UN South Sudan’s ‘protection force’ is a trusteeship by another name

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By John A. Akec*

Could South Sudan be on her way to becoming another Iraq or Libya of
Sub-Sahara Africa? I can’t help asking this most vexing question every time
I reflect on what has been going on in our country in the past three years.
And most specifically in relation to the heightened international
intervention in our domestic affairs, and the political instability that
preceded this intervention as a result of the civil war that erupted in
December 2013 in Juba. This international intervention led to the signing
in August 2015 of the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South
Sudan(ARCISS), notwithstanding its many problematic clauses. The
agreement’s implementation was delayed until April 2016 when a transitional
government of national unity (TGNU) was formed, and which did not last for
long but imploded under its own heavy baggage, resulting in a nasty shoot
out at the State House (J1) on July 8th, 2016, between the government
forces and opposition’s leader forces, unleashing in its wake 5 days of
incredible carnage.

And to add salt to injury, following the outbreak of the new hostilities
and the ceasefire in July 2016, South Sudan’s well-intentioned African
neighbours in the form of IGAD’s block of nations, backed by a number of
veto-wielding members of UN Security Council, have been pressing our
government to accept the deployment of 4,000 strong regional protection
force (as articulate in the UNSC Resolution 2304). This Resolution gives
the ‘protection force’ wide-ranging mandate that includes unimpeded access
to and control of strategic infrastructural facilities such as transport
routes in and out of capital Juba, highways, airports, and communications
facilities. The protection, force acting under United Nation Mission in
South Sudan (UNMISS) command is also mandated to disarm any actor or actors
involved in any attacks directed against each other or are preparing to
launch attacks against any target group (irrespective of whether or not the
actor is the government of South Sudan or an opposition force).

In brief, the objectives of UNSC Resolution 2304 could be summed up as
ensuring that citizens and humanitarian personnel in the country are safe
and free to go about their daily chores unhindered; and that the UN’s
Secretary-General, after assessing the implementation of this Resolution,
consults with the stakeholders and government of South Sudan on further
“options for increased engagement, including on governance, by the United
Nations in collaboration with regional organisations.”

It is a short, innocently-sounding resolution with 7 clauses. Yet,
understood correctly, it has implications of immense gravity for the
sovereignty of South Sudan as an independent 193th member state of the
United Nations with all the rights and privileges. Small wonder, our
government has been reluctant to give an unqualified consent to the
deployment of the proposed UN protection force.

Furthermore, much could be said (and desired) about the limited
understanding, even misrepresentation by the international community, of
the roots causes of the political crisis that is now engulfing our country;
the challenges of literal implementation of ARCISS with all its minefields,
as required by the mediators; and the contribution of various actors and
stakeholders in aggravating the political and economic crisis facing our
country.

In a previous article entitled: “The Economic Consequences of Peace in
South Sudan,”(see Sudan Tribune, May 16 2016 at:
http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article58976), this author warned the
readers that insistence by the peace mediators on the literal
implementation of every clause of the ARCISS, while failing to recognise
and reward the progress already made by the parties to the agreement; and
that the total disregard by those concerned to the worsening economic
situation in the country, could culminate in a premature unravelling of
Transitional Government of National Unity (TGNU). With no financial
resources to deliver vital services and execute plans, it turned out that
the first attempt at forming TGNU was almost an exercise in futility. And
by the time TNGU imploded, many coalition ministers were talking like
opposition figures who were outside the government, disillusioned and ready
to call it a quit.

What’s more, re-examining ARCISS itself, one would not fail to notice that
its clauses do contain the seeds of its own destruction (See author’s
article published on the Global Observatory entitled “Square Pegs in Round
Holes? Doubts Remain Over South Sudan Peace Talks”, March 2015 at
https://theglobalobservatory.org/2015/03/south-sudan-peace-talks-kiir-machar/).
In that Observatory’s article, this writer cautioned against abandoning the
Arusha SPLM Reunification Agreement in favour of subdividing SPLM party
into factions such as IG, IO, FDs, which could potentially fragment the
party, thus defeating the very purpose of making peace through
reunification.
Moreover, instituting two separate armies with two commanders-in-chief as
appeared in the peace agreement, in the persuit of the philosophy of “two
equal partners with equal powers,” has had the theoretical effect of giving
neither of two main coalition partners the right to declare war or peace.
It implies that none of the two armies could exercise the monopoly of
violence without being accused of masterminding the other.

That is why many would agree with the Information Minister, Mr. Michale
Makuie Lueth, who was quoted as saying that the battle at the State House
(J1) on 8th July 2016, and those that followed it, represented watershed
moments in the realisation of sustainable peace in our country. It is a
logical observation because the government was able to bring the situation
under control in a few short days by using national army which is more
resourced to push the dissenting opposition forces out of Juba and restore
tranquility to the city. Here, St. Augustine and Thomas Hobbes, two
intellectual giants of Western political thought who lived in 5th and 17th
century respectively, would rejoice to see their political theories
concerning the importance of a strong state, stand the test of time.
Thinking of St. Augustine and Hobbes brings me to my final point in this
article: the proposed UN protection force, and how it would undermine the
sovereignty of South Sudan.

In the City of God, St. Augustine argued that the immense power of Rome
(the superpower of his day) was necessary in order to keep under check
men’s lust for domination (libido dominandi). Here, we would find
Augustine’s view to be in stark contrast to the current push by our
well-meaning “friends” in the UN Security Council to impose an arm embargo
on South Sudan, the consequences of which would be to diminish our nation’s
ability to defend itself against our enemies from without, and subduing
rebellious and sedition prone citizens from within.

Likewise, Thomas Hobbes, in Leviathan, describes the State (CIVITAS) as an
artificial man of monstrous power whose sovereignty is its artificial soul,
and peoples’ safety (Salus Populi), its business. Not only that, according
to Hobbes, restoration of peace after war is also the sole prerogative of a
sovereign power.

Now then, if peoples’ safety and restoration of peace after war are the
business of a sovereign state, why is the UN Security Council and our
neighbours in the IGAD block of nations deny that they are taking away our
sovereignty by insisting to take over the protection of our citizens and
restoration of peace in our country?

It would thus appear to this writer that South Sudan being the new kid in
the block of murky international politics, and therefore, still doesn’t
know what she doesn’t know, is currently being sold poison as panacea for
nation’s political challenges. And far from relenting to these illegitimate
international pressures, our government and citizens should be mindful of
Hobbes’ wise counsel that any type of government, no matter how iniquitous
it might appear to outsiders or to its subjects, is far better than the
absence of government or the reign of anarchy.

So let’s describe UN’s protection force by its true colours: trusteeship by
another name. And to respond accordingly if we do not like the sound of its
music.


**The author is the vice chancellor of University of Juba in South Sudan
and publishes a personal blog at www.JohnAkecSouthSudan.blogspot.com
<http://www.JohnAkecSouthSudan.blogspot.com>. *






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