By Shawn Macomber • Lawfare Tyranny
In a powerful Washington Times op-ed this weekend South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit writes of the jubilation of achieving independence five years ago, the struggle to build a representative government and civil society amidst civil war, and his bitter disappointment at being strong-armed by Western nations into a peace deal that, in his words, “undermines the sovereignty and democratic institutions of our nation in key, unfortunate ways.”
We knew instinctively that a nation was more than a border and a government, because for 70 years we had been shackled to something that was nothing more than a border and a government.
In our own country, we said, our government would act for us and not against. Never again could an official or favored group simply take from us on a whim. And never again would any of us be treated as lesser than any other.
It was our friends in the international community who helped shape those feelings into words. “Accountable, representative institutions;” “the Rule of Law;” “inalienable and equitable rights” — for many in South Sudan, the institutional vocabulary was new. But we all had known their meanings by their absence.
Five years later, we see how hollow those words can be in the outside world.
Kiir then discusses a few of the problematic issues inherent to the peace accord:
Most obviously, by installing representatives of breakaway factions in positions of equal power, it rewards insurrection and violence over persuasion and democracy—thereby conferring equal status on an elected representative government and a rebel faction, and cementing tribal and ethnic divisions that have kept too many nations from realizing peace or their full potential.
Then, too, there is the supra-national Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, to be headed by a foreigner and with absolute veto power over the decisions of the government—even if the parties forming the governing coalition are in agreement.
And with the ordered demilitarization of the capital city Juba and our state capitals, South Sudan’s territorial integrity is discarded – a risk made worse given our internal issues.
So why did Kiir sign?
Of course we – the elected government – voiced our objections. We were told, however, to keep quiet.
From distant capitals came demands that we shred our constitution and the safeguards for the South Sudanese enshrined within it; that we disregard our popular elections and dismantle our representative bodies; that we replace rule of law with political expediency; that we adopt complex formulations of ethnic distribution amongst our elected and appointed leaders, and across our agencies.
Some of our international partners in peace even turned to threats and intimidations, both in public and private – sanctions, the withdrawal of aid and support, referrals to the International Criminal Court.
Now, who these threats came from is not made explicitly clear. But we do know the Obama Administration was focused on forcing a settlement, regardless of details or unintended consequences. Obama has also proven himself quite keen to use the ICC as a hammer against other countries despite having no plans to place the United States under that same jurisdiction.
Is it any wonder Kiir is indignant? As he notes:
Some purported exporters of democratic reform seem to have forgotten that, in republics, changes of government are pursued peacefully and within the laws and structures of civil society – not by outside coercion or force. Or perhaps the mindset of inequality is not as dead as we had hoped.
Tell it to Amnesty International.