised Agreement on Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS), no other provision has been implemented, apart from formation of the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU) which circumvented these provisions.

Still, the formation of state and the local governments are not in place, while the National Assembly is yet to be reconstituted, so the constitution was amended illegally. All this was in the name of "giving peace a chance", but the security situation has deteriorated.

You particularly cited the formation of transitional government without the implementation of security arrangements. To what extent is it a threat to the survival of R-TGoNU?

If the various stakeholders to the agreement were genuine, they would pursue the military matter to its logical conclusion. There must be a unified, non-partisan army and other organised forces. In the absence of security arrangements, including demilitarisation of Juba, all major towns, civilian centres, disarmament of civilians, and unification of forces, inter-communal violence and general insecurity will continue hurting the already fragile economy. Forces loyal to the regime could also use the threat of violence to maintain the status quo.

What do you think is the grand plan for President Kiir's side?

The plan of the regime has been clear from the start. They have used their privilege of incumbency to mobilise international diplomatic pressure against the SPLM-IO, so that we were persuaded to go to Juba and form a government in violation of the provisions of the Agreement. While this was going on, the regime co-opted the majority of the non-armed opposition groups, dividing the opposition in the process. Their plan is to use the presidency to dismantle the Agreement through voting, in what I call it, "using democracy to undermine democracy". So far it is working.

Wouldn't it have been better to correct things from the inside as Interior assistant minister on security issues?

That's reasonable. However, that argument assumes South Sudan has a similar socio-political history as the rest of the Commonwealth. In reality, without security arrangements in place, the political space to correct things from the inside is non-existent. Those who take this path are looking for an excuse to surrender. If we, as the opposition, choose to correct things from within, it still means confrontation with President Kiir. If "from within" means to abandon the reform agenda, then that is surrender. We did not negotiate a surrender, but a negotiated compromise. It is better to "correct things from within", but in the absence of a unified army, that may very well lead again to war.

In February you contemplated rejecting the post, what do you say to critics saying you are a holdout who is not willing to compromise?

Initially, I declined since after eight months' pre-transition period, nothing was done to implement the critical tasks. What shows they will be implemented now, since the period was extended twice -- for six months and then for 100 days -- and still nothing?

About $100 million was squandered during this time and remains unaccounted for to this day. Terming those correcting the violations as "holdouts", is mischief. If my SPLM-IO party is not a holdout, how can I be one? The Agreement itself is the compromise, so to compromise further would mean it is acquiescence to the status quo.

The wording of your resignation letter gave the impression that the R-TGoNU is here to stay. What scenario do you think is going to emerge?

The status quo -- characterised by abject poverty and inter-communal violence -- is likely to continue. I hope I am wrong in bringing our partners' intransigence to public attention and that the unscientific way we are implementing the Agreement bears fruit, because my being wrong would mean the people of South Sudan will finally have achieved peace.

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BACKGROUND

Mabior Garang de Mabior is the son of South Sudan's founding leader Dr John Garang and Rebecca Nyandeng, of the five vice presidents.

August, 2012: Held press conference in Nairobi criticising the leadership of President Kiir.

December 2013: After outbreak of the civil war, he teamed up with Dr Riek Machar in SPLM-IO.

April 2016: Appointed minister for Water and Irrigation following the 2015 peace agreement. When fresh fighting broke out in Juba in 2016, he fled to exile, Nairobi and Addis.

February 2020: Appointed Assistant Minister for Interior.

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