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Undeniably, the misery of South Sudanese people is far from over. Currently, millions of people are yet facing hardships either directly or indirectly. Since the coming of the Arab, the Ottoman Empire, and the British to Sudan, indigenous African tribes had been mal-treated. These segmented groups, had endured an endless misery inflicted on them by the above mentioned intruders. Before Sudan could even gained her independence in 1956 from British, South Sudanese people rebelled a year earlier in 1955. After decades of civil war, a final peace agreement was signed in 2005 that promise South Sudanese a referendum vote after six years’ interim period, to determine their future aspiration either to secede or remain part and parcel of the whole Sudan. Then, in 2011, South Sudanese went to the voting polls and voted overwhelmingly for secession. Two years later, the newest country slip back into a bloody conflict in 2013; and innocent people were killed senselessly. The war still raging and it being interpreted differently depending on whoever you are talking to.
On the eyes of Salva Kiir and his supporters, Riek Machar is the problem. He is the one who instigated and incited unlawful behavior for the reason that he is impatient! He should not rush and reveal his ambitions to run for the chairpersonship of the SPLM party and subsequently presidency. Then, on the eyes of Dr. Riek Machar and his supporters, Salva Kiir is the problem. He is tribalist, corrupt and does not allow democratic reforms. He is running a kleptocratic government and has a tendency for dictatorship where he wanted to rule the country until he die. However, on the eyes of the Group-10 or former political detainees who form alliance with Dr. Riek after Salva Kiir sacked them from the government, at first, they reasoned that Salva Kiir is the sole problem who does not allow democratic dialogue, however, after the later were released from detention and influenced by regional and international players, they shifted their stand to that, Salva and Riek are the problem aiming of finding ways to betray both leaders so that they snatch the power. Lastly, on the eyes of regional countries such as IGAD nation States, the whole continent of Africa and the international community in general and troika countries in particular, both Salva Kiir and Riek Machar are the problem. They both failed the country, which mean, neither one of them is bearing the same burden of transgression.
Base on the above painted scenario, there are few hypothetical questions that beg in-depth analysis whether both leaders’ deed that resulted into this civil unrest are carrying the same weight. The categorical questions are: 1. Is it true both leaders’ immoral actions are the same? 2. Are all sins equal in the eyes of God? 3.What about their constituencies, are they loyal to sovereignty of the country and could sleep in the same tukul without being obnoxious or are they largely pledge allegiance to their tribes? 4. Do one among the two leaders deserve to be stoned more than the other one? Before touching base on the above questions, it is worth mentioning that, the theme of this article is to deplore and analyze the root causes of the current conflict and weight whether Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar’s actions before the war are bearing the same amount of guilt or one carrying a huge burden over another in this proceeding miserable dissension.
Although the internal crises within the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and Army (SPLM/A) are very old, the genesis of the current crisis started when the leadership of the party dispatched the members of the political bureau to South Sudan’s ten States to thank the citizens for their unwavering overwhelming support rendered during the liberation struggle that led to the conduct of a successful referendum. After the return of the dispatched leaders from States, the leadership started the blame game as to who is responsible for the failure of service delivery, which the citizens were blaming on the ruling party the SPLM. The affair did not just stop on figure pointing. The top four leaders of the country (president Salva Kiir, Vice President Riek Machar, the speaker of the National Legislative Assembly James Wani Igga, and the secretary General Pagan Amum) met briefly before the political bureau meeting that has been scheduled to take place in March 2013, to explain the dismay of the citizens toward the governing party. During the political bureau meeting, the Vice President Riek Machar, Speaker of the House James Wani Igga, Secretary General Pagan Amum, and President Advisor Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior, revealed their intention to challenge the President comes 2015. Dr. Riek among four contenders, had highlighted six points that show the government is failing, ranging from “rampant corruption, rising tribalism, insecurity, foreign policy, lack of sound economy and that the country’s ruling party (SPLM) is losing vision and direction.” Dr. Riek made it very clear that his decision to challenge Salva Kiir on the SPLM party leadership was healthy and democratic.
While revealing his reaction, Salva Kiir responded by issuing a presidential decree to withdraw powers delegated to the Vice President on April 15, 2013, which include stopping him from conducting the “National Reconciliation” that was stipulated in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to be carried out in order to heal the bitter hatred that had built among Sudanese communities during the wartime. A week later, Salva Kiir has sugar-coated the move he had taken by delegating Dr. Riek to lead a team of delegations to Khartoum to iron out some outstanding issues between South Sudan and Sudan especially oil and Abyei demarcation respectively. After the delegation had returned, there was no signal change of the party agony, only rumors had heavily occupied Juba from end to end and masses were bragging on implications new political development will bring. It was an anxious political development waiting to be resolved once convention is ultimately convened.
Then, the month of May that party elections supposed to be conducted had arrived and Salva Kiir tactically delayed the function. Instead, he had decided to “influence” inner circle confidential individuals to conduct regional conferences. Urgently, Equatorians and Bahr el Ghazalians begun to conduct conferences and declare their support behind Salva Kiir. A move Dr. Riek Machar had rejected. Riek discouraged upper Nile conference conduction, saying, “Conferences should be conducted on political parties’ bases, rather than regional bases” which sound so logical to those who understand democratic functioning process. In that particular period, negative accusations are interchanged and the atmosphere in Juba was cracking sluggishly.
While the issue of the party rivalling had dominated the media, suddenly, on June 18- 19, 2013 Salva Kiir had decided to sack two political Bureau members i.e. Kosti Manibe and Deng Alor Kuol through another presidential decree and order them to appear before and investigation committee to answer questions relating to the transfer of nearly 8 million dollars to a firm called “Daffy Investment Group Limited.” The money was allegedly said to have been transferred to buy special fire-proof materials for the government offices. While the two men investigation process were pending, Dr. Riek and Pagan Amum continue to be vocal criticizing Kiir’s arbitrary actions. Sooner thereafter, on July 23, 2013 Salva Kiir issued another presidential decree dismissing Dr. Riek Machar from Vice Presidency, dissolving the whole cabinet and suspending the SPLM Party Secretary General Pagan Amum and subjected him to criminal investigation over corruption charges. Pagan’s suspension came as the result of his outspokenness against the dismissal of Manibe and Alor in addition to many remarks Pagan had previously made about the ruling party’s failure attributed to Kiir mismanagement and dictatorial tendency. Ultimately, the party was sharply divided.
In the period of July 31 to August 4, 2013, Salva issued a series of Republican decrees, aiming of restructuring the government by appointing new ministries, deputies and moving and repositioning some appointees. Many long time SPLM leaders he had fired were left out and new appointees including individuals who previously associated with NCP in Khartoum have been brought to picture. In another word, the group in his new administration was clustered with new faces, those who were coming from Khartoum after South Sudan secession and the group outside made up of most of the dismissed ministers who were movement former commanders plus two unconstitutionally dismissed governors of Lakes and Unity States respectively. The two governors were Chol Tong Mayai and Taban Deng Gai. Chol Tong was removed on January 21, 2013 because rumors suggested that he was too close to Riek Machar. Then, Taban was removed on July 7, 2013 for opposing a further presidential term for Kiir. In both governors’ removal cases, many South Sudanese people accused Salva Kiir for violating the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan. For example, article 101 of the (TCSS-2011) stated that “the president can remove the State Governor and/or dissolve a State legislative assembly only in the event of a crisis in the State that threaten national security and territorial integrity.” However, in the case of Unity State, there was no proof of any crisis that threaten national security and territorial integrity. Then, in Lakes State, there was minor disputes between civilians which sometimes involved national army, but such skirmishes could not be termed as the threat to territorial integrity or State insecurity.
As power struggle was continuing, the nation became deeply concerned and worried that this political maneuvering might result into something uglier. Some elders particularly the church group, made many attempts to persuade both leaders to raise beyond their differences. Thus, efforts to reconcile the differences between the two rivaling groups fell on the deaf ears. As the situation was turning here and there unbearably, Salva began to travel. On August 2, 2013, he flew to Khartoum and reportedly promises Omar El Bashir that, he will suspend all aids his administration was availing to the SPLM-North, which he always denied providing. In South Sudan, he began to tour Bahr El Ghazal region preparing for worse days ahead. In Akon his hometown, he addressed a large group of people in Dinka Language, which was aired on SSTV. He told his tribesmen, “look, this power I have belong to you, you fought and died for it…. now some people want to snatch it from me, will you accept that?” The whole crow responded by saying, “Ace be gam!” meaning, “we will not accept.” That trip lasted of him requesting 15, 000 militias he has secretly trained under the watchful eye of Paul Malong Awan to be deployed to Juba. The move caused shape disagreements between Salva and James Hoth Mai. Hoth opposed the nature of illegal recruitment of tribal militias without his knowledge as a chief of General Staff and also urged the army to stay away from political influence. Then, the two men remain at odd and Kiir kept his new militia separate from the country main army near Juba until the time he ordered them to kill Nuer door to door.
Day after day, rivaling kept widening and the voices that were clamoring for change of the attitudes went through deaf ears. Kiir proceed ahead with his presidential decrees and sometimes threaten to even dissolve the parliament if members of the parliament fail to approve his appointees. This warning came after a vetting committee chaired by Hon. Abuk Payiti Ayiik, wife of dismissed minster of education Peter Adwork Nyaba, reports concerns to the national legislature about the qualification of the President’s appointee for minister of justice, his close ally Telar Ring Deng. The committee also highlights Telar’s role in a proposed deal to purchase land for the Bank of South Sudan. Parliament, in closed ballot, voted to reject.
Telar’s appointment. All other cabinet ministers were approved. On August 23, 2013 Kiir issued a decree to appoint James Wani Igga, the speaker of the National Legislative Assembly, as a Vice President. After many Nuer refuse to occupied the office. Wani was confirmed three days later by the parliament. Then, on September 2, 2013 Salva appointed Magok Rundial as the new speaker of the parliament. He nominated him while there were many voices favoring Dr. Riek Machar for the position.
After Salva has done with nominations, his sacked former ministers and the vice president still wanted to call SPLM party meeting since they all were still senior members in the party. Yet, Salva kept avoiding calling a meeting. While opening the new SPLM office of Secretariat on November 15, 2013 in Juba, Kiir announced he is dissolving all political structures of the SPLM, which include the highest executive organ, the political Bureau and the National Liberation Council (NLC). Salva declared SPLM had dissolved itself except his position as the chairperson despite the fact that the dateline in which SPLM convention would have been held has passed. A tone that the sacked seating SPLM members were not happy about. They responded by calling a press conference. On December 6, 2013, a group of senior SPLM politicians sacked by Kiir on July 23, 2013, held a press conference at the new premises of the SPLM Secretariat Kiir had just opened while Kiir was on an official visit to Paris. The group is led by the former vice president and the deputy chairperson Dr. Riek Machar in present of Rebecca Nyandeng (widow of the late John Garang), Pagan Amum Okiech, Deng Alor Kuol, Alfred Ladu Gore, Oyay Deng Ajak, Majak D’Agoot Atem, Madut Biar Yel, Gier Chuong Aluong, Peter Adwork Nyaba, Chol Tong Mayai, Taban Deng Gai, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, John Luk Jock, Kosti Manibe Ngai, and Cirino Hiteng Ofuho. They call on Kiir to hold a meeting of the SPLM political Bureau, which Kiir declined calling since March meeting to discuss discrepancy over the management of the SPLM party. They accuse Kiir for dictatorial tendency. They also announced a public rally has to be held on December 14, 2013 in Juba at the site of Dr. John Garang’s Mausoleum.
By hearing that a rally is going to be held on the 14th, Salva and his group had subsequently announced that, the SPLM’s long awaited political Bureau meeting must be met on the same day sacked party members had chosen to conduct their rally. The fact that Salva Kiir has conflicting the day by scheduling the meeting on the day sacked group scheduled their rally is that, Salva was wanted to create different party members and those who were with Riek may decide what to do next. Instead of proceeding with the plan of conducting the rally, Dr. Riek issued a statement on December 13, 2013 declaring that the planned rally by his group will be postponed until December 20, 2013, aiming to allow more time for the dialogue. He did this for two reasons. Once, he didn’t want to conduct the rally while Salva was convening a meeting and second, he was responding to the calls by the elders and religious leaders who were demanding more dialogue between the two rivaling groups. During the meeting, Salva Kiir’ ton was to declare the war and in the next session, the sacked party members had decided to avoid showing up given the insulting words Salva was using in the first session. Then, Salva ordered the arrest of all senior party members and the arrest has resulted into the gun-fight among Salva’s own body-guards. The above description, is the way the war started in 2013.
Salva Kiir policies since taking the lead after the fatal death of John Garang
After the death of John Garang, SPLM leaders had unanimously selected Salva Kiir on August 2, 2005. During his visit to Khartoum to be sworn in as the First Vice President of the Sudan and new emerging commander in chief of the SPLA on August 11, 2005, Salva held a number of informal meetings with SSDF leadership. In those meetings, he proposed a full-fledged merger between SPLA and SSDF, it was a pledge SSDF responded positively. Such a merger was one of the commendable work Salva has done. However, in 2007, Dr. Lam had created SPLM-DC after the two men disagree over an issue involving Darfur rebels. In order to deal with Lam, Salva plan a policy of bribery. Many senior SPLM-DC members around the globe were bought with money or positions. It is the same policy he used to divide SPLM/A-IO this year.
Also in many occasions, Salva had used amnesty motto to win back some army commanders who regularly rebelled against his rotten regime. Those policies in addition to presidential decrees, are the priorities of running the nation. If you read this article and try to compare Salva Kiir and Riek Machar actions that had driven the country to war, you would conclude, Salva is the one who plunged the country to war. His action of recruiting militias, dissolving the government, ordering his guards to arrest Dr. Riek and all former government officials among other actions, are indicators Salva has upper hand in the country crisis.
This year, he and Paul Malong, Taban Deng and Lol Gatkuoth are responsible for the death of innocent souls that have perished in Juba not Dr. Riek Machar who is a victim of no fault. It’s very rare in the world that a person should be deemed criminal for declaring a candidacy.
Base on above summary, it seems like Salva Kiir’s immoral actions are surpassing Dr. Riek immoral actions, their sins are not the same, their constituencies, are loyal to their ethnic groups, and Salva deserve stoning over Riek.
IGAD, AU and their international partners need to reconsider dialogue between Salva Kiir government and Riek Machar movement if they still nursing the peace that already been pronounced dead. What Salva and Taban Deng are running is not a government of national unity 2015 peace has stipulated. There is no functional transitional government that could exclude Dr. Riek Machar. If there is any, such a government should be like a rubberstamp that will not go anywhere given that Dr. Riek has a large number of constituencies inside the country and in diaspora. This is a notion international community who want to keep him away could look at very seriously. Mandela was once excluded and peace was not found in South Africa. Similarly, peace will not be found in South Sudan by keeping Dr. Riek Machar away from it, no matter how long will it take!
Momentarily, many people are carrying a believe that South Sudan will never be stable as long as Salva Kiir remain its President. Yet, a Transitional Government that exclude President Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar along with other stakeholders like former political detainees. An abrupt exclusion will not work, no matter how Kiir, Malong, Taban and Lol Gatkuoth try to make it happen now in Juba. The most practical approach of ending the war is to create a Transitional Government which for the meantime can retain both Salva Kiir and Riek Machar before they can part their own ways once elections are held.
As thing stand right now, there are only two options. Once, IGAD and its International partners need to stick on sending proposed 4, 000 prevention forces who can serve as a buffer zone between the two warring parties so that, incident like J1 massacre could not repeat itself. Second option is the war itself, where one side can be defeated militarily; other roads to sustainable stability are far from reach.
Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak