JMEC welcomes the national dialogue initiative in South Sudan

The Chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, Festus Mogae, has strongly welcomed the national dialogue initiative in South Sudan and says the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission will support the National Dialogue in any way it can. In mid-December, addressing the newly established Transitional National Legislative Assembly, President Salva Kiir called for a national dialogue to end the three-year-long civil war in South Sudan. The President said a national dialogue required the participation of all South Sudanese people in order to fully restore peace and tranquillity in the war-torn country. The concept of national dialogue is becoming an increasingly popular method of conflict resolution and political transformation. During the last few years, national dialogues have been proposed or carried out in a diverse group of countries and circumstances, including most recently Sudan. In broadening any debate about a country's trajectory outside the usual group of elite decision makers, national dialogues offer the potential for meaningful discussions about underlying drivers of conflict and ways to address these issues holistically.

President Kiir told South Sudan lawmakers: "National dialogue in my view is both a forum and process through which the people of South Sudan can gather to redefine the basis of their unity as it relates to nationhood, and their sense of belonging." He went on to say that in the light of national endeavors: "I am calling upon all of you to forgive one another, enter dialogue with one another in your personal capacities, and embrace yourself," adding "I am asking you, the people of South Sudan to forgive me for any wrong I might have committed." The President also underlined that he was initiating the process of national dialogue "as a measure to consolidate peace in our country and to bring our people together. " Dialogue, the President underlined has been "a hallmark of our liberation struggle, we always used dialogue as a mechanism to manage our differences and recommit ourselves to our unity of purpose and resolve to set our people free." He therefore urged the armed opposition and militias to cease all hostilities and join in the dialogue, promising punitive measures against opposition and various militias fighting his government if they failed to join the process. He also warned that: "My government will take serious measures against those found to be broadcasting ethnic hatred and refused to renounce violence and join peaceful dialogue."

The President said a national committee of eminent personalities and persons of consequence would be set up to steer the process. This committee would work with independent experts from Juba-based think tanks such as the Ebony Center, the Sudd Institute and the Centre for Peace and Development and these three institutions would also provide secretariat work for the committee.
According to President Kiir, the process will have a bottom-top approach with the first phase being "grass-roots consultations" to map out the grievances specific to each community and region. The second phase would involve the calling of regional peace conferences and the final phase would lead to convergence of all parties in Juba for a National Conference. He said: "The National Conference would tackle all the remaining issues that were not addressed in the sub-national processes, and which had a direct bearing on national cohesion."

First Vice-President Gai, on a visit to Equatoria Region, also underlined the importance of peace and reconciliation. In a statement broadcast on state-owned television, he said: "When two people do not talk to each other, God does not touch their files until they reconcile, though one must be on the right, they will not receive God's blessing if they do not compromise." He went on: "This year, how do we want it to be? We want it to be the year of peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and unity." He added: "If you have a problem within the family, reconcile, tell the person who offended you that I have forgiven you. If you have grievances you want to be addressed by the government, come out and tell the president and I am sure he will listen to you and the problem will be solved. This is what we should do and this is what the New Year should be. We need to forgive and reconcile". The problems were underlined only a few hours after the First Vice-President's heavily guarded visit to Yei where he spent two nights, when a bus was ambushed on the Juba-Nimule road.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission, Festus Mogae, has commended President Salva Kiir for unveiling his national dialogue initiative. Mr. Mogae said the dialogue was needed in South Sudan, and he congratulated President Kiir for reaching out to South Sudanese communities. He said: "I am delighted to hear President Kiir reach out to his people with such strong and heartfelt words and launch this much-needed National Dialogue initiative," adding: "the President has seized a critical opportunity for national reconciliation, appealed for a spirit of forgiveness and togetherness and set in motion a genuine campaign to address the concerns and grievances of the South Sudanese people. I applaud his leadership and I give my assurance that JMEC will support the National Dialogue in any way we can."