IGAD CAN’T CONTINUE TO MANAGE THE CONFLICT, IT IS TIME FOR A CONFLICT RESOLUTION STRATEGY
March 25th, 2018 (WEARESOUTHSUDAN)— One of the tragedies of the conflict in South Sudan is that the main effort to stop it is undertaken by a group of countries deeply involved in fueling the conflict itself. The mediator
is both the judge and the defendant of the course of peace in South Sudan. Uganda is a party to the conflict in South Sudan. Sudan and Ethiopia support parties to the conflict. Kenya has taken side with a party to the conflict in South Sudan. Djibouti and Somalia are reluctant bystanders. South Sudan, the warmonger, is also on the table taking decisions. These are the countries that make the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). If I were a country and a member of IGAD, why should I respect its decision, if that decision does not promote, project and protect my interests?
In addition to the self-dealing by IGAD and its members, IGAD does not seem to have a vision of peace making in South Sudan. If it does have such a vision, such a vision is not supported by a long term and consistent strategy to successfully implement it. If there is such a strategy, then it is not rooted in an objective understanding of the conflict, interest and positions sustaining the conflict in South Sudan.
This is not entirely IGAD’s fault. IGAD, accidentally, stumbled into peace making. Drought was its raison d’être. It seized on an opportunity presented by a lack of effective regional block, in 1996 committed to peace making when donors’ appetite in the subject matter was good. Unfortunately, these drought mentalities and the survival drives have left indelible mark on IGAD’s thinking and approach to peace making. Its approach to peace making has been informed and influenced by its drought fighting philosophy. Drought is perennial, in the region, and so IGAD’s approach has been that there is really no urgency until there is an emergency. So, this ‘fire brigade’ type of a response strategy remains IGAD’s trademark in peace making.
Too many deaths, extraordinary destruction and total despair are the belts that jostles IGAD from slumber in the context of a conflict just as they do when drought hits the region. So IGAD is not just a part-time and an absentee mediator by choice – it is so by design. Its records and results of its work in the then Sudan and Somalia are a good testimonial. These records indicate that IGAD was always helpless and could not pull through a peace deal until the parties were either in a state of mutually hurting stalemate, or one party was weakened to the point that any compromise was a good outcome. When this was not the case, IGAD simply watched the conflict unfold as it ‘noted with concern’, ‘regretted’, ‘underlined its resolve’ and ‘condemned escalating fighting by the parties’ or ‘call upon’ the parties in endless chores and many meetings.
This is not to say IGAD had no success stories. It had!
But it did succeed, mainly, because of three main factors that appear to determine IGAD’s success rate. The first is the military strength of the parties on the ground: the stronger a party is militarily on the ground, the more favorable treatment it will get from IGAD. Conversely, the weaker a party is on the ground, militarily, irrespective of the strength and the logic of that party’s negotiating position, IGAD will simply ignore and recklessly bulldoze its way to the finish line.
The second factor is the policy direction of one of the ‘big fives’ (US, Russia, China, UK and France). A clear policy direction backed by a promise to spend dollars on IGAD’s many meetings and cascading communiqués, will get IGAD running. In the absence of a clear policy position from the big five backed with money and action, IGAD’s noise making can never become a song.
The third factor is economic burden and security threats to IGAD’s member countries resulting from a conflict. Refugees are not a burden so long as the international community generously supports IGAD countries to ‘support’ the refugees.
These are not the credentials of a true mediator and a peace maker!
A true peace maker cannot afford to in bed with the parties to the conflict. But IGAD is! A true mediator must have a vision, a strategy and a principled commitment to peace making. IGAD does not have one! A true mediator cannot publicly say there is no military solution while in its actions it is, in fact, saying that peace can be brought by a military might. IGAD does! A mediator occupies a fiduciary position and acts in trust for the public. IGAD is a servant of those with big guns or good money.
What on earth is IGAD doing in the business of peace making in South Sudan? How do people still expect IGAD to embark on a credible and inclusive revitalisation of the peace process when that is fundamentally and irreparably incompatible with the character and interests of IGAD members, individually and severally. The multiple fora spring up my different IGAD members is a good indicator that even the members do not sufficiently believe in their collective initiative.
IGAD can’t ‘remain actively seized of the matters’ of peace making in South Sudan without providing a working solution. Igad can’t provide a solution when it wrongly diagnosed or ignore the right diagnosis of the root causes of the war.
It is increasingly clear that igad embarked on the revitalization of the peace agreement without an understanding of what that meant and entailed. When the office of the Igad Special Envoy on South Sudan embarked on consultation, the understanding between stakeholders was that the pre forum consultation was meant to feed into the forum. When the second phase of the forum started, igad ignored the document that succinctly diagnosed the root causes of the war and prescribed solutions.
What IGAD rather opted for was a copy editing of the defunct agreement on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan. How IGAD thinks that improving the grammar of an agreement will address the causes of the war, produce leadership and political will to implement the agreement is a mystery.