South Sudan Crisis: Faulty Mediation Process

South-SudanThe fratricidal war that has defined South Sudan since December 2013 continues to rage, with prospects for peace as elusive today, 8 months later as they were back then. Tens of thousands have been killed since the conflict erupted, with more than 1.5 million people displaced from their homes and villages.

According to Oxfam:

  • Over 7 million people are at risk of food insecurity and 4.9 million of them are in urgent need of humanitarian aid.
  • Over one million people have fled their homes and are now displaced within South Sudan.
  • More than 80,000 people have sought refuge at various UN compounds across the country. In Juba, 80 percent of displaced people are women and children.
  • More than 350,000 people have fled to neighboring countries,
  • A cholera outbreak was confirmed mid-May, bringing the imminent threat of a health emergency alongside an escalating food crisis.
  • Only 15% of people have access to adequate sanitary latrines and 30% do not have access to safe water supply.

It is assumed and perceived that it is the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) that is mediating the South Sudan peace process, yet a closer look at the composition of the various teams and monitors established to deal with the crisis in the last 8 months, reveals a set up that is geared to fail-or perpetuate the crisis, rather than resolve the underlying issues.  Most importantly, it is a process which undermines the credibility, impartiality, and most of all the trust that is needed to bring the two sides together. It is completely dominated and guided by the Ethiopian regime, which is fully controlled by the Tigrayan Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF).

Much has been said and written about the confidence of the parties in the Mediation Team and its composition, credibility, integrity and neutrality. Let us take a look at some of the comments that have been made by astute observers of the peace process and its dynamics:

  • “…Parties to the Igad-led South Sudan mediation have blamed the arbitrators for lack of progress in the talks that have for seven months failed to yield an enforceable ceasefire agreement or a negotiated political settlement…”- (The Equatorial Sun, 24 August 2014)
  • “…The mediator Gen [Ambassador]Seyoum Mesfin has a record of failed peace talks efforts in various countries such as the Somalia negotiations; he is authoritarian, and that has affected the progress…”– David Dau-civil society representative to the South Sudan talks.
  • “…The issue of inclusivity has dogged the IGAD mediation process from the very beginning… It appears the Igad mediators are becoming the problem”- Kasaija Phillip Apuuli, Programme Manager, Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Division, ISS Addis Ababa[1]

In another report about the IGAD (Ethiopia/TPLF)- led Mediation Team:

“…the Canadian-based peace and security research organisation Subsahara Centre says the mediator was involving himself in political aspects of the talks and not listening to the parties…Quoting recent statements made by the mediator that the parties continue to make a mockery of the agreements they have signed, the Subsahara Centre, in a report on the peace talks, questioned whether the accords were based on consent and “disinterested pressure”…Inclusivity must remain the principle that guides the peace process, and this entails participation of stakeholders without discrimination. Non-negotiable positions and issues need to be determined only by the belligerent parties and not by mediation…”

It is also unclear how neutral regional governments are. Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya all appear to have taken positions in the conflict, and have strong bilateral interests in the outcome of the crisis.

Speaking of interests…it is Ethiopia (TPLFs) interests that are being advanced in the name of IGAD. Let us take a look into the composition of IGAD’s “Mediation Team”, “Monitoring and Verification Team”, and “Protection and Deterrent Force” and see how. Clearly, one can see Ethiopia’s (TPLF) pervasive presence, not just in the negotiation rooms, but also on the ground, including the peacekeeping missions in South Sudan. 

IGAD Logo CollageWho is heading the mediation in South Sudan? Is it IGAD or Ethiopia (TPLF)? In this sitting, the author will allow the readers to judge for themselves. So let us take a look at how many Ethiopians-card carrying TPLF cadres are put at the helms of the IGAD Mediation Teams on South Sudan:

  • Ethiopia’s Hailemariam Desalegn: Prime Minister of Ethiopia is the current Chairperson of the IGAD Assembly. Ethiopia assumed the Chairmanship of IGAD for a one-year term at the 12th Ordinary Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2008 and in violation of the rule of rotation, has refused to relinquish that position, in essence, holding the region hostage to its whims and political machinations .
  • Ambassador Seyoum Mesfin: Head of the Mediation Team is the former Foreign Minister of Ethiopia and card carrying member of the TPLF
  • Tedros Adhanom: Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister, a card carrying member of TPLF is Chairperson of IGAD Council of Ministers.
  • Tewelde Gebre-Mariam: IGAD Peace and Security Director is a card carrying member of the TPLF
  • Major General Gebreegzabher Mebrahtu of Ethiopia: Team leader Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM) is a card carrying member of the TPLF

So whenever Tedros Adhanom Chairs the IGAD Council meetings, Berhane Gebre-Kristos, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, a card carrying member of the TPLF regime in Ethiopia, participates in the Council’s meetings representing Ethiopia.

So in any given meeting concerning South Sudan, under the pretext of representing different teams and organs, the above Ethiopian-card carrying TPLF members will be present and their opinions will undoubtedly be that of the Ethiopian-TPLF party line…

The IGAD process has entailed the establishment of several other teams which are again controlled by Ethiopia-TPLF card carrying members. On 31 January 2014, Sudan Tribune reported the following:

“…The East African bloc, Inter Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), who negotiated a ceasefire deal between the warring parties in South Sudan said on Friday that they will be dispatching their first team of observers to the conflict-affected member state over the weekend….The decision to deploy monitors within the next 48 hours was made after leaders of IGAD member states held a meeting behind closed doors on Friday on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Ethiopia…The monitoring team led by Ethiopia will assess the situation in the main flashpoint towns of Juba, Bor, Malakal and Bentiu…”

On 27 May 2014 the UN Security Council approved the deployment of three battalions of IGAD peacekeeping forces to South Sudan to protect teams of monitors assigned to verify reports of violations of a temporary cease-fire. The troops will be part of the existing UN mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) whose mandate now provides a focus on civilian protection. The Security Council said that the 2,500 troops which will come from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda should begin deploying as soon as possible. The force would be commanded by…you guessed right… by an “Ethiopian General”. Commander of the Ethiopian contingent on this IGAD force is Colonel Tekle Gebremariam, another card carrying member of the TPLF. So you have an Ethiopian-TPLF in charge of the IGAD team on which Ethiopia also has its troops. Most of these troops are also former TPLF fighters

But that is not all, Ethiopia/TPLF also has its troops in UNMISS…and on 14 June 2014, Sudan’s Eye Radio[2] reported the following:

“…The Secretary-General of the United Nations has appointed Lieutenant -General Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam of Ethiopia as a new Force Commander of UN Mission in South Sudan… Tesfamarian served as Commander of the Army Corps and the Government of Ethiopia Commissioner for the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea…Recently, General Tesfamarian served as the Head of Mission and Force Commander of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei, or UNISFA…”

yohannes_gebremeskel_tesfamariam-e6280General Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam is also a card carrying member of TPLF. Ethiopia is also the sole contributor to the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), led by a TPLF General.

The East African in its 23rd August 2014 report said the following:

“…The Inter-governmental Authority on Development (Igad) has drawn up a new list of mediators to help it in diplomacy and conflict resolution in the wake of criticism from several quarters for bungling the South Sudan peace effort”

Is Ethiopia really working to secure peace in Sudan or is Ethiopia’s national armies under the cover of IGAD being used to pursue other interests?

As has been stated in the past, IGAD has become an extension of the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry and seems to be providing the “African Face”. Is there a good reason why Ethiopia/TPLF under the cover of IGAD is the lead on all the various teams, mechanisms, initiatives etc. concerning issues in the Horn of Africa? The TPLF regime supplies troops to various UN Missions in order to garner favor from Washington and its allies, but also to supplement its military budget, where most of the beneficiaries are former TPLF fighters. So resolving the conflict is not in its best interest…as the UNHCR recently reported-Ethiopia is also hosting refugees from South Sudan…and that has become a lucrative endeavor for the regime.UNHCR and Ethiopia

It is about time to call the IGAD Mediation Process in South Sudan, am Ethiopian/TPLF Mediation Process instead.

[1] http://www.issafrica.org/iss-today/playing-for-time-in-the-south-sudan-peace-process accessed 25 August 2014

[2] http://eyeradio.org/ethiopian-military-man-appointed-head-unmiss-force/ accessed 25 August 2014

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