An Update By Jacob J Akol- (Gurtong Trust)
By the time you read this, President Kiir may have issued an order clarifying a way forward for his proposed National Dialogue. Mine is just a candid update from meetings and conversations with some personalities expected to move the National Dialogue forward:
In the few days I was in Juba, from Friday 24 February to 1st March 2017, I was able to meet separately with the two announced co-chairs, one advisor and one member of the two-named research institutions. I will not mention any names here, only my impressions from interacting with them.
One of the decreed co-chairs made it clear that rumours that he has either accepted or rejected his presidentially announced position are totally unfounded. While he awaits a formal meeting and directives from the president, he is praying for directives from his God for a wise decision on his part. He was sure that he would have had “guidance” for a clear decision by the time the president sees it fit to call a formal meeting, which he expected to be within a few days.
One of the two co-chairs is also awaiting a formal meeting and directives from the president. He is willing to take up the assignments after clearer directives. He, however, volunteered that the National Dialogue will benefit, both politically and financially, from having an external moderator, such as Kofi Annan.
But, one of the decreed advisors had a lot to say: He is not happy at all with the way the decree for the National Dialogue was formulated in the first the first place. He has had occasion to meet the president just after the decree was announced. He suggested “amendments” to the decree to make it wider and representative of the three greater regions.
The president directed him to put down in writing his suggestions, which he already did. With the approval from one other advisor named in the decree, he already presented his version or “amendments” to the decree. He was surprised it has taken so long for the president to announce his suggested order of business. He suspects elements within the administration, who see his suggested “amendments” as greatly divergent from the original decree.
He also suspects there is an in-house fighting for representation by ministries in various committees; and he sees this as a complication to the independence of any body set up to lead the National Dialogue.
He sees the National Dialogue has being conducted entirely by South Sudanese nationals and inside the country. He completely objects to any prominent regional or international participation, which he sees as having the tendency to highjack what must be essentially a national initiative. He sees such participation as confrontation or dilution of South Sudan’s sovereignty, as is the case of the signed IGAD + Agreement on the solution of the conflict in South Sudan.
He expected to meet President Kiir sometime last Sunday. I know he met the president, but I have no information as to how their meeting went and concluded.
For the named research institutions in the presidential decree, the gentleman I met sees their role as purely technical in organising meetings and conferences and reporting of progress. He sees possible inclusion and participation of similar South Sudanese research institutions with them as a positive, as it will be indicative of wider national representation.
They are, however, moving ahead with whatever little they can organise towards full national dialogue. He also expects concerted moves towards effective mobilisation for the full national dialogue within a week if not sooner. The move remains with the president, which he also expected within days.
My view is that the president has to demonstrate greater leadership ability in getting this dialogue moving. He has to be very clear on:
- Cessation of hostilities on all fronts by his armed forces and security agents on those verbally opposed to him;
- Clear involvement of political opponents of the government at home and in exile;
- Demonstration of personal concern, as president, for the innocent South Sudanese caught in the conflict and those who are either mourning their dead in the villages, or hiding in the bush, in the refugee and internally protection camps;
- Signal his stepping down, voluntarily, once the Peace Dialogue has agreed and established mechanisms for democratic elections, for the people of South Sudan to elect their new president. Doing so would lessen, if not remove, any attempts by those opposed to any peaceful dialogue to use him as hostage for continued looting and impunity against the law.
- Start doing what he said he would do: tour the country with his vice presidents. These tours for peaceful dialogue should be free of “presidential gifts”, as these are mere distortions detractions from real issues at hand.
- Seriously address himself to the famine and where withal the finances for both the famine and the National Dialogue.
- With the national economy near collapse and the famine now a reality in most parts of the country, a situation which can worsen in the next two to three months, a very humble approach, rather than the usual empty and arrogant accusations of “vested interest” by the region and the international community, would be the wisest thing to do in diplomacy and international co-operation.
J Akol (Gurtong Trust: www.gurtong.net)