In Response To Dr. Lam Akol: Inching Toward Plurality of Ideas!
By Majak D’Agoot, Juba, South Sudan,
March 18, 2016 (Nyamilepedia) — The proposition that a multi-pronged clash of visions between the opposition forces and the government; and within the political forces on both ends of the argument, is not only a litmus test for democratic development but also an index of ideological maturity and political stability – is not a far-fetched conclusion. The ongoing televised debates in the run-up to party nominations in the U.S have sometimes come close to a tirade among comrades-in-destiny. These look like sideshows but that is how democracy works. Politics is not a crank that peddles outcomes from the other planet to be enjoyed here on earth. It is, in fact, the bedrock of an organized human activity which under constant social engineering and mutation.
This rejoinder is a friendly rebuttal to Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin’s recent article published by Al-Mouqif Daily and Nyamilepedia reacting to an interview I gave to the same daily on a host of issues affecting our country including the SPLM reunification. Dr. Akol’s focused his criticism on a premise that linked the survival of the South Sudanese nation with the reunification of the SPLM. Well, a thesis was stated and no further justifications were arrayed. This was a lacuna which Dr. Akol has cleverly decided to fill up with criticisms. Therefore, it suffices that I outline the justifications.
Establishment of national platforms that aggregate national aspirations or a national grievance in case of resistance cannot be overemphasized. The lack of it during the initial stages of the Anyanya war of resistance weakened the insurgency not to propel the cause of the people of South Sudan to its logical outcomes. It was until when Joseph Lagu unified the resistance in 1970 that he was able to negotiate peace and won the regional self-rule for the southern provinces.
When the SPLM/A was rocked with splits and factionalism during the second civil war, South Sudan tottered on the edge of collapse and it almost lost the war. These splits produced outfits which were and are still quintessentially tribal and clannish such as Anyanya Two, SSIM, SPLM-United, SSUM, SPLM-Bahr el Ghazal, SSDM-Cobra, SPLM/SPLM-IO, etc. Differences were subsequently patched up and unified fronts were created that successfully delivered victories including the CPA and independence.
Obviously, these facts are indisputable on Dr. Lam’s part; but I also am contented with the fact that a cow can turn grass into milk but a separate process is required to turn milk into butter. This is where the failure of the SPLM as ruling party is manifest. During the SPLM rule, dictatorship, bad governance, insecurity, corruption, conspicuous consumption and misguided economic policies trumped what should have been its focus. Democracy, public security and the rule of law, provision of services, good governance, and transparency were relegated to the attainment of independence. The power junkies and hire-guns who were utterly incapable of turning the milk into butter or were serving an enemy higher purpose took it over. No doubt, the seizure of power is one thing but its effective use is another.
Dr. Akol has cited numerous examples of liberation or anti-colonial parties that have fallen through the dip. Well, I agree but for the sake of argument at what stage of development? In case of Kenya, Tanzania, Angola, Mozambique, and even Zimbabwe – unified national platforms have kept some degree of unity of a mosaic of tribal and geographic entities were extremely fragile and virtually self-destructing. In Eritrea, the party of liberation has simply rebranded itself. Where this process has been interrupted or has not initially coalesced at nascence; due to coups, rebellions, or violent fallouts – such as in Uganda, Congo DR, Chad, Central African Republic, and majority of states in West Africa – the outcome has been perpetual war. A potential of disintegration along ethnic and regional faultlines has been equally noticed. Where these umbrella coalitions have survived for a reasonable time doing the right thing, they have provided glue for national unity. Wherever sectarianism has outranked the national agenda through the vehicles of sectarian and ethnic politics, critical national energies are mobilized and misdirected toward a totally wrong ends.
That the SPLM-DC and its new brand – the Democratic Change Party is national in its slogans and proclamations cannot be overstated. Notwithstanding, the party has not been able to fan out and win seats outside its ethnic stronghold in the Collo Kingdom during the 2010 elections. This evidence reinforces my claim that if the SPLM splits permanently into splinter parties, it will most likely produce ethnic parties as that was the case with SPLM-DC. The hyphenated SPLMs: SPLM- IO (Nuer), SPLM-IG (Jieng/Bahr el Ghazal), or the SPLM-? (Equatoria) will not carry different genes. In addition, these ethnic and regional outfits have militia groups affiliated to them and the ‘visible hand’ of Khartoum ready to ditch out Ak-47s is still muddling. Therefore filing an official divorce of the SPLM factions when the country is distressed will eventually lead to fragmentation.
The argument that the country has held together far away from SPLM divisions during this civil war, is misguided. The SPLM fissions have permeated deep into the fragile sinews of our society destroying its social fabric into shreds. I do not entertain any illusion that the SPLM-FDs, despite the ethnic and regional diversity of its leadership, would soon penetrate the scudding clouds of ethnocentrism and regionalism. Far from it! What dominates the political scene currently is the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) and equivalent synonyms and antonyms. The dynamics of societal mutation cannot be put on ice until the transition is over. While the SPLM is breaking up, society will also be breaking up depending on how this transition occurs.
I appreciate Dr. Lam’s struggle especially after the Addis stakeholders’ workshop July 2014. It was after this event that he broke ranks with the regime’s delegation and broke fresh grounds leading to a clampdown on him. Being two wings of nonviolent opposition, we both fought with microphone and ink. That the FDs were louder and acting less is inappropriate. We were persecuted by the regime and our lives were at risk just because we had spoken about reforms and democracy. We were exiled but we did not give up the fight. We did not free-ride on anybody’s struggle. The opposition inside – especially after Addis Stakeholders’ Workshop – did their bit as we also did our bit to ensure that peace returns to the country. That we have not been at the forefront of the struggle for liberties is fatally wrong.
In conclusion, the Democratic Change Party can thrive on the follies of the SPLM and its current fallout – which is legitimate. For better for worst, the SPLM has dominated the political landscape for far too long it has simply overstayed its welcome, I guess. The advent to power of General Salva Kiir has not helped matters. But in order to pulverize the core, an alternative argument is needed. The tragedy in these sideshows is that it would let the closed regime of Salva Kiir breathe a respite. Yet, the beauty is that instead of expending energy and resources on gag orders to maintain itself in power, the regime should now see that there is also a once-in-while round for friendlies between the opposition teams.
Dr. Majak is a South Sudanese politician who has served in Salva Kiir government as deputy minister for defense, detained several times for coup allegation and lived in exile in Kenya after the 2013 self-coup allegations in Juba. He is currently a member of former political detainees known as SPLM-FD or G-8.
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