By Samuel Atabi,
June 19, 2017(Nyamilepedia) ——– It is now confirmed: Riek Machar has been exiled and is under detention in South Africa. In a recent teleconference with the members of the UN Security Council, Machar himself cleared any doubt whether or not he has been exiled and detained in that beacon of self-determination and black freedom, the Republic of South Africa.
Exiling one on account of being a political or military leader was a tool extensively employed by the white colonial invaders of the African continent. Even the Germans, who had the briefest presence in colonial Africa, forced into exile a number of leaders among who was the Paramount Chief of Kapando from Togo who was exiled to Cameroon, in 1913; the Germans had fear that he would lead an uprising against them. The main practitioners of exiling leaders were the French and the British. This is not to disregard the roles of the other minor colonial powers such as the Portuguese, Belgians, Spanish, Italians, and the racist Afrikaner of South Africa.
The French operated mainly in parts of West Africa and the Maghreb. In one memorable episode, the French deposed Behazin, the King of Dahomey Kingdom and deported him as far as Martinique in 1894. The rest of the continent was under the domination of the British. African traditional leaders, Chiefs and Kings in eastern Africa region were routinely exiled away from their homeland and followers. An example of the British highhandedness, which resembles the present Machar’s predicament, was the exiling of the Buganda King to the UK in the 1950s. The Governor in-charge of the then Uganda Protectorate, one named Cohen, demanded that Kabaka (King) Freddie of Buganda integrate his kingdom into the soon-to-be-born independent nation of Uganda. Kabaka Freddie refused. For this pain, he was removed and deported to London for a ‘comfortable’ exile.
Generally, these colonial exile cases did not achieve their main objectives. Some of the aims were directed at ending of dynasties, silencing defiant leaders, facilitation of wholesale seizure of land and forcible settlement of white settlers. The natives always fought back, some with extreme violence.
After the independence, a number of Africa heads of governments have behaved just like the colonialists. The case of the Angolan rebel leader, Jonas Savimbi will help to illustrate this view. The path to independence of Angola from its colonial master, started in the 1960s, and was bedeviled by a vicious civil war among the anti-Portuguese and liberation movements. The main protagonists were Jonas Savimbi of UNITA versus Agostinho Neto and Edwardo dos Santos of the MPLA. Independence was handed to the MPLA in1975 but UNITA continued with armed struggle against the new government.
There were several attempts at negotiated end to the war between the two rival movements but all of them failed. In 1989, during one of the attempts, a group of African leaders (an equivalent of IGAD?), from Angola (an interested party), Congo, Gabon, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe, met in Harare to get a peace agreement. In an action similar to that meted out to Riek Machar in 2016, these leaders unanimously decided to exile Savimbi, also to South Africa. They also recommended the integration of UNITA forces into the MPLA and its institutions in a similar manner to that being advocated for the absorption of the SPLA (IO) into the Kiir’s faction of the army. As might be expected, Savimbi violently refused to go into exile and resumed fighting. Years later, Savimbi was killed in 2002 under suspicious circumstances. We shudder at what might be the fate of Riek Machar. God forbid!
The African leaders at Harare imitated their past colonial masters in prescribing ‘exile’ as a solution to a complex and desperate political and military situation that existed in Angola at that time. The secretive decision of the IGAD and its supporters to exile and detain Riek Machar in South Africa was a desperate attempt to imitate the Harare outcome; prescribing a palliative to cure a chronic and almost terminal disease ailing South Sudan body politics. Most observers were not surprised by the decision of the IGAD et al to lure Machar into exile. After all, some of the key IGAD members have their own sinister interest in the current war in South Sudan.
What has really pained and surprised many in South Sudan and internationally, is the apparent acquiescence of the Troika countries, USA, UK and Norway in this unjust and devious scheme. We in South Sudan continue to agonize over what might have been the aim of countries like USA in propping up the dictatorial regime in Juba. We are not alone in this agony. In its report of April 28, 2017, an American think-tank, the Heritage Foundation asserts that American government’s warnings and threats to the genocidal regime in Juba have been tepid. It goes on to say that South Sudan armed forces targeted for physical abuse and tried to kill senior US diplomats without consequences. Lastly, it recommends that the US Congress should set up a Commission to study what went wrong with US engagement in South Sudan.
While we must await any outcome from such a Commission (if it will materialize), we are wondering whether the Obama administration, in giving a tacit encouragement to this antiquated colonial tool of exiling leaders, has in effect repudiated decades-long Roosevelt’s anti-colonial doctrine first enunciated at the end of World War II. Like the Africans in colonial time, South Sudanese have characteristically reacted even more violently after the exiling of their leader; exposing the vacuity of the action. The sooner Machar’s exile and detention are reversed the better for the future of South Sudan.
Samuel Atabi is a concerned South Sudanese and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org