commentary on the Article “Advice to the international community on south sudan peace”

I came across the above article on Sudan Tribune authored by Roger Alfred Yoron Modi over a week ago but couldn’t finish reading it at the time. In many ways, the piece sounded outlandish in its arguments and the points the author struggled vainly to drive home. The title itself strikes many as naive in its full meaning. Here is someone advising the entire international community which is an anonymous entity with no specific identity or address, when he could have given his “invaluable” advice to the body directly obstructing peace which is the government of South Sudan. Of course, the author wouldn’t dare to criticise the regime in Juba openly. He certainly had taken lessons from what occurred to brave journalists like the five media people (Musa Mohammed, Boutros Martin, Adam Juma, Randa George, Dalia Marko) who were killed in Western Bahr al-Ghazal on 25/01/2015. The victims’ list includes Isaiah Abraham, Peter Julius Moi, Isaac Vuni, Christopher Allen (the British/American journalist), and others. Some like Nhial Bol had to quit journalism for good to maintain their integrity and preserve their lives. It’s common knowledge that the unknown gunmen are in full business and never fail when ordered to silence dissenting voices. For other journalists like Roger Alfred Yoron Modi, it pays to be in the government’s good books.

The author asked the international community to put pressure on the parties to implement the Revitalised Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCSS) in spirit and letter. He, however, didn’t specify the tools to be used by the international community to bring about the much-needed result, nor did he explain the mechanism and the manner to be employed in executing the task. Furthermore, the international community is a myriad of entities with conflicting interests, and the author didn’t tell us who would do what and the timeline for that to happen. He also seems to overlook or perhaps unaware of the acts of other players in complicating the whole matter. In that regard, the author seems to discount the roles of Russia and China in promoting the intransigence displayed by the Juba regime. All would recall how Russia and China blocked the imposition of an arms embargo on Juba on two occasions. I wonder whether the author spared a thought regarding the significant influence of Uganda and Sudan on the course of events in our country. They are part of the international community, and as such Roger’s advice is also directed towards them as well. But we do know that the two countries are the guarantors of the R-ARCSS and have vested interests in South Sudan. Realistically, how likely that the two neighbours who have the most influence on Juba could exert pressure on Kiir to implement the R-ARCSS? It will not happen as the status quo suits them well.

Roger’s criticism of the US recall of its Ambassador to South Sudan is illogical. He argues that the US should have pressurised the parties to implement the provisions of the R-ARCSS before getting upset by the failure of the parties to form the Revitalised Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU). But the question is; why should the parties be pressurised by the US to implement an agreement that they willingly signed? If the signatories did believe that the R-ARCSS is the answer to the crisis in South Sudan, then why not go the extra mile to end the conflict? The fact of the matter is that there’s no political will to implement the peace accord. Roger’s advice would likely fall on deaf ears, be it the international community or the warring parties.

While the author appears to be critical of the opposition on numerous occasions, we seldom see him criticising the government openly. He seems to be more supportive of the regime than otherwise. Of course, it’s his prerogative to support whatever political party he chooses. But Roger Alfred Yoron Modi had claimed in one of his writings to be a victim of the regime. The truth is that he is an ardent supporter of the government masquerading as an independent writer.

Roger appears to harbour particular hatred against the National Salvation Front (NAS). There’s hardly any article written by him in recent times where he misses the chance of taking a swipe at the National Salvation Front. His dishonesty is in full display by claiming that the NAS is pushing for federalism based on the three regions of South Sudan. The Manifesto he is quoting from is not NAS’s Manifesto but something of his fantasy.

According to the author, federalism cannot be established during the transition without putting forward a convincing argument. He is supportive of the current autocratic/kleptocratic system of governance that had brought nothing but death and devastation to the country. Federalism had been the demand of the people since 1947. Had the government of Sudan implemented it early after independence, history would have taken a different course. The support for federalism has never waned since. It was reaffirmed by the people of South Sudan in the National Dialogue Conferences that were organised by the government. It wasn’t a surprise to me at all to see the author bringing up the issue of the prefered type of federalism for South Sudan. We have seen how it’s being portrayed as a complicated matter that renders federalism unworkable in South Sudan.

Furthermore, the scare tactics have reached the point of citing federalism as a prelude for secession. It’s the same argument used by the government of Sudan to frustrate the demand by Southerners for federalism. As we can see, that policy prevented Southerners from having federalism but failed to keep them within a united Sudan.

I am baffled by Roger’s ridiculous suggestion that NAS should be persuaded to rejoin the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA). It’s over-simplistic and bizarre. What makes him think that NAS would be willing to rejoin SSOA?  And what made the NAS ditch the SSOA in the first place? Have the reasons for departure since ceased to exist? Which faction of SSOA does the author want the international community to persuade NAS to join? Is it Dr Lam’s SSOA or Gabriel Changson’s SSOA? Does Roger not know that NAS is a member of the South Sudan National Democratic Alliance (SSNDA) and General Thomas Cirillo is the Chairman of the alliance? Is the author also unaware that NAS is now a member of a much bigger alliance, known as the South Sudan Opposition Movements’ Alliance (SSOMA)?

It’s not a secret that SSOA has been plagued with divisions and ceased to be a political force to reckon with. The SSOA is a sinking ship that wouldn’t attract newcomers to board it let alone former colleagues who had abandoned it in the past. Again going back to Roger’s suggestion – who is or are the entities the author thinks could undertake the task of persuading NAS to join the SSOA? And how could the positions of the NAS which is a non-signatory to the R-ARCSS; be harmonised with those of the SSOA which is a signatory to the same R-ARCSS? The above suggestion has undermined the few good points contained in the article. It has probably damaged Roger’s credibility as a serious political writer. The shallowness that appears to be inherent in Roger’s writings has clearly been exposed. He comes out as someone who writes extensively but without in-depth thinking about what he presents to the public.

The author asserts that the demands of the non-signatories are unpopular among the people of South Sudan. How did he reach that conclusion as the government he supports is a de facto one that lacks legitimacy? As we speak, 4 million South Sudanese are in refugee camps in the neighbouring countries while over 200,000 civilians live in the UN Protection Of Civilians (POC) sites. Where in the world does a citizen abandon his home to live under UN protection in the capital? Only in South Sudan under the regime supported by the author. Such a government will never survive a free democratic election.

Finally, Roger pointed fingers at some former political leaders without disclosing their identities as the ones pushing for a return to the three regions. He further said that they are mostly jobless and are seeking employment. Notwithstanding the presence of job seekers in the political marketplace in South Sudan, most of the former politicians do not fall within that category. The majority do see and feel the plight of the people and would do whatever in their capacities to deliver the people from the current predicament.

Being jobless is not confined to the former politicians but has spread over the entire workforce in the country. Journalists are no exception to joblessness. I am surprised that Roger should point fingers at other people given the fact that he is jobless himself. There’s a difference though between those politicians and journalists like Roger. They are principled and do not change their positions for material gains. The economic crisis that has engulfed the country coupled with the absence of free press led some journalists to succumb and transform into mere mouthpieces for the regime. They have betrayed the ethics of their trade and turned into what I call as mercenary journalists.

Lotole Lo Luri

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