Akol declines to participate in the National Dialogue, slams Beda

Chairman of the National Democratic Movement, Dr. Lam Akol |Photo: File

Nov 10, 2020 (Thessherald)–The Chairman of the National Democratic Movement, Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin, has rejected an invitation from the Co-Chair of the National Dialogue Steering Committee, Angelo Beda, to participate in the ND meetings.

“I am writing this note to you as the Chairperson of the Committee formed by Angelo Beda or sanctioned by him to meet me in an attempt to persuade me to join the so-called “National Dialogue” conference. This morning, I listened to a statement he gave before the delegates full of lies regarding my position on this “National Dialogue,” said Dr. Lam Akol, in a letter penned to Hon. Amer.

Lam Akol

Akol explained that he has never been in a position to support the National Dialogue since its inception.

Here are the few points made by opposition leader Lam Akol.

• 1) At no time did I or my organization support or bless the “National Dialogue”. When it was announced on 14 December 2016, we rejected it in an official press statement.

• 2) When he sent the late Gabriel Yoal Dok to meet the NDM delegation, we agreed to meet him in Khartoum. Our delegation was led by our Secretary General by then, David William, and included Mrs Maridi Luigi and Peter Lomude. All of them are now in Juba. The position they presented was written.

It reiterated our earlier position regarding why we rejected the “National Dialogue” as proposed by Juba. Angelo Beda should provide proof for his baseless claim that I agreed to participate in that exercise. He should not lie in the name of the late who I am sure must have told him the truth about what transpired in their meeting with the NDM delegation.

• 3) Angelo wrote to me about this current conference on 28 September 2020 and I replied him on 7 October 2020. This is the letter he now claims was a deviation from my supposedly earlier position of supporting participation in his dialogue. Please, take time and compare the three documents, you will find that the contents are strikingly similar if not identical. If Angelo Beda was sincere and transparent about the matters of the conference as he claimed in his opening statement, why didn’t he share this letter with the conferee then. In fact, there was not even a mention of the NDM that it declined to take part in his conference.My hunch tells me that if you did not ask for that letter, he wouldn’t have talked about it. Now he takes a good time of the delegates talking about a person he thought was a non-entity and heaping all problems of South Sudan on the “educated”! When the apologists of the regime talk like that we know who they mean. Of course, the corollary of such a statement is that we will be all right without education. Little wonder our country is going down the drain.

• 4) Angelo Beda did not stop at that. He delved into an area that exposed his ignorance. He claimed that he agreed with SSOA that they will participate in the conference and that when I did not find what I wanted in SSOA I pulled out and formed another organization. First, SSOA is an alliance composed of a number of political parties. Our party, the National Democratic Movement (NDM), is a founding member of SSOA and continues to be a member up to the moment of writing. Second, being an alliance, each party in SSOA has the right to take its own individual decision regarding matters on which no common position of SSOA exists. This “National dialogue” is one such matter. Some parties agreed to participate and others, including the NDM, declined to do so. This does not tear SSOA apart. Third, the burden of proof now lies with Angelo Beda to tell the South Sudanese when did I pull out of SSOA and what is the name of the organization I formed thereafter. One finds excuse in Angelo Beda’s inability to grasp such simple organizational matters as his political life was spent under totalitarian regimes.

• 5) I declined to participate in this conference out of principle. I believe it is a side show meant to derail the Revitalized Peace Agreement we have all worked hard to bring about. I appreciate your sense of inclusivity that prompted you to look for those not on the table. Unfortunately, it is the wrong one.

The Fallacy of the so-called National Dialogue

Who would bell the CAT? |Photo: Adija Acuil

Analysis | By Dr. Lam Akol

November 10, 2020 (Thessherald)–On the 3rd of November, the National Conference of the “National Dialogue” was opened in Juba amid a fanfare that it represented the voice of the people of South Sudan. “Our people have spoken” was a recurrent and repeated phrase by the organizers of the Conference in self-congratulation for a job well done. But which people? Where?

The organizers of the conferences have not been to the areas affected by war. For instance, they have not visited large parts of Equatoria and Upper Nile regions, let alone talking to the people there. As a matter of fact, their Conference for Upper Nile region was held in Juba, not anywhere in the region. This was the clearest testimony that the claim that “our people have spoken” is at best partial.

To put the whole matter into perspective, it is important to trace the origin of this so-called “National Dialogue”. On 14th December, 2016 President Salva Kiir Mayardit announced before the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) a National Dialogue conference to be held in Juba. The objectives of the exercise were set as ten points including to “end all forms of violence in the country”. He also stated that “the National Dialogue is placed within the framework of the Peace Agreement (ARCISS).’’ The initiative didn’t kick off until it was relaunched on the 26th of May 2017.

Whereas the concept of National Dialogue is one of the ways a country can choose to deal with the root causes of its problems, a credible dialogue cannot take place while the war is raging as was the case in South Sudan when it was anounced. It can only be meaningful when the country is enjoying peace. In fact, the National Dialogue was announced with the onset of the government’s dry season military offensive in December 2016 and relaunched together with a unilateral ceasefire declaration at the end of that military campaign in May 2017.

Therefore, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it was intended to gain military advantage on the ground while hoodwinking the world into believing that the government was seriously pursuing peace. Furthermore, All the objectives spelled out in President Kiir’s speech before the TNLA, except “to end all forms of violence in the country”, are a mixture of matters related to the Constitution Making Process and issues to be discussed under Transitional Justice that are clearly dealt with under Chapters V and VI of ARCISS. Hence, these objectives could have been achieved with the full and faithful implementation of the peace agreement which he had vowed not to implement. In this context, it was obvious that the National Dialogue was meant to sidestep or replace ARCISS. The noises we hear from inside that conference today tend to suggest, if not confirm, that this “National Dialogue” is a substitute for R-ARCSS and its resolutions are final and ready for implementation.

This conference is not a new undertaking as people are made to believe. It is a continuation of the initiative announced in December 2016 and implemented in some parts of South Sudan since May 2017. Nothing proves that point more than the announcement from the organizers that the conference is to deliberate on the recommendations of the Regional Conferences and tabling before it documents related to those conferences and other meetings held by the organizers in some parts of South Sudan not affected by war. As we all know, the three regional conferences recommended the maintenance of Kiir’s infamous 32 States, a presidential system of rule, decentralized governance, etc. These are some of the issues the ongoing conference will discuss and take resolutions on.

The question is: what is the legitimacy of this coming-together?

The most fundamental point to be resolved first in all National Dialogues worldwide is to define its objective(s) and who the participants will be. That is followed by deep discussions between all the parties to work out the agenda, choose a steering committee and agree on the venue of the conference. The current “National Dialogue” overlooked all that. One party defined its objectives, appointed a steering committee and declared itself Patron of the dialogue. Now, at the last stage of its monologue, they would like other parties to bless its political position in the name of national consensus.

This is being clever by a half. Some of the organizers of this conference were delegates to or witnesses of the Round Table Conference held in Khartoum in March 1965 in order to resolve the Southern Problem. They know the steps taken and amount of energy expended in preparation to convening it. Therefore, the meeting in Juba cannot pass as a nationally agreed upon forum to deserve the name of “National Dialogue” whose resolutions are ready for the government to implement. Even if that was the case, our government is not a normal government that can claim a popular mandate.

The legal and constitutional basis of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) currently presided over by Salva Kiir is solely derived from R-ARCSS. Therefore, its legitimacy and mandate stems from that agreement. R-ARCSS is the programme of the TGoNU and it cannot act outside it. Where do you anchor “National Dialogue” to R-ARCSS?

If this conference is to discuss constitutional matters, establishing state structures, reforming government institutions, etc., it must relate to RARCSS rather than claim to stand on its own or even supplant the agreement as some of its organizers have insinuated. The Revitalized Peace Agreement has provided for a forum to discuss our constitutional matters in an open, thorough and transparent manner. A full chapter, Chapter VI, is devoted to “Parameters of Permanent Consitution”.

It sets out the principles of the Permanent Constitution-making process, its phases, a preparatory committee for covening the National Constitutional Conference that will deliberate on the Permanent Constitution and the process of adopting the same. This is a consensual course agreed by the parties, not the conflictual course chosen by the patron and organizers of the so-called National Dialogue. It is the only forum acceptable by all to take decisions on the system of rule (parliamentary, presidential or mixed), what type of federalism, the number of States, etc. The provisions of R-ARCSS stand a better chance of being accepted by all because all are involved in the process.

Also, a whole chapter, Chapter V, is dedicated to “Transitional Justice, Accountability, Reconciliation and Healing”, very essential elements to get over the atrocities meted out against our people during the devastating war. It establishes transitional justice institutions: Commission for Truth, Reconciliation and Healing, the Hybrid Court for South Sudan and Compensation and Reparation Authority. Impunity must be fought through the courts, there must be genuine reconciliation predicated on truth telling, and the victims of the war atrocities deserve compensation.

The people of South Sudan will not be taken in. They will see the Juba meeting for what it really is: a futile attempt to impose one view-point on our people and sneak through the backdoor controversial issues that were at the centre of conflict in the country.

The author (Lam Akol Ajawin) a prominent South Sudanese politician and the leader of the National Democratic Movement (NDM).

R-ARCSS: Two years on, by Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin


Dr. Lam Akol Dr Lam Akol Ajawin is the Chairman of Sudan People's Liberation Movement - Democratic Change | Photo: File

Dr. Lam Akol Dr Lam Akol Ajawin is the Chairman of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – Democratic Change | Photo: File

September 13, 2020 (Thessherald)–Opinion | Two years ago this day the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic of South Sudan (R-ARCSS) was signed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The war weary South Sudanese hinged a lot of hopes on the implementation of the agreement. It was hoped that peace would prevail and insecurity brought under control so that the citizens could go about with their normal business unperturbed.

The agreement addressed the malaise in the body politic of South Sudan and attempted to put forward a programme that, if implemented faithfully, would pave the way for reforms and a level field for political discourse. Indeed, it was a joint minimum programme to run the country for three years of another transition. Two years on what has the R-ARCSS achieved?

To begin with, the Parties to the Agreement deserve a pat on the back for having observed the permanent ceasefire all over the areas of their control. Apart from skirmishes here and there, overall the ceasefire held. The active and sustained fighting currently raging has nothing to do with the Parties to the Agreement directly.

The fighting is due either to the engagements between the forces of the holdout National Salvation Front and the government forces in Central Equatoria, or as a result of inter and intra communal fighting among armed citizens, mostly between themselves and sometimes with the government troops. Most of such fighting is taking place in Gogrial, Rumbek, Tonj , Jonglei State and a few days ago, between the Twic of Warrap State and Bul of Unity State. However, security is indivisible and therefore the Parties must work around the clock to ensure that the guns are silent all over the country.

But that seems to be about the only achievement the Parties to the Agreement can take comfort in. Had the implementation gone on according to schedule, we would have by now been into the permanent constitution-making process and left with only three (3) months to table the Constitutional Bill before the Reconstituted Transitional National Legislature for adoption. We would also have been left with only ten (10) months to dissolve the same parliament and begin the election campaign. Well, as things stand today, we don’t even have a reconstituted and expanded Transitional National Legislative Assembly and a reconstituted Council of States, both of which form the Transitional National Legislature. Nor do we have a Constitution that incorporates the Peace Agreement as demanded by R-ARCSS. In other words, the last six months or so of the Transitional Period were being run in accordance with the Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan 2011 (TCRSS 2011) as amended prior to the conclusion of the Peace Agreement.

This is a fundamental deviation from the letter and spirit of the R-ARCSS. Little wonder the TNLA soldiers on despite IGAD’s repeated resolutions demanding its dissolution. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and guides the functioning of all institutions of the state. Hence, it must be the first instrument of the Agreement to be put in place before anything else. Otherwise, what would be the reference in case of conflict of powers between the three levels of governance (national, State and local government) or the three arms of the government (Executive, Legislature and Judiciary)?

The next most important area of concern is the security sector. Any peace agreement after a civil war is as good as the security arrangements that constitute part of it. This is why there was insistence during the peace talks to get into the Transitional Period with one unified army and other uniformed forces. That was the only way to guarantee a genuinely sustainable peace. The choice of eight (8) months for the length of the Pre-Transitional Period was based on a technical calculation that this was the time needed for the Opposition forces and the Government troops to be integrated into new unified forces that will win the trust of all citizens in the country. It was clear from the beginning that it was the incumbent government to foot the bill for all the activities taking place during the Pre-Transitional Period which were mainly concerned with the processes involved to lead to the formation of unified forces that would be deployed before the commencement of the Transitional Period.

However, the incumbent government was not up to the expectations. Not enough funds were availed to the implementation mechanisms to carry out their tasks causing the extension of the Pre-Transitional Period twice ending up as 17 months and 10 days instead of 8 months as was originally planned. At the end of that long period, there was a rush and it was decided that the forces move to the training centres and activities that were to take place at cantonment sites (registration, screening, DDR, etc.) to be done there.

This decision allowed non-eligible individuals to join training including new recruits, and pregnant and lactating women. Thus, the original purpose of targeting seasoned soldiers was defeated. Add to that the lack of rations and medicine which forced many to desert the training centres. Therefore, even if things don’t deteriorate from where they are now, it is hardly conceivable that the final product from these training centres will be anything near to the lofty idea of Necessary Unified Forces (NUF).

On the political level, the implementation has been sluggish. There continues to be a trust deficit between the Parties to the Agreement. The SPLM-IG is bent on getting more dominance than what it got in the agreement, thus it adopted a policy of suborning some opposition groups and excluding those that express opinions different from theirs. More disturbing is extending that heavy handedness to the military. Why recruit from the military when eventually they all will be one army regardless to which Party they belong at the moment?

Today, almost seven (7) months into the Transitional Period, the Parties are still negotiating the formation of the States’ governments! It took four (4) months (from February to 17 June) to agree on the allocation of States’ governors to the Parties and one of them, the Other Political Parties (OPP), was robbed of its share of a State governor. The current negotiation on allocation of positions on the governments in the States has been going on and off for more than two (2) months. While these negotiations for positions are going on, the activities that should have been implemented during the first six months of the Transitional Period have been put on hold. These include reforms of institutions of government, economic activities, the Hybrid Court for South Sudan, the permanent Constitution making process and humanitarian work. As the author has pointed out in his letter to the Parties on 17 August, these delays will certainly cause pushing the subsequent activities beyond their timelines, especially the conduct of the general elections on time.

The actual implementation of the provisions of the agreements is wanting. For instance, the appointments of the leadership of the Bank of South Sudan and Undersecretaries of Petroleum and Health ministries were clearly in contravention of R-ARCSS. So were the appointments of the Board of Directors of the Nile Petroleum Corporation and the Director of the Telecommunication Corporation before the Parties could agree who nominates to which corporation as stipulated in the Peace Agreement. Furthermore, the failure to appoint the Governor of Upper Nile State is another clear example of how R-ARCSS means different things to different Parties. Parties must read from the same text and should adhere to R-ARCSS.

Recently, the civil society network published their findings on the perception of the citizens regarding the implementation of R-ARCSS. They were not impressed by the progress being made. This should serve as a wake-up call for all of us involved in the implementation of the agreement.

Two years on, very little has been achieved in the implementation process. It is a dismal record. However, the South Sudanese should continue to prod their leaders into action. We must insist that R-ARCSS be implemented in letter (the ‘spirit’ is being abused by some to mean overlooking the text!). If implemented faithfully, it provides a good basis for consolidating peace, reforming institutions of government and ushering in a democratic era where the South Sudanese will get the first opportunity since independence to elect their leaders.

Thanks for the insight. The reality is, all tenets of the agreement cannot be achieved no matter the timeframe is extended. I suggest that using the current piece of peace, the transition government and all stakeholders now concentrate on the establishment of a democratically elected government in the next one year ahead.
May a government established by the people’s mandate would feel more obliged to account to it’s people than the current one.

The author is Chairman of The National Democratic Movement, NDM.