After the disappointing deadline of March 5, the role of IGAD in continuing mediating the South Sudan peace talks came under scrutiny.
The question is less about what went wrong
with the IGAD-led mediation but rather what lessons we can learn to improve the mediation
of the next peace talks.
Recently some non-state actors consisting of civil society, media, women, traditional
authorities, faith-based institutions and academia held a meeting in Juba to evaluate the
IGAD-led peace mediation.
Despite bitter criticism of the poorly managed mediation, the
participants recognised that IGAD is the only regional organisation mandated to resolve
conflicts in the region.
Given the subsidiarity principle and the geopolitics of the region, IGAD is well situated to
continue mediating the peace talks, using a new design of mediation.
The participants also
agreed to expand the IGAD mediation to include other countries that can add value and
have sufficient economic, political, diplomatic and military weight.
The meeting also
recommended the new mediation to learn from the CPA experience of having one main
mediator, accepted by all the parties.
While the participants affirmed the principle of an inclusive process, a multi-process of
engaging stakeholders was accepted. This would include direct negotiations between the
warring parties, provided that the outcome is brought to the plenary of all stakeholders.
meeting also stressed the added value of the Arusha Agreement in resolving the outstanding
issues in the IGAD-led mediation.
With the failure of the peace talks in Ethiopia, the warring parties have started pursuing the
option of war, as seen recently by increased violations of the cessation of hostilities
The question is: What can be done to encourage the warring parties to engage in
peace talks but in good faith?
A recent report, titled ‘South Sudan:
The Cost of War’, indicates that every minute spent on
the war effort will make the task of putting South Sudan on the path of sustainable peace
and stability more difficult.
The report shows that if the conflict continues for another one
to five years, it will cost South Sudan an estimated $28 billion.
In addition, the region could
save up to $53 billion and the international community $30 billion if the war stopped today.
The report stressed the urgent need for the warring parties, the region and the international
community to take action to bring peace to South Sudan.
A possible action of encouraging the warring parties to conclude peace deal is to enforce
targeted UN sanctions on individuals who are obstructing the peace talks.
sanctions may target individuals, there is need for a thorough assessment of their impact on
the people of South Sudan, the region and the international community.
A recent evaluation
of the effectiveness of UN targeted sanctions shows that they are effective only in one-third
of the time in changing the behaviour of targeted individuals, constraining them from
engaging in certain activities or stigmatising them.
UN targeted sanctions are often evaded through the diversion of assets through a third
party, the use of black markets or safe havens, the diversification of funds and investments,
and reliance on family members.
Besides, the report shows that sanctions do have
unintended consequences, such as an increase in corruption and criminality, the
strengthening of authoritarian rule, a burden on neighbouring states, diversion of resources
and a negative humanitarian impact.
Given the complex context of South Sudan, the unintended consequences of UN targeted
sanctions will certainly be borne by the people of South Sudan, with far-reaching
consequences on their lives and livelihoods. In addition, neighbouring countries such as
Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and probably Ethiopia would not be receptive in implementing the
sanctions given their economic and security interests in South Sudan and the possible impact
of the sanctions on their economies.
Another option for the region is to use the much-awaited report of the AU commission of
inquiry to encourage the warring parties to conclude the peace agreement without
compromising on issues of justice. Although the content of the report is not known, the
leaked report may provide a hint of what is expected from the final report.
It is most likely
that some senior leaders of the warring parties will be the prime suspects of the atrocities
committed since the eruption of the conflict in December 2013.
It is understandable that the release of the report should be managed in such a way not to
obstruct the peace talks.
Given the fact that the warring parties committed themselves to
issue of justice in Arusha Agreement, the African Union in collaboration with IGAD, the
Troika, the EU and the UN could use the AU report as a carrot or stick when appropriate in
encouraging the warring parties to conclude a peace agreement.
Another option is the leaked IGAD action plan for resolving the conflict in South Sudan by
Unlike previous deadlines, when the warring parties were given a chance to agree
on the contentious issues, the new action plan aims at proposing a final and binding peace
agreement to be signed by the parties by April 18.
If the leaked document reflects the true IGAD action plan, then the challenge is how to
inform this process so that it reflects the aspirations of the people of South Sudan and
reduces the risk of bringing a ‘bad peace’.
As a good peace is becoming unattainable due to
the intransigent positions of the warring parties, the remaining choice for the people of
South Sudan is whether to have a bad or imposed peace, or war.
The remaining outstanding issues are two armies, federalism, power-sharing, the choice
between the position of prime minister or an additional vice-president, and succession. With
the exception of federalism, all these issues are less of concern to the people of South Sudan.
The security concerns rightly raised by the SPLM-in-Opposition can be resolved by
increasing the pre-interim period, to build trust between the warring parties and establish
appropriate security guarantees rather than having two armies.
The issue of federalism is less contentious.
It has been agreed in principle as the appropriate
system of government for managing diversity in South Sudan. However, its adoption
requires a thorough study and engagement of the citizens as part of the constitution-making
The other issues of power-sharing, the position of prime minister or another vicepresident,
and succession can either be resolved in the context of the SPLM reunification
agreement in Arusha or through logical assessment, as reflected by previous IGAD
proposals and its protocol of August 25, 2014.
One would expect the newly expanded IGAD-plus mediation, with South Africa, Rwanda,
Chad and Algeria added, to be bold in proposing a draft agreement guided by the
overwhelming desire for peace of the people of South Sudan.
If the proposed agreement
would subject the remaining issues to the will of the people, then it cannot be termed a bad
However, it would be appropriate that all the stakeholders, and particularly the
warring parties, are given a last chance to discuss the proposed peace agreement before it is
signed into a final agreement.
The author is the director of the Centre for Peace and Development Studies at
the University of Juba. He is also a global fellow at the Peace Research Institute
in Oslo and an associate fellow at the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at
Harvard Kennedy School. He can be reached on email@example.com