ESSCA-USA Statement on Greater Equatoria Council of Rights
YPSILANTI, MI March 26, 2014 – On March 22, 2014 the Greater Equatoria Council of Rights (GRECOR) published a statement by Col. (Rtd). Prof. Wani Tombe Lako Lokitari. The statement identifies The GRECOR as “an umbrella of various political parties, NGOs, Women, Men, Youth and Children of Equatoria Region”.
ESSCA-USA would like to clarify in no uncertain terms that GRECOR does not represent ESSCA-USA. Although we had recent contact with Col. Lokitari, we are not aware of GRECOR’s genesis nor its legitimacy and authority to be such a broad based umbrella organization.
While there are commonalities with some of GRECOR’s positions we do not share nor endorse the outright support of Dr. Riek Machar and the SPLM/A-in-Opposition and neither do we support President Kiir’s leadership. In our recent position paper, “South Sudan: The Way Forward”, we called for the formation of an interim Government absent both President Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar. These two individuals need to step aside and retire from the politics of South Sudan.
Individuals are free to support any entity that best represents their positions; however we caution all South Sudanese to carefully consider the credibility and legitimacy of any organization that makes broad claims on behalf of Equatorians.
On July 9, 2011, South Sudan became an independent state after decades of armed struggle. The birth of the new nation created optimism and hope for better fortunes for millions of South Sudanese who had endured the horrors of war.
But on the night of December 15, 2013, barely two years after independence, these hopes were dashed when a power struggle within the upper echelons of the ruling SPLM party quickly degenerated into an armed conflict following a mutiny in the Presidential Guard. Subsequently, the conflict took on an ethnic dimension that resulted in the widespread killings of Nuer civilians in Juba. Reprisal killings against Dinka ensued in Bor, Malakal, Bentiu and other parts of South Sudan as Nuer soldiers defected from the national army and joined the ranks of what became a visibly enthusiastic formation of an armed insurgency in South Sudan.
The security situation in South Sudan rapidly degenerated as the mutinous troops captured towns and effectively returned the country to a war footing. Worried about the escalating situation, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) started mediation efforts in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
IGAD was able to exert pressure and extract concessions from the rebels and the government, culminating in a Cessation of Hostility Agreement (CoHA) on January 23, 2014 with the provision that full peace talks will resume on February 10, 2014.
As the conflict spiraled out control in late December 2013, ESSCA-USA fielded numerous inquiries and commentary from members of the Diaspora about our position as the prospects for a full-fledged civil war increased.
In response to the conflict, ESSCA-USA issued a press release condemning the violence and urged the belligerent parties to immediately cease fighting. As it became evident that this was going to be a protracted conflict, ESSCA-USA mobilized the Diaspora to advocate for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
On January 10-11, 2014, ESSCA-USA convened a conference in Washington DC, where Equatorian Diaspora leaders from the United States, Canada, Europe and Africa analyzed the root causes of the conflict and explored pathways to end the conflict, including proposing an alternate vision for South Sudan. After, the conference, ESSCA-USA continued to consult with the broader Equatorian Diaspora to ensure its position correctly reflected the mindset of the Diaspora. This paper is the result of the conference and the wide consultation with our community.
To end this conflict and chart a hopeful future for South Sudan, it is our opinion that the following should be implemented:
- President Salva Kiir should immediately step down from power
- The current government should be dissolved and a new Interim Government with a limited mandate is formed to
- End the current armed conflict
- Initiate national reconciliation and healing
- Conduct a census
- Draft a new constitution
- Reform the army
- Institute good governance
- Chart a new course for development and nation building
We condemn the violence perpetrated by both sides in this conflict. The government must take measures to prosecute those behind the ethnically motivated killings of innocent South Sudanese in Juba during the outbreak of hostilities in December. It must also take serious measures to stop violence against civilians in the present and in the future as this conflict unfolds.
ESSCA-USA equally condemns the violence against civilians in areas under the control of the SPLM/A in Opposition. We call for restraint and prosecution of individuals behind the killings. We implore the SPLM/A in Opposition to pursue the objectives of democracy and good governance through dialogue and negotiation and put an end to any violence targeting civilians.
The tremendous setback this conflict has caused cannot be overstated. This position paper examines the root causes of the conflict, its historical context and the current realities. This position paper analyzes the impact of the conflict and discusses its key political and socio-economic ramifications on the country.
While the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement is a laudable achievement, it was limited in scope and participation. This paper recommends that IGAD broaden the scope of the peace talks to deal with outstanding national issues that would lead to the establishment of a peaceful, democratic and prosperous South Sudan. Additionally, we also recommend that participation in the peace talks should be widened to include political parties, civil society, women, religious organizations and the Diaspora.
As tragic and horrific as this conflict is, it provides an opportunity for South Sudanese leaders to evaluate its root causes and embrace measures to address them. South Sudan has an opportunity to reset and start afresh, with the business of laying the foundation and designing the framework and architecture that will enable South Sudanese to build the country they have always yearned for.
This paper reflects the position and sentiments of ESSCA-USA and Equatorians in the Diaspora who are keen on paving a way forward and providing an alternative vision of South Sudan that is peaceful, inclusive, democratic, economically prosperous, respectful of personal and collective freedoms, and human rights. It does not endorse or support either party involved in the current crisis unfolding in South Sudan.
We hope this paper will inform decision makers at the negotiations in Ethiopia and present a new perspective to the international community as they grapple with this conflict. Finally we hope the South Sudanese Diaspora and civil societies at large will, including our people in South Sudan, endorse our position and unanimously call for a peaceful resolution to this conflict.