By: AGGREY MUTAMBO
Warring parties to the South Sudan conflict are protesting sanction threats, just a week after US President Barack Obama rallied the region to pressure leaders of the world’s youngest nation into a peace deal.
Both the government under Salva Kiir and the rebels under former Vice President Riek Machar have opposed imposition of sanctions and deadlines in what could complicate search for peaceful solution.
“Peace making is a process, it is not about deadlines.
We will continue to negotiate with the rebels until we arrive at the credible peace that satisfies all,” Mr James P Morgan, South Sudan Deputy Head of Mission in Nairobi told the Sunday Nation on Friday.
“Quick-fixed solutions (sic) are the recipe of prolonging the suffering of our people.
In fact, bad peace is worse than the war itself,” he argued.
On his tour of East Africa last week, President Obama, who also addressed the African Union in Addis Ababa, said there “is no time left”, and that the warring parties have to agree to a peace deal.
Mr Obama gathered leaders or their representatives from member states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), a regional body that has been midwifing South Sudan peace talks since January 2014.
It has recently suggested a final agreement by August 17.
“That is not how peace is negotiated. We cannot be forced into a deadline yet the elements of the conflict are still intact.
“This means there will be a recipe for another war. This has been the situation in South Sudan,” Prof Peter Adwok, former South Sudan Education minister and who now supports Riek Machar, said on Thursday.
A senior White House Official had indicated to journalists that sanctions would be imposed if the sides fail to agree this time.
“We have supported a UN Security Council resolution that explicitly threatened an arms embargo and we think it is, in the failure of this last effort, one of the options that’s right on the table,” the official told reporters during a session whose rules demanded anonymity.
South Sudan, which descended into chaos in December 2013, has had a recent eruption of violence between rebels and government forces in northern states where oil fields are concentrated.
Despite seven ceasefire agreements being reached before, the parties have often violated them within days.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) says more than 50,000 have been killed and about two million displaced by the fighting and are in need of about $250 (Sh25 billion) million worth of humanitarian assistance.
Despite previous threats for sanctions, experts warn such may not lead to the parties agreeing to a long-term peace deal.
“It is important to have deadlines in any peace talks because you cannot have these talks forever. But these deadlines can be problematic because they can push parties into artificial agreements on important issues,” Dr Ochieng Kamudhayi, a conflict management expert and lecturer at the Centre for Public Policy and Competitiveness, Strathmore Business School, told the Sunday Nation.
“For sanctions, it is necessary to know what type to apply or even who to target. Blanket sanctions may be ignored or they may end up hurting those who are not part of the conflict. They have to be designed very carefully.”
Last year, human rights organisations called for an arms embargo, but the US argues an embargo may not affect both sides since some Igad members have already taken sides.
Cord Co-Principal Kalonzo Musyoka, who once took part in mediations to create South Sudan from Sudan during the Moi regime, also warned that sanctions could worsen the conflict.
“Sanctions never work. They never worked in Cuba. The best thing for the people of South Sudan is to engage” he said.
“They will have to find a solution, but not through sanctions.”
In Addis, President Obama met with leaders from Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia as well as representatives from Sudan.
South Sudan warring parties were not invited but the idea was to get a common ground for the region to push warring parties to agree to a peace deal by mid-August.
“I think at this point our view is that both parties are part of the problem and this is not an opportunity for them to have a bunch of air time.
They’ve had many, many opportunities with the regional leaders,” the White House official added in a session with journalists aboard Air Force One.
“I think the point is to underscore that there’s unity around the Igad effort and that there will be unity in the aftermath, and that if these guys aren’t with the programme, they’re going to face sustained and concerted pressure.”
Last week, Igad published Proposed Compromise Agreement, which it argued had been endorsed by both the AU and the international community for South Sudan to have a 30-month transition government, before elections are held.
Among other proposals is the suggestion that Kiir’s government retain 53 per cent of the posts, rebels take 33 per cent, former detainees seven per cent and other political parties take seven per cent.
Igad had proposed August 17 as the day the parties should sign on it but Juba immediately protested being excluded from the Obama meeting and a proposal that rebels take more than half of posts in the Greater Upper Nile region.
“That proposal is unacceptable because the people of the Greater Upper Nile will be sacrificed and handed over to the rebels.
“Those people are likely to rebel against that.
“These people love peace and Riek Machar only controls just two or three counties out of the 57.
“It is like Igad is dividing our country by handing over some parts to the rebels,” Mr Morgan added.