“THE STRUGGLE FOR SELF-DETERMINATION FOR SOUTH SUDAN: SPLM AT THE RECEIVING END”
By Cde. Oyet Nathaniel Pierino,
July 18, 2015(Nyamilepedia) — By 1924, Southern Sudan was already infested with nationalistic revolts agitating for self-determination. The legacy of deep rooted bitterness, suspicion and mistrust of the North Sudan by Southern Sudanese was at its climax. The colonial powers favored the North at the expense of the South while earlier on, the Arabs entering the Sudan from the Middle East took slaves and forcefully Arabized African Sudanese and systematic disenfranchisement led to political upheavals in the country and military confrontations between North and South Sudan.
At independence of the Sudan on 1st January, 1956, the British left power in the hands of the predominantly Arab Northern Sudanese to the exclusion of African Sudanese. The group that assumed the reins of power in the Sudan since independence insisted to run its political, cultural and economic affairs on a monolithic basis similar to what Salva Kiir and his cohorts are doing in the republic of South Sudan. The Sudan was made to lose its identity and reduced to an Arab Islamic state and part of the Arab world and this still defines its predicaments today. The marginalization by Arab-Islamist was with yoke and rigor something which affected every aspect of life in a sheer attempt to create an Arab man in a black skin.
To the regime in Khartoum, power was synonymous with religion hence state and religion were made one, other additives to power such as wealth was a means to Arabize, Islamize, conquer and create sultanates and emirates. Salva Kiir regime and his dinka council of elders imported from the poor North (The Sudan) the methodology of substituting variables: “power” and “religion” to the effect that power could be made synonymous with tribal hegemony hence the profusion of state power with ethnic and tribal chauvinism to the exclusion of other citizens of South Sudan and this defines the problem of South Sudan today.
The regimes in Khartoum managed to create in the Sudan a superficially dual society dichotomized as Arab-African; Islamic-Pagan; developed-under-developed; master-slaves; centre-periphery and rich-poor etc. The Khartoum based regimes artificial as they were, were bound to be confronted. Instead of using national dialogue to yield consensus, the rulers in Khartoum swiftly moved to create a police state and use disproportionately brutal force to suppress any voices of dissent that could well from the periphery of the country. The use of brute force and dictatorship was the straw that broke the camel’s back culminating in the Torit Uprising on 18 August 1955, a first sustained and fierce war of self-determination that raged for seventeen years.
Like South Sudan, the central problem of the Sudan especially after independence was that a group of political elite usurped or took advantage of the independence of the people and attempted to create an exclusive political system and an institutional framework based on ethnic and racial chauvinism. The African Sudanese who have been excluded from the centre of power and wealth since 1956 had to forge unity for their own survival.
The period extending from 1956-1959, was the period of political upheavals and parliamentary struggle.
The independence was predicated on the results of the policy of divide-and-rule which pitted some parts of the present Sudan against the rest of the country. First, it was the South that the imbalance in the country be corrected. Politicians from the South organized themselves in the early 1950s into political parties, such as the Liberal Party, that called for a special status for Southern Sudan and federal system of governance in Sudan. This political demand was contemptuously dismissed by Khartoum, hence the resort to armed struggle. To be precise, at the heart of every South Sudanese struggle for self-determination was federalism not decentralization as some political opportunist in Juba regime claims.
By early nineteen sixties Southern politicians and youths from universities and colleges as well as secondary and primary schools joined the armed struggle of Anya-Nya I en masse in the jungle of Southern Sudan.
Torit Revolution of 18 August 1955 and the subsequent formation of the Anya-nya I armed Movement which were direct response to non-representation of the South in the independence talks in Cairo in 1953, broken promises on giving it a special political status within a united Sudan and lack of effective and equitable participation in the pre-independence national government (1954-1956) set the stage for what South Sudanese now call independence.
The Anya-nya felt that the Southern grievances could only be addressed by creating a separate and an independent state in Southern Sudan. This position was arrived at out of their conscious conviction that the Khartoum based regimes were intransigent over reforms and the ruling clique saw that any genuine unity based on justice and equality would deprive them of privileges they arrogated themselves a typical example of President Salva Kiir’s government handling of the on-going peace process. Who knows if regimes in Khartoum were admissive of reforms, Sudan would have remain one and united.
In 1965, a Round Table Conference in Khartoum brought together all political forces in the Sudan for national dialogue. On the question of self-rule and federalism, the Northern political parties, stood as one bloc and rejected every submission without explanation. North-South relations soared and deteriorated to record low translating into armed confrontation ending into Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972.
The Northerners were never sincere, Addis Ababa Agreement was soon dishonoured unilaterally. Soon also political upheavals were all over the South: The Jonglei Canal popular protest (1974), the Akobo armed uprising (1975), the Juba Airport incident (1976), the Aguet resistance (1976), and the popular protest against attempts to redraw the Northern frontiers of Southern Sudan to annex the oil and mineral rich areas and agricultural land to North Sudan in 1981 (a clear indication that Sudan will divide) and the total rejection of the imposition of Sharia Law (September, 1983) provided the seeds for the final push of resistance and continuation of war of independence. The subsequent dismissal of ex-Anya-nya I soldiers and their transfer to North Sudan triggered the formation of what became known as Anya-nya II in Upper Nile and Bahr el Ghazal as situation in Equatoria province deteriorates and efforts to play divide and rule and politics of regionalism in Southern Sudan had failed.
Meanwhile, prominent Anya-nya officers continued to mobilize and organize defections within the Sudanese Army. The subjective and objective condition for revolution was complete. On realizing that defections were eminent, Khartoum forces seized the initiative and attacked Bor and Pibor garrisons on 16/5/1983. Later on the Ayod garrison retaliated by attacking Khartoum forces that were sent to arrest its commanders.
Accompanying the military moves, prominent Southern politicians, civil servants and students organized several underground organizations to mobilize the masses against the Khartoum regime. These opposition bodies included the National Action Movement (NAM), Movement for Total Liberation of Southern Sudan (MTLSS), Juwama African People’s Organization (JAPO); Council for the Unity of Southern Sudan (CUSS) and South Sudan Liberation Front (SSLF), which actually started a guerrilla war in 1982 and came into the limelight in July 1983 when it seized a number of foreigners in Boma Post. This was the height of preparation for full scale war of separation.
In early 1983, the above mentioned political resistance had created the necessary conditions for the armed revolution. The battles of Bor May 16th, 1983, Battalion 105 commanded by Major Kerubino Kwanyin Bol, Pibor Forces commanded by Captain Riek Macuoc and Ayod Forces, June 1983, Battalion 104 commanded by Major William Nyoun Bany, caused desertions in several units of Southern Command and Northern Sudan.
The Southern based political and military organizations together with officers from former Anya Nya I and Anya Nya II united and founded the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA) and the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLМ), The SPLM/A. The birth and formation of the SPLA/M in 1983 was, therefore, never an isolated historical incident, but rather a chain of long history of the struggles of the Sudanese and South Sudanese peoples.
SPLA/M Launches the Vision for “New Sudan” and the End of History
By all account, in 1983, the SPLA/M started as a popular Southern based revolutionary movement building on the gains of previous secessionist movements. The nationalist spirit of South Sudanese at different historical juncture kept South Sudanese from being subdued by their enemies. They resisted marginalization, oppression and slavery at the barrel of guns. To the contrary, SPLM/A was singing the chorus of Northern Sudanese, something they did in 1965, at Round Table Conference in Khartoum. All the Chairmen and Commander-In-Chief of the SPLM/A were unionist. Dr. John Garang De Mabior himself attesting to this fact asserted that he would continue leading the struggle but where Southerners refuse to cross the bridge with him he would also not cross.
From its inception, SPLA/M made a radical departure from the traditional vision for independence of the South in favor of “New Sudan”. In its quasi-Marxist manifesto published in 1983, Sudan was sketchily united to dismay of Southern political and intellectual forces. The problem of Southern Sudan was defined as centre-periphery relations. That the Sudanese state was arrogated by power structure at the centre. There was need to radically restructure such a state to accommodate all Sudanese diversities and that the struggle for a new type of Sudan was a noble cause. SPLM/A was not a honest preacher: If this vision of unity in diversity was transplanted in the contemporary South Sudan then there would not be any crisis at all.
The unity of Sudan was to be achieved on a new basis. This U-turn was seen by many Southerners as mockery and shock waves ran among many South Sudanese political and intellectuals’ forces setting the stage for endless and sometimes angry debates and disagreement. Most ex-Anya-Nya officers and Southern politicians felt that the grievances of the South was political with deep rooted socio economic and historical injustices that could only be addressed by creating a separate and an independent state in Southern Sudan. The ruling cliques in Khartoum were determined to maintain status quo that would guarantee their racial, political and economic dominance and any genuine unity based on secularism, justice and equality was untenable.
Despite the official position of the SPLA/M for “New Sudan”, within the ranks of the quasi-Marxist Movement there were sharp differences. In fact, angry disagreements occurred between the leadership of SPLA/M Spearheaded by Dr. John Garang De Mabior and Anya-Nya II leaders: Cdr. Samuel Gai Tut and Cdr. Akuot Atem leading to violent confrontation. The leadership of Anya-Nya II was decapitated by the SPLM/A in defense of vision for “New Sudan” and intra South Sudanese civil war raged within Southerners (1983-1986) in Eastern Upper Nile.
The SPLA/M could hardly move forward with this political objective. In 1991, another angry disagreement occurred. Demands for political and organizational reforms, and self-determination within the movement grew stronger contrary to officially professed vision for New Sudan. On August 28th, 1991, the Political-Military High Command (PMHC) of the SPLM/A divided into two camps: the left wing, Nasir faction (separatist) led by Dr. Riek Machar Teny which later declared itself South Sudan Independent Movement/Army (SSIM/A) and the right wing; Torit faction (unionist) led by Dr. John Garang De Mabior. This disagreement was quickly translated into violent confrontation between the two camps of SPLM/A.
The first serious attempt at reconciling the ideological differences between the factions of the SPLM/A was made in Washington in October, 1993 when Dr. Riek Machar Teny and Dr. John Garang signed a declaration to start discussing independence for South Sudan.
At the SPLA/M First National Convention in 1994 in Chukudum, a formal adoption of the political objective for self-determination was made and the vision for “New Sudan” was relegated to strategic political objective. Matters of structural reforms of separating the SPLA to deal with military issues, the SPLM to manage the political strategy of the movement, and the Civil Authority of New Sudan (CANS) to handle the issues of civil administration in the liberated areas were also resolved.
In January 2002, the formal reunification of the SPLM/A was concluded and five months later, in June 2002 the Right to Self Determination for the People of South Sudan was signed in the Machakos Protocol in Kenya. The SPLM, after lengthy negotiations, successfully concluded the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with the Government of Sudan (GoS), which was signed on January 9th, 2005 in Nairobi Kenya, mediated by IGAD and witnessed by regional and international organizations. On July 9th, 2005, the Chairman of SPLM, Dr. John Garang de Mabior, took oath of office as the First Vice President of the Republic and President of the Government of South Sudan. On the 30th of July, Dr. John Garang was killed in a tragic helicopter crash and the Deputy Chairman of SPLM, Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit was unanimously elected by the SPLM Leadership Council as the Chairman of the SPLM on August 11th 2005. The CPA ushered in a new political dispensation in the Sudan. It presented an opportunity for Southerners to express their rights to self-determination through a referendum. On the 9th, January, 2011 Southerners unanimously voted for their independence from Sudan as SPLM/A look on and the fact that they did not campaign for separation from Sudan throughout the CPA.
The Paradigm Shift: The Beginning of New Political Dispensation and Collapse of SPLM
SPLM/IO is an evolving political organization with comprehensive package of reforms and transformation of South Sudan. The ideological stance of SPLM/IO pits it against the other two factions of the SPLM party (SPLM-In-Government and Former Detainees) and their supporters. SPLM/IO is opposed to the current non inclusive, undemocratic and centralized system of governance in South Sudan. It is resisting a system based in Juba with their support base in states of South Sudan. The political agenda of SPLM/IO seeks to create a completely new political order based on federalism in the country. The current liberation struggle, reform agenda at the peace talks and the vision for transformation and restructuring of state is essentially an encounter between two congenitally antagonistic political forces inside and outside the SPLM Party.
Within the SPLM party, irreversible deep rooted political rift have been created. The rift produced ideologically two distinct camps. The reactionary factions of SPLM-In-Government and their affiliate the “Former Detainees” being led by President Salva Kiir and SPLM Secretary General Pagan Amum represent a system of political practice and decay associated with gruesome corruption, fascism, tribalism, nepotism, dictatorship, chauvinism, widespread discrimination, underdevelopment, marginalization and ethnic domination etc. It is such political decay that gave rise to new breed of patriots and nationalists in South Sudan with ideologically different set and attitude of mind. The differences that emerged in the ranks and files of SPLM party was not a mere rational confrontation of viewpoints but an inspiration of where and how to take South Sudan forward after independence. At the time when the country was dragging into political abyss, SPLM/IO broke the norms of group think, collective behavior and in the spirit of democracy made self-reflection and demanded reforms.
The on-going negotiation between the SPLM/IO with the other factions of SPLM at IGAD-led peace talks indicates that political agenda which the movement stands for namely: federalism, constitutionalism, human rights, justice and accountability, political pluralism, democratic governance, security sector reforms, civil services reforms, economic sector reforms, and many aspect of transformation are foreign and detested by other factions of the SPLM and it is this that set the stage for SPLM/IO as a distinct and evolving political force in South Sudan.
The SPLM/IOis a mass based resistant and revolutionary movement whose membership are not limited to: former SPLM members, former SPLA officers and men and other armed groups, former public servants and constitutional post holders in the government of South Sudan, members of other South Sudan’s political parties, women and youth groups, traditional leaders, faith based groups, elderly, veterans, widows, etc.
Cde. Oyet Nathaniel Pierino is the chairman for SPLM/SPLA’s National Committee for Political Mobilisation and Orientation. He can be reached for comments at email@example.com