The futility of political violence has been amply demonstrated by the settlement reached between South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, and former vice-president turned rebel leader Riek Machar who on Friday agreed to end fighting in the country and allow humanitarian access to affected civilians.
The violence between the two has taken a heavy toll in human life, property and in displaced people who are either in refugee camps, neighboring countries or indeed cowering in the bushes waiting for an opportunity to return to their homes.
Most of the victims are innocent citizens who were roped into the conflict by accident of birth.
While thousands have died for a cause they little understood, the antagonists have lived long enough to sit and dialogue towards a ceasefire and subsequent settlement.
This is the nature of political conflict. The innocent suffer much more than those who originate the conflict. Such conflict usually originates from power struggles in which neither side is willing to concede and allow for compromise that will obviate physical conflict.
The conflict in South Sudan would have been avoided if President Salva Kiir did not repose misplaced confidence in his army and its ability to vanquish his adversary- the Vice President.
Therefore what started off as political and leadership conflict quickly degenerated into an armed conflict which developed with such ferocity, brutality and wantonness that so many lives were lost, including those who were butchered while sheltering in the United Nations compound.
The worst mistake in politics is to underestimate the capacity of the opponent to cause maximum damage and havoc as to negate any initial gains, because the long run holds imponderables that may cause even more devastation.
This is the mistake that the Nigerian Government made in dealing with Boko Haram. They waited as the situation festered until now when they have to seek for external support. They waited until more people were radicalized to an extent where they are not willing to discuss and compromise.
The same can be said about Somalia- a country with one language. The political leadership allowed simmering differences to erupt into a war that has rendered the country ungovernable- a failed state.
Mohamed Siad Barre who took over power after a coup de tat attempted to introduce socialism under the one party state regime he had established. This and other developments led to the downfall of his regime leading to anarchy and eventual failure of the state.
Again it can be demonstrated that intolerance and lack i of accommodation were being the failure of Somalia as a state.
This is the fate that stared Southern Sudan in the face. Thankfully parties have agreed to “…immediately cease all hostile activities within 24 hours of the signing of this agreement, thus rededicating ourselves to the cessation of hostilities agreement of 23 January 2014, and further agree to facilitate the full deployment of [the] IGAD Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (MVM)”.
Perhaps with the help of IGAD the two parties will reconcile their differences and seek afresh the process to national unity.
The moral of the story is that life and property would have been spared if the two sides had from the very start avoided belligerence and test of power.
Much to their discomfiture the two leaders have agreed to form a transitional government of national unity and to include all South Sudanese stakeholders in the peace process and the negotiation of an interim government to “ensure broad ownership of the agreed outcomes.
The watchword is inclusivity. No single group can expect to dominate and totally ignore others. Such an approach is a recipe for violence and sustained conflict.