(At the time of writing this, talks to discuss interim government arrangement at Addis have collapsed as the August 6th deadline looming. Reports say that rebel forces have re-captured Nasir town from govt forces in Upper Nile state)
Transitional governments have been prescribed by the international community as a stop gap measure in long term conflict resolution in Africa.
Proponents of transitional arrangements of government aver that they bring quick gains, not least immediate end to prevailing conflicts and a temporary ‘rewarding’ of the main protagonists in conflicts. They are also said to buy time for real resolution arrangements which usually take a longer time.
However, given the history of political, ethnic and other forms of conflicts endemic in Africa, it is time to re-think the viability of transitional governments in light of sustainable resolution of conflicts on the continent and in other fragile states world wide.
In particular, the kind of transitional government being used as the template for the South Sudan case is flawed and will flop ab initio and/or entrench the intractability of the existing conflict.
Why Transitional Govt will not work in South Sudan:
1. The belligerents have perfected the art of signing agreements to appease international powers only to backtrack on the pact even before the ink dries. It has happened before and it will happen again, because we are using the same model/approach to resolving this conflict.
2. The parties firmly believe they can win militarily. As William Zartman cautioned, until parties reach a ripe moment, usually a mutually hurting stalemate, no meaningful progress towards resolution will take place. And that is why a transitional govt will merely be a continuation of battleground confrontation
3. Absolutely zero trust between the parties. Not even an iota to at least guarantee that the rebels, should they join govt, will feel secure within Juba. We will most likely see multiple ‘Paulino Matip’ arrangements where key rebel leaders joining the govt will camp in Juba with their battalions to provide them security since they wouldn’t trust govt’s republican guard. Mediators need to be addressing this even before composition of the interim govt can be discussed.
4. On the ground, no one is preparing for any interim government; all indications are that they are currently beefing up their armories for the next round of fighting.
5. Not many people on the ground believe it is the solution, even temporarily, to their problem. Nearly everyone sees it as rewarding key perpetrators of atrocities instead of punishing them and initiating real peace and reconciliation programs nationwide. As such, the people of South Sudan wryly expect it to fail so that true justice, healing and political change can take place.
It’s time to come up with bold alternatives that will bring justice, reconciliation and sustainable peace for the people of South Sudan. It’s time to tear the manual we’ve used for too long and re-write another, based on the aspirations of the people of South Sudan.