South Sudan's Agony: Demobilize Armies and Eliminate Museveni's Meddling

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Kiir and his benefactor Gen. Museveni

[Editorial]

South Sudan President Salva Kiir is trying to consolidate his dictatorship in his resource-rich country with support of Uganda's U.S.-backed dictator of 31 years Gen. Yoweri Museveni. Kiir must not be allowed to impose a dictatorship in South Sudan as Museveni has done in Uganda.

The ongoing massacres by Kiir's Uganda-backed army has been well documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and covered by news outlets such as The New York Times. Yet there's hardly been any rebuke of Kiir and Museveni by the countries that back them, including the United States and Britain. This is because the West would rather deal with African dictators so long as they can gain favorable terms over Africa's wealth. In the case of South Sudan it's the oil, timber and other resources.

After winning it's independence from Sudan which tried in vain for 50 years to impose strict Islamic law throughout the country South Sudan formed a transitional government of national unity in 2011.

Former guerrilla leaders Salva Kiir and Riek Machar became president and vice president respectively. However, supported by Uganda's army, Kiir tried to kill Machar in December 2013 and Uganda's Museveni aided in the offensive even reportedly using cluster bombs against perceived opponents. Machar managed to escape.

Regional African leaders brokered a new peace deal. Machar returned as vice president in 2015. Again in 2016, in July, Kiir tried to kill Machar. The vice president again fled; he and his wife, Angelina Teny, also a guerrilla fighter, trekked for over a month in the jungles. Kiir likely launched his bid to seize all powers because he believes the new Trump administration, still finding its way, wouldn't react.

The U.S. is a big financial and military supporter of both the Museveni and Kiir regimes. Uganda alone gets $750 million annually from the U.S. so the Trump administration can definitely rein in Museveni's war-mongering. Militarism will only prolong South Sudan's anguish. Machar is now exiled in South Africa. Kiir continues his murderous rampage. Of course he's committing war crimes with impunity. He reckons if other African leaders can get away with it what does he have to fear?

The problem is compounded because some African regional leaders, exhausted by constant diplomatic interventions on their part are pretending as if the transitional government still operates in South Sudan when in fact Kiir has abrogated it a second time. Festus Mogae, the former president of Botswana who now chairs the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC), the unit that monitors the agreement was in New York last week to brief the U.N. security council on the situation in South Sudan. He must be honest and declare the agreement dead and that it must be resuscitated through a new process.

Instead Mogae and other leaders insist that Machar must renounce violence when in fact it's widely reported in media, including The New York Times that it's Kiir's forces that are carrying out atrocities including cutting babies in half and tossing the bodies in rivers. In a March 4 article The New York Times reported of "government-backed militias, and sometimes uniformed soldiers, sweeping into towns, burning down huts, massacring civilians, gang-raping women and driving millions from their homes, leaving many to crowd into disease-ridden camps protected by United Nations peacekeepers."

There's no urgency or seriousness from stakeholders even as thousands of South Sudanese are slaughtered. The U.N. also reports that five million of the country's 13 million people face hunger as Kiir's government blocks food delivery to regions he perceives not to be loyal. There's been talk of imposing a trusteeship on South Sudan to halt the cycle of violence. Any forced remedy is a non-starter. If South Sudanese were able to defeat Khartoum, they will likely resist any new forced intervention. Both Kiir and Machar, in the interest of their people, should voluntarily agree to demobilize.

An independent force comprising troops from neutral African countries --say Ghana, South Africa and Senegal-- must take control of all security measures. A new transitional government would then be formed. Neither Kiir nor Machar would have command of armies making it difficult for either to violate the new agreement. The two leaders could rotate the presidency and vice presidency during a transition period of say six years.

During this period a new professional ethnically-balanced army would be trained by the A.U. and U.N. The international community, through the United Nations, could help organize free and fair elections at the end of the transition. Let the leaders compete in the realm of ideas in peace. Other South Sudanese politicians would also be allowed to register parties and field candidates.

Most importantly these proposals would eliminate Gen. Museveni's meddling in South Sudan's politics that's already caused much bloodshed and destruction.

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