By Dominic Ukelo
President Salva Kiir Mayardit’s call, on December 19, 2016 for national dialogue, is a good step for South Sudanese to be reconciled. However, the appointed members of the national dialogue committee are already questionable, as the committee members are friends or relatives of the president and are either members of the faction of the SPLM under the president, those in his administration or from parties allied to the government as well as religious leaders and individuals loyal to the president of the Republic of South Sudan.
In order for the national dialogues to become a successful tool for conflict resolution and political transformation in the South Sudan, the below outlined issues have to be under Kiir’s consideration, bearing in mind that, the process of the national dialogue in the country must incorporate the following principles in order to contribute meaningfully to political transformation and peace:
1) The agenda of the national dialogue have to be convened to address a broad set of important issues or problems in the country
2) Inclusiveness. An effective national dialogue convenes a broad set of stakeholders for a deliberative process. To maximize the dialogue’s potential to address the real drivers of conflict; all key interest groups should be invited to participate, including all opposition political parties in South Sudan, religious and traditional leaders, women, and youth.
3) Transparency and public participation. A national dialogue should also have mechanisms to include the broader population. This broad participation can be achieved by creating and linking local dialogue processes to the national dialogue, as well as through public consultations, regular coverage in the media. Delegates are suggested to be mandated to hold consultations with the groups that they represent, as was the case during Kenya’s 2004 Bomas conference on constitutional reform.
4) A credible convener. To secure the participation of a wide variety of stakeholder groups and to avoid perceptions of bias, a credible convener is of the utmost importance. This convener may take the form of a single person, or a group of people. The convener should be respected by the majority of the south Sudanese people and should not have any political aspirations or goals that would present an obvious conflict of interest.
5) Clear mandate, rules, and procedures. As president Kiir and his government are unable to resolve the major issues in South Sudan, and further they are seen by opponents as neither legitimate nor credible, and sometimes the president has been accused of unwilling to challenge the status quo. A national dialogue should have its own set of procedures and rules for making decisions, which should be transparent.
6) Agreed mechanism for implementation of outcomes. National dialogues should feature an agreed upon plan to ensure that the resulting recommendations are implemented through a new constitution, law, policy, or other programs. Without a clear implementation plan, a national dialogue risks consuming extensive time and resources without producing any tangible results.
7) Finally, the president’s call for national dialogue should be followed by showing a good will from the government. For example, the government should show good will by releasing political detainees in the country.