Why Arcss Failed?
ARCSS was concluded in 2015, four years ago but it has not brought the peace it was designed to bring. In this regard, several articles have been written and published as to why it has failed. This article will attempt to provide yet another view as to why it failed. It will do so, when appropriate, by comparing it to other agreements elsewhere. Perhaps by exposing why it failed, IGAD, its friends and South Sudanese can be assisted to avoid some of those mistakes and thereby make the current Revitalization Process to be successful. The article is not a critique of the whole ARCSS but a look at a select few areas where changes could be made. It also looks at the capacity and competence of IGAD as well as the circumstances which insure the successful implementation of an agreement. The views and comparisons therein have arisen from the author’s eleven years in conflict resolution in four UN Peacekeeping missions, in senior positions at various rimes as Chief of Political (Sierra Leone), Humanitarian (Somalia), Civil Affairs(Liberia) and Demobilization (Liberia) Sections.
To a neutral observer, ARCSS was flawed right from inception on several grounds. It did not take into account lessons from other peace agreements nor learnt much from the shortcomings of the Naivasha Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). In fact it borrowed heavily from the Naivasha CPA on issues like power sharing, security arrangements and so on. But as can be seen, the Naivasha CPA could, for all purposes, be considered as a conflict between two states; while the December 2013 South Sudan conflict is an intra-state conflict. Hence, the Naivasha CPA stipulations could not be directly applied to this conflict. Other factors that contributed to the shortcomings in the Agreement include:
Lack of understanding of the dynamics of politics in South Sudan
At the outset it must be stated that conflicts that have religious and/or ethnic roots are very difficult to resolve and peace makers must be cognizant of that fact. For example in Somalia, the UN’s good intentions and efforts to re-unite the country floundered because it did not know the critical importance of the clan in the politico-social and cultural life of the Somali people. In the South Sudan/North Sudan conflict, it was religion, coupled with Arabism (ethnic) that made it hard to resolve the conflict. On the other hand, in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where religion and ethnicity were not factors of the conflicts, it was easier (relative) to resolve the conflicts.
In South Sudan the period after the SPLM/A war has been marked by an exponential growth of ethnicity (tribalism) to the extent that most issues, politics and otherwise, are looked at through its perspective and it also has become the norm in the public sector. The current war raging in South Sudan definitely has deep ethnic dimensions to it. It began as a Dinka and Nuer dichotomy, focusing in Juba because it is the capital and Upper Nile, minus the Shilluk and Maban areas. At that time, generally the Dinka stood with the Government of Salva Kiir while the Nuer similarly stood behind Riek Machar. The people of Equatoria and Western Bahr El Ghazal generally were not party to the conflict. However, it must be mentioned that before the outbreak of the conflict in December 2013, many people in Equatoria had already perceived the Government of President Salva as a Dinka outfit from its like: undue preponderance of the Dinka in the civil service security organs (army, police security corrections etc) and any regulatory body: inaction to cases of land grabbing, incursion of livestock into Equatoria and the destruction of crops and the dispensation of justice when a crime is committed by a Dinka against an Equatorian. Given these, after the outbreak od the conflict it was easy for some elements of Equatoria to find common cause with Riek Machar’s SPLM-IO to fight the Government.
Because IGAD did not know this underlying ethno-political dynamics and contradictions of South Sudan, the agreement did not take this into account. So that, in the power sharing arrangement, South Sudan was parceled out between the Government, which the non-Dinka and non-Nuer people see as a Dinka set up; and the SPLM/IO which they saw as a Nuer organization. Consequently, they became alarmed and posed the question, wrongly or rightly, where are we in this? This therefore gave a greater impetus to the people of Equatoria and Western Bahr El Ghazal to join the war. Hence, looked at in this way, the non-Dinka and non-Nuer people of South Sudan form a third factor in this conflict; and consequently, with three factors, algebraically speaking, it will require a quadratic function rather than a simple or simultaneous equation being followed now. Hence, if IGAD wants to arrive at a durable solution in South Sudan, it must take this into account. Furthermore, it should be mindful that often, the seeds of a next conflict are sown in the agreement being hammered out.