Saturday, May 25, 2024

Mogae champions peace talks in war torn South Sudan

All eyes are on Botswana’s former President Festus Mogae as he battles to forge lasting peace between warring parties in the long running civil war in South Sudan. After a fumbling start to the peace process, Mogae looks to be making headway as he managed to convene successful talks between the South Sudanese government, rebels, former detainees and other political parties towards the end of 2015, paving the way for formation of a transitional government of national unity.

The secession of South Sudan after a peace agreement that ended Africa’s longest-running civil was hailed as a feat second in significance only to the end of apartheid. But the independence celebrations were short lived as violence returned to Africa’s youngest democracy in 2013. Simmering tribal tension in South Sudan erupted between President Salva Kiir’s Dinka and his deputy, Reik Machar’s Neur tribe after allegations of an attempted coup. South Sudan descended into chaos as two of the country’s most dominant and populous tribes turned on each other, unleashing unprecedented violence and atrocities that killed thousands and displaced over a million citizens.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)–made up of South Sudan’s neighbors Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti–brokered a peace agreement in conjunction with key stakeholders like the African Union (AU), United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), the IGAD Partners Forum (IPF), China as well as the Troika of United States (US), United Kingdom (UK) and Norway. After threats of UN sanctions, President Kiir and Machar, now leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO) signed a peace agreement in August 2015. A Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) was set up to oversee implementation of the peace agreement and Botswana’s former President Festus Mogae appointed its founding chairman, in a move that was hailed by the AU and the US.

Mogae explained in a recent interview with Sunday Standard that the JMEC will be supported by other committees like the joint military ceasefire commission, commission for truth reconciliation and healing and the economics and financial management authority. 

“The commission on constitutional amendment is headed by a Kenyan lawyer and envisages an inclusive government of national unity. The constitutional amendment will effectively increase the parliament of South Sudan by about 64 members. We also have the ceasefire and transitional security arrangement mechanism,” said Mogae.

He further explained that they went to great lengths to ensure that the JMEC is all inclusive, with representation from the IGAD Partners Forum, which comprises of countries that give aid to South Sudan, and is currently chaired by Italy. The AU also insisted that all the five regions of Africa should be represented at the JMEC through a High Level Ad-hoc Committee–with the south represented by South Africa, the east represented by Rwanda, the west represented by Nigeria, central Africa represented by Chad and north Africa represented by Algeria. The Troika of the US, UK and Norway, as well as China are also represented at the JMEC. 

Government has two representatives sitting at the JMEC, the opposition two, former detainees one, other political parties one, civil society one representative each from the Islamic and Christian religious groups, women’s groups one representative, prominent intellectuals one representative, youth one representative and the business community one representative.

Mogae chairs the JMEC, assisted by a Deputy Chair and a Chief of Staff who heads the commission’s secretariat. Mogae hit the ground running after his appointment as the JMEC convened its inaugural meeting in November. However, the meeting failed to achieve a quorum as rebel leader Riek Machar refused to send a delegation, saying he was unsure that they would be safe in Juba. The meeting went ahead without the opposition, and Mogae made an impassioned plead for the warring parties to ensure that South Sudan embarks on a journey to durable peace and prosperity.

“There is need for a paradigm shift from war to peace, from destruction to reconstruction. There is no easy way out of conflict, but every war must end. You must choose the path of peace,” he told the warring parties at the meeting.

Undeterred by the initial stumbling block, Mogae said in a subsequent interview with Sunday Standard: “Peace must be restored in South Sudan. We must forge ahead and the most important thing right now is to make sure that the JMEC is operational.”

True to his word, Mogae was in Juba a few days later, inaugurating the JMEC offices and scheduling a follow up meeting of the parties to the conflict resolution process. The December meeting, attended by amongst others government representatives, SPLM-IO, former detainees and representatives of other political parties was hailed by the international community as a huge success. 150 representatives of Reik Machar’s SPLM-IO actively participated in the first inclusive JMEC meeting, which signaled its commitment to forming a Transitional Government of National Unity with a resounding resolution to share government ministries in accordance with the peace agreement.

“We the parties to the agreement on the resolution of the conflict in the Republic of South Sudan…have agreed by consensus on the allocation of the ministries,” declared the parties in a letter to Mogae dated 7th January.

Mogae was quoted saying the successful meeting was the best Christmas gift for the people of South Sudan as it ushered in a season of hope, forgiveness and renewal. In the transitional administration, government will control 16 of the 30 ministries, while the SPLM-IO under Machar will have 10 ministries. The former political detainees will equally share the remaining four ministries with other South Sudanese political parties. The parties to the peace agreement were supposed to have revealed the names of their nominees for cabinet positions by the end of last week as the transitional government of national unity began to take shape. The deadline for formation of the transitional government was set for 22 January while elections will take place at the end of the transitional period in 2018.

Festus Mogae has earned himself international accolades for his role in fostering lasting peace in South Sudan as head of the JMEC. The resolution of the conflict in South Sudan could bring peace to a people that have labored under war and civil strife for most of the century. 

“South Sudan is a high rainfall country with great potential for agriculture. It also has massive oil reserves. Peace in South Sudan will undoubtedly usher in a new era of prosperity for this young democracy,” said Mogae.

 

Festus Mogae

Botswana’s third President was born on August 21st 1939 in Serowe. After studying economics at Oxford and Sussex universities in UK, he returned to Botswana in 1968 and joined the public service as a Planning Officer in the Ministry of Finance. He rose through the ranks until he became Permanent Secretary in 1975. The following year Mogae left for Washington DC to work for the International Monetary Fund as Alternate and Executive Director for Anglophone Africa. He returned to Botswana in 1980 to work as Governor of the Bank of Botswana and later as Permanent Secretary to former President Quett Masire. From 1992-1998, Mogae served as Minister of Finance and Vice President of Botswana. He served as President of Botswana from 1998-2008 and was upon retirement chosen as the winner of the 2008 Mo Ibrahim Prize for African good leadership. After leaving office, President Mogae launched Champions for an HIV-Free Generation, a group of former African Presidents and other influential personalities. He is globally recognized as one of the leading personalities in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Between 2008 and 2009 he served as one of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoys on Climate Change. He also serves on a number of international boards including as convener of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA). President Mogae is the recipient of a number of awards and honors. In 2002 the Africa-America Institute awarded him its National Leadership Award, presented only once before to Nelson Mandela. In March 2008 he was awarded the Grand Cross of the L├®gion d’Honneur by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Other honors include: Naledi Ya Botswana ÔÇô Gaborone (2003); Grand Croix ÔÇô Madagascar (2006); Officier de I’Order Nationale du ÔÇô Mali (1977); Global Marketplace Award by the Corporate Council on Africa ÔÇô Houston, USA (May 1999); Distinguished Achievement Award for AIDS Leadership in Southern Africa by the Medunsa Trust ÔÇô Washington DC, USA (June 2000); the 2002 Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference Weekend Chairman’s Award ÔÇô Washington D.C., USA (September 2002); the Honorary Fellow ÔÇô University College Oxford (2003); and the Knight Commander of the Most Courteous Order of the Kingdom of Lesotho (2004).

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