Testimony By Dr Luka Biong Before US Senate Committee On Foreign Affairs
"I strong believe that the people of South Sudan will one day rise up to
their expectations and God-given potentials and to put their country on the
path of peace and prosperity with the usual support of their friends;.."
21 September 2016
The Hearing on South Sudan Statement of: Luka Biong Deng KUOL, PhD Global
Fellow Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) And Fellow at Rift Valley
Institute Before: United States Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs
Washington, D.C. 20th September 2016
I am extremely honoured again for this timely opportunity today to make
this statement before your committee. Last April, I had opportunity to make
testimony on the South Sudan’s Prospects for Peace before the U.S. House of
Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa,
Global Health and Human Rights. Since that time things have changed
considerably. I was optimistic that things will improve and that South
Sudan will be on the right track in implementing peace agreement.
Unfortunately I was wrong as violent conflict erupted again in July 2016,
many innocent lives were lost, thousands fled the country and took refugee
in the neighbouring countries, the economy at the verge of collapse, and
peace agreement is not at all in good health. I hope I will be right this
time to make sense of this complex situation and to paint what future holds
for South Sudan.
I will address the four issues in the order I have been asked by the
committee: first, on the viability of the Peace Agreement; second, on
international and regional administration of South Sudan; third, on
accountability and reconciliation; and fourth, on sustainable political
2. *Viability of Peace Agreement and the Role of International Community:*
I want first to reiterate affront that the peace agreement, although it is
in bad health, remains the only viable option of putting South Sudan on
track of peace and stability. Any other option will be a recipe for more
loss of innocent lives and human suffering.
It is an agreement wanted by the people of South Sudan as it has been
unanimously approved by the national parliament of South Sudan without
reservations. It is a peace agreement that came as a result of concerted
efforts of the region (IGAD), African Union, TROIKA and International
community represented United Nations Security Council.
It is a peace agreement supported and endorsed unanimously by the permanent
members of the United Nations Security Council.
However, the eruption of violent conflict in July 2016 shows that the peace
agreement was backed by an incomplete political will. The real challenge
now is how to nurture the real political will to support peace agreement as
the best and the only hope for the people of Sudan.
There are elements both in government and opposition that are against peace
and they are the ones igniting violence and influencing public opinion
against the friends of South Sudan such as the region, AU, UN and Troika
countries. The voices of these elements became very clear in government as
they started even undermining the reconciliatory positions of President of
South Sudan towards friends of South Sudan as clearly stated in his recent
speech in the parliament and his meeting in Juba with members of the UN
These elements are driven more by wartime vendettas and narrow
self-interest. They have actively encouraged conflict ever since. When the
big tent collapsed along the old dividing lines it became obvious that the
Government of South Sudan includes some officials who are working hard to
implement the Agreement; some who are undecided; and others who are against
the peace because it doesn't serve their agenda. In terms of achieving the
much-needed environment of political will, the challenge is to strengthen
the supporters of peace, win over the undecided and isolate the anti-peace
The recent atrocities being committed in Juba by unknown armed men,
including against foreigners, their actions were seen as a deviation from
the SPLA’s history and its code of conduct. Why has military discipline
changed for the worst since the independence? Mean speech by unscrupulous
politicians that casts the international community as an enemy of South
Sudan is misleading the soldiers and stirring up anger in the social media.
These antipeace elements in the government are the ones need to be targeted
with specific sanctions that may limit their influence.
It is a fact that the SPLM-IO is divided and Gen. Taban Deng has been
appointed as a new First Vice President to act in the position of Dr Riek
until he returns back to Juba. There are early signs that suggest that
President Salva and his new First Vice President are working in harmony and
with new spirit towards the full implementation of peace agreement.
Despite such progress, the international community should abide by the
terms, provisions and institutions provided for resolving differences in
the peace agreement. It is within the interest of peace to see the parties
to the peace agreement united rather than divided and they should be helped
to remain united.
The Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) is the only
institution mandated to resolve differences in the peace agreement and
members of JMEC including US are expected to support the smooth function of
JMEC. The current difference in SPLM-IO can only be resolved through JMEC
or SPLM-IO itself rather than through individual members of JEMC.
Also smooth implementation of peace agreement rests with the role to be
played by United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). There are
concerns about the role of UNMISS in discharging its mandate under Chapter
VII of protection of civilians as many including UN reports have clearly
shown its underperformance since the eruption of violent conflict in
December 2013 and recently in July 2016.
Besides its inability to protect civilians, UNMISS even failed to protect
UN’s properties as the warehouses of World Food Programme (WFP) full with
food items were looted in daylight in Juba.
Despite this underperformance of UNMISS, the counterfactual question
remains what would have been the situation in South Sudan with these
violent conflicts without the presence of UNMISS? What would have been the
fate of thousands of people who took refuge in PoC? Is the performance of
UNMISS different from other missions with similar mandate in other
countries? What would be the level of knowledge and awareness of
international community about gross human rights abuses and atrocities
committed by the warring parties? With these
questions and despite its shortcomings, South Sudan is better with the
presence of UNMISS.
However, there is a need to strengthen its mandate and to perform
differently for building peace. The deployment of the Regional Protection
Forces is one of the ways of strengthening the mandate of UNMISS. The way
these Regional Protection Forces was initially presented as “intervention
forces” created anxiety and serious and right concerns about the
sovereignty of their state.
As well articulated recently by the US Secretary of State that the Regional
Protection Forces are only to complement the sovereign authority of South
Sudan rather than taking it away. This is the message that is needed to be
passed to the authorities in Juba and people of South Sudan by the
international community and to silence the voices of anti-peace in the
government. Also the cooperation of the Government and people of South
Sudan should be
secured based on the fact that these Regional Protection Forces are not an
effort to undermine sovereignty, but rather to consolidate security, in
order to facilitate development for the country. It is in that sense a
reinforcement of sovereignty, but must be undertaken with local
understanding and support.
The commitment that was given by the President in Juba to the members of UN
Security Council may not be respected if these anti-peace elements remain
in their influential public positions.
3. *International administration of South Sudan:*
During my congressional testimony last April, I posed a fundamental
question of what if the parties failed to implement the peace agreement?
The clear and straight answer is that parties will scale up violent
Currently, SPLM-IO seems to be planning for the option of war if peace
agreement is dead. Even some of the political leaders such as Dr Lam Akol
championed the non-violent opposition seems to be left with no option but
to abandon the peaceful means given the unhealthy status of peace agreement
to which he anchored his nonviolent opposition. Also other national voices
for peace will be pushed to the extreme of violence as the only way of
bringing change in South Sudan.
While it is natural that the international community cannot be watching
such unfolding human suffering caused by the acts of elites who are not
interested and have no political will to implement peace agreement, it is
important that any action in lieu of peace needs to be carefully assessed
within the context of South Sudan, regional dimensions and international
The international administration of South Sudan relies on few assumptions
that the region and international community will be united and have a
consensus over such option and that people of South Sudan, if not all of
them, will accept it as the best option for putting their country on the
path of peace and stability.
It is a fact that the region is divided with each country guided by its
narrow and incompatible strategic interests and even some of them such as
Sudan may be ready to support the opposition parties in waging war against
Juba. So IGAD and even more difficult the AU may not reach a consensus on
the international and regional administration of South Sudan. One is not
sure how the international community, particularly UNSC, will reach
consensus on the international and regional administration of South Sudan;
given the fact that the members of
UNSC are unable to reach a consensus even on arms embargo.
The people of South Sudan and particularly the anti-peace elements in the
government may see such international administration as targeting certain
ethnic groups and may use such option as a way of mobilizing themselves
against such administration and that may result in violent confrontation
and more human suffering.
On the basis of these facts, the option of international administration
should be seen as the cost of non-implementation of peace agreement and as
effective way of encouraging the parties to the full implementation of
peace agreement and to encourage them to have the necessary political will
to implement the peace agreement.
Besides this threat of international administration of South Sudan, the
parties to peace agreement should be encouraged diplomatically to isolate
the anti-peace elements or to impose targeted sanctions on these elements.
4. *Accountability and Reconciliation:*
The peace agreement is very clear on these two issues as different
mechanisms have been provided for how they should be implemented. Also the
African Union Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan has come up with
specific suggestions of how to achieve justice, accountability and
reconciliation. The role of international community is to see the full
implementations of the provisions related to accountability and
There is no doubt that both accountability and reconciliation require a
stable political environment and that can begin from the bottom up building
on local institutions to popularize the Agreement, mobilize the people and
launch the constitutional process framed in the Agreement. Accountability
and reconciliation can extend upward at a time when there is no risk to the
5. *The Sustainable Political Reforms:*
As I mentioned in my testimony last April that the peace agreement has
unprecedented and detailed reforms that are better than those provided in
the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). If these reforms are fully
implemented, South Sudan will not be the same again.
However, there are challenges of who to oversee the implementation of these
reforms. Although peace agreement is very clear that the principals of the
peace agreement (President Salva Kiir and Dr Riak Machar) are to oversee
these reforms, there are voices calling otherwise.
In fact there are three options: first is the peace agreement option of
President Salva Kiir and Dr Riek Machar as principals to the Agreement; the
second is for one to step down; and the third is that both step aside to
give others a chance to oversee these reforms.
Despite the fact that President Salva and Dr Riak Machar are unlikely to
work together after the recent violent conflict in July 2016, there is no
option that can be imposed on them. Given the fact that peace agreement is
a win-win situation, the two principals should be encouraged to work
together as did Dr John Garang and President Bashir and later on President
Salva and President Bashir to implement the CPA.
If international community can use its diplomatic leverage to convince
either of the principals or both principals to give way voluntarily with
necessary exit packages and guarantees that may provide a new leadership to
political reforms in South Sudan.
Besides, the option of who to supervise these reforms, The United States
Government is an honorable friend of South Sudan and your help is needed
now more than ever. The challenge is to continue the political, economic
and security reforms that began in earnest with the CPA, but were diverted
upon independence by a convergence of factors.
The U.S. can mobilize the region and the international community to support
this continuing process of reform and to make peace agreement attractive by
providing peace dividends. USAID’s work across all sectors and areas of
South Sudan, including in agriculture, needs to be deepened, and that is
why Secretary Kerry’s pledge of an additional funding for those purposes is
Financial and technical assistance can be conditioned on these reforms, and
sanctions should only be targeted at those who are against the peace.
In conclusion, I reiterate that the best option for the government and
people of the United States of America is to support the full
implementation of peace agreement and to make the cost of
non-implementation very high by targeting anti-peace elements with specific
sanctions that will limit their influence in public affairs.
Also, the U.S. can still help diplomatically, financially and technically,
• implement the Agreement, with necessary political reforms,
• support core functions of the Transitional Government of Unity, with
assistance in areas of finance and management,
• plan for long-term development and better donor coordination,
particularly in areas of infrastructure and agriculture,
• and, most importantly, implement security sector and economic reforms.
Thank you for allowing me to share with you my optimism and concerns about
the prospects of peace and security in South Sudan. I strong believe that
the people of South Sudan will one day rise up to their expectations and
God-given potentials and to put their country on the path of peace and
prosperity with the usual support of their friends; the people of the
United States of American and their government.
Posted in: Opinions
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