Juba — February 25 … Crisis and violence linger in South Sudan more than two months after Riek Machar’s failed coup attempt. Fighting continue at varying levels of intensity and spread. Surges of tribal and clan clashes continue to the detriment of the civilian population caught in the crossfire. On this background the influential African think-tank “Fashoda Institute” has published analysis of the negotiations’ stalemate.
“The destruction is painful particularly to a country still at the beginning of a recovery process from a generation-long bitter and destructive independence war”, stresses Fashoda. “While rebel forces have been responsible for the majority of these clashes, government forces are not blame-free as evident by arrest of officers and soldiers who got carried away. The political process and negotiations are going nowhere. The opposition is irreconcilably divided between Machar’s camp that insists on seizing power and the former prisoners’ bloc that only wants profound reforms in Juba”.
The think-tank points out that “the main problem though is the rebels’ inability to deliver on the most basic issue – a viable cease-fire”. On the one hand, rebel leaders insist that they represent the people of South Sudan. On the other hand, the moment the AU and IGAD mediators demand cessation of hostilities as part of the start of negotiations in Addis Ababa – the same rebel leaders disavow responsibility, insist that they are not in control of the various armed factions and forces, and therefore cannot order them to cease the carnage and fighting. Simply put, if the negotiators in Addis Ababa and their bosses cannot deliver most of the fighting forces – whose leaders are they? In whose name and mandate do they negotiate?”
The Fashoda Institute’s analysis explains that “the situation is further complicated by growing pressure from the US-led West. Western officials now threaten sanctions and the withdrawal of badly needed humanitarian and financial aid. The US-led West demands reforms in governance and human rights that are out of touch with reality on the ground, but clearly endorse and reinforce the rhetoric of the Machar camp.”
“The greatest danger is the growing loss of commitment to the state among the rebels”, asserts the Fashoda Institute. “Despite the repeated claims to patriotism by Machar – there is clear evidence to the contrary. The repeated attacks on, and growing damage to, oil facilities, as well as the cycles of violence and carnage in and around Malakal, testify to this trend. If Machar really cares about his country as he insists – he should have restrained his followers and forces, and prevented damage to strategic infrastructure that serves ALL South Sudanese irrespective of who’s the leader”.
Fashoda comes to the conclusion that “the escalating violence in and around Malakal suggests that either Machar does not care about South Sudan’s vital oil infrastructure, or he is not in control of the fighting forces – which raises questions about his claim to leadership of the opposition”.