Opinion
Are multiple ethnicities worsening South Sudan conflict?
Publish Date: Jan 30, 2014
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By Swaib K. Nsereko

On Tuesday Jan 28, Borge Brende, the Norwegian foreign affairs minister, regretted that the January 25, 2014, ceasefire agreement signed cease fire in South Sudan is not firmly in place.


Norway, Britain and the US are the foreign powers forming a group called "Troika" that helped IGAD achieve this temporary truce. So what are the possible new challenges threatening this peace process?

Besides, the two principal protagonist ethnic groups; the Dinka and the Luo-Nuer, reports suggest a presence of several others in the conflict; many of whom already internationally condemned as rogue elements. There are reported remnants of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), M23 elements, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Darfur elements. In addition, there is also our army, UPDF, formally invited by President Salva Kiir.

Whereas LRA represents a Ugandan ethnic dimension, M23 does the Tutsi, JEM the Sudanese Zaghawa tribes and Darfur rebels the Fur people of western Sudan. They are all believed to be involved not out of own choice, but under lure and perhaps pay as mercenaries for other interests.

From the Norwegian minister, it is apparent that despite increasing regional and international efforts of ending this crisis, fears of failure remain high. At a Nairobi summit on December 27, 2013, IGAD leaders called upon the protagonists to immediate cessation of hostilities and engaging an unconditional political dialogue. It also urged for the international community to address the deteriorating humanitarian situation.

However, continuation of the fighting and expansion of the geographical area of military theater are seriously undermining the prospects of peace and raising new concerns over the social harmony and peaceful coexistence in South Sudan.

Rather than improve the situation, the rogue groups are only sure to add salt to injury and further exacerbate it.

This narrative will gain more credence upon recalling that these groups were established and remain functional on ethnic lines.

LRA’s track record, for example, is well established globally and M23 are indicted of grave human right violations in North Kivu region of DRC. On the other hand, JEM and other Sudanese rebels have occasionally been cited in a series of similar violations.

What is astonishing particularly in the prevailing circumstances is that the Sudanese mercenaries, would logically be joining arms with fellow ‘rebels’ but are reportedly fighting to help Juba. Could this suggest money as their motivation or ideology? But if Juba is finding problems to foot bills for UPDF’s services to it, how could it afford other multiple groups? Hence, unless there is another paymaster for the mercenary services rendered to it, this spells more havoc in the region. This is because, South Sudan will either be compelled to pay back in kind (on presumed basis of sharing ideology to help these groups achieve their objectives) or else, we fear that at some point they may turn the barrel against it.

Recent history of, especially Sudanese mercenaries, point to the fact that they have played similar roles in Libya and Chad—where, in both situations, have committed war crimes. What should, however, be of more concern for us as Uganda, is the fact that our regional and international allies don’t seem to recognise our efforts in South Sudan.

Considering that we are not part of the IGAD-Troika (Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, USA, UK and Norway), that is pursuing the Addis-Ababa peace process, they think our interventions largely bear negative impacts on their efforts as well as the stability of South Sudan.

With these developments, it is, therefore, imperative that our foreign ministry enhances the usage of all communication tools at our disposal, to reiterate and coordinate our necessary presence in South Sudan so that it is in line with the thinking and understanding of our regional and international allies. Else both Juba and Kampala, at this juncture, must be aware that we have to take a clear distance from any mercenary group conducting grave violations in South Sudan as must bear in mind of the International laws criminalising usage of mercenaries.

The writer is the Spokesman of Jeema party

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