Ugandan academic Prof Mahmood Mamdani has caused a stir in South Sudan by stating that the recently signed peace agreement is only meant to benefit Uganda and Sudan.

Writing in the New York Times, Prof Mamdani, who is also the director of the Institute of Social Research at Makerere University in Kampala, said that the peace deal signed on September 12 is an agreement between Presidents Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda — who are the guarantors of the agreement.

‘Informal protectorate’

“South Sudan is on its way to becoming an informal protectorate of Sudan and Uganda. By formally acknowledging them as ‘guarantors,’ the agreement recognises their strategic role in determining the future of South Sudan: Ugandan troops are physically present to support Kiir’s faction, and Sudan provides critical support to opposition groups, including those led by Machar,” Prof Mamdani wrote.

His words have ignited debate in South Sudan at a time when the political class and other stakeholders remain divided on whether the revitalised peace will hold.

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Uganda is hoping to play a leading role in training the South Sudan army under the military co-operation, while Sudan has leverage to resuscitate the oil sector and provide troops to protect the installations. South Sudan is also Sudan’s biggest market in the region.

Kwaje Ladu, a member of the South Sudan Movement for Democratic Change led by Joseph Bakasoro, agreed with Prof Mamadani’s views, saying that the agreement makes South Sudan a protectorate of Sudan and Uganda.

“In a nutshell, those who signed the agreement sold and sacrificed our sovereignty,” Dr Ladu said.

Dr Cirino Hiteng, a member of the former detainees and a former assistant minister for foreign affairs, said he doesn’t agree entirely with Prof Mamdani.

However, he said that Prof Mamdani is right that the recently signed agreement is about the vested interests of Sudan and Uganda.

Rescued from suffering

James Morgan, South Sudan’s permanent representative to the African Union, said that Presidents al-Bashir and Museveni have rescued millions of South Sudanese people from the sufferings brought by war and they should commended.

“This all happened because of our own insurgence, and when two brothers fight themselves to death, neighbours will have to intervene to rescue them. Regardless of what Prof Mamdani says, we have no alternative but to save your innocent civilians from being maimed and killed by the various rebel groups,” said Mr Morgan.

Next steps

In the first step of the implementation, signatories to the September 26 agreement formed a committee for the pre-transitional period arrangements for the next eight months.

However, there were complaints that only one woman was included in the 10-member committee, ignoring the 35 per cent allowance that had been allocated to women.

The next step is for South Sudanese President Salva Kiir to release political detainees and prisoners of war as a gesture of goodwill to the armed groups. Hundreds of political prisoners like activist Peter Biar Ajak and businessman Kerbiono Wol are languishing in prison without trial.

Riek Machar, the leader of the main rebel group, has called on President Kiir to release political detainees in order to build confidence among the South Sudanese on the peace agreement.

Dr Machar has turned down requests from President Kiir to return to Juba, arguing that the environment in South Sudan is not conducive for a visit by a rebel delegation.

Another rebel leader, Gen Thomas Cirillo, the leader of the National Salvation Front, has also maintained that his movement will not implement the ceasefire agreement in isolation because there are eight protocols in the deal and that they cannot implemented selectively.

“Since we are not part of any protocols, we are not going to be part of security arrangements. We want an agreement that address all key issues of the conflict. We called upon the international community not to support the signed agreement because it doesn’t realise sustainable peace,” said Gen Cirillo, whose group stayed out of the agreement.

Despite some setbacks, other stakeholders are expressing optimism that the South Sudanese have no choice but to implement the agreement.