OPINION: S. Sudan Political Process and the Credibility of Opposition Political Groups
By Oyet Nathaniel Pierino
January 29th 2019 (Nyamilepedia) – December, 2013 shall remain a dark spot on the political development of South Sudan. Prior to independence of South Sudan, the northern sudan political elites led by late Hassan Al Turabi (RIP) doubted the viability of an independent South Sudan. “The SPLM Revolution has only One Chapter, there is no Chapter Two….after separation there is no any agenda” (Hassan Al Turabi).
Shortly and suddenly the celebration for independence stopped. South Sudan plunged into a viscious and unprecedented blood-bath and carnivalism. Former colleagues in government and comrades in struggle took to each other’s throats. What made the conflict deeper and widespread is the fact that what initially manifested itself as a cut-throat elites competition for power and control of resources spilled over into civilian domain characterized by massacre, maiming, rapes, and targeted killings. What went wrong?
The unanswered and unavoidable question “what went wrong?” Shall remain central to define the prospect whether South Sudan would rise against this backdrop and from the ashes of this abyss, mend its broken social fabric, reconcile and heal it’s wounds. The prospect should not be on false basis or pretense. The ongoing confidence building is a stepping stone worth stagger upon. But it takes more than that. Confidence building means after all the destruction of our country, we can still embrace ourselves and the country and work together towards peace and prosperous South Sudan. It is not co-option of political Parties to join the status quo.
The Revitalize Agreement in principle has set a stage for transitional period for South Sudan to transit from war to peace and development and a viable multi party democracy based on Federalism as envisioned in the Agreement. The question that arise: are political parties ready for the challenge of multi party democracy? Well, apparently there is no any political party that exists in South Sudan. The Agreement refers to those who apended their signatures on it as “the parties” this should not be confused for political parties in the context of its conventional meaning. The parties referenced in the agreement may as well be rightly called: “groups”, “clubs”, “association” or “families”, name them.
I don’t dispute the fact that some of the “groups” or “associations” that appended their signatures on the Agreement may qualify to be a political party as long as they have nationwide agenda and membership. They are already registered by the Agreement in regardless of their status. My contention is with the associations or groups that are as large as family size, or former colleagues in government and their membership and support base barely not more than 30 people. If one was tempted to take the reference “the parties” in the Agreement for “political parties”, then you are taking of political parties with such attributes. The faltering cohesion in almost all this groups or associations disqualifies them altogether from being call an association or political clubs either.
After negotiating and signing the Agreement, the binary stratification that characterized or emerged in almost all “the parties” is a testimony of failure of these groups. For instance, former: National Salvation Front (NAS), Dr. Costello Riing/Abdelbagi Agany group, National Democratic Alliance (NDM) and People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) splintered into two or more groups with leaders dismissing their colleagues. The question is why splinter at the time when parties were negotiating power sharing ratios and peace agreement.
South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) was not immune from this demeanor. The ongoing feudalism and treacherous politics within and outside SSOA is ridiculing the tenets and the meaning of this grand coalition of associations or groups and the prospect whether a viable multi party democracy in South Sudan shall be established. But one would ask, What is the primary cause of this political masturbation? Is it personality or the political context? or both? SSOA has now splintered into more and running parallel structures and factions: SSOA-Changson Chang operating in Juba, South Sudan and SSOA-Peter Gadet operating in Khartoum, Sudan and both claiming legitimacy.
I have always maintained that the state of affairs or the scenario in SSOA is undesirable. We know SSOA signed the Agreement as a group using the signature of Changson Chang but this signature does not belong to Changson as a person or his political group. It belongs to all of them. Attempt to split the group is mutually destructive to either faction.
SSOA is like an association of Conjoined twins, you cannot separate them arbitrarily, you need proper surgical medical procedures. For instance now that the legitimacy of each faction is being contested, when nominations for constitutional office holders for RTGoNU (Legislature and executive) shall be required which faction should be considered as legitimate authority to nominate since none of them signed the Agreement.
As rivaling factions try to assert their legitimacy by all available means, it affects the viability of SSOA as a political organization. The principles and political program that the group outlined in their constitutive Charter becomes a piece of paper work. SSOA had agreed with SPLM/A(IO) in principle on the question of Federalism and devolution. But because of the crisis inherent in this group, SSOA voted against Federalism and Devolution in the RJMEC in favor of Decentralized System of governance. The pathern of vote was four to one (4:1:-TGoNU, OPP, FD, SSOA against SPLM/A(IO)) This came without surprise. Survivalist politic defines the order of their conduct. In the ancient Middle East power politics, the vanquish gives in to the victor. A defeated warlord surrenders his wife to the victor. The question of federalism or devolution is not privolous, it is one of the cornerstones and pillars of the Agreement, it cannot just be thrown through the windows as suggested SSOA.
As SPLM/A(IO) and international partners grapple with the credibility of these mushroom of political actors, associations or groups, South Sudan bled and is still bleeding. The root causes for this state collapse must be attended to through reforms and restructuring the state system. Can the SPLM/A(IO) go it alone? No. All Oppositions must work together to achieve and review the status quo that have caused death and poverty to the common man and masses of South Sudan. The status quo cannot go easily by wishes. It takes concerted efforts of political forces and none political entities to articulate and implement reforms and take responsible decisions on behalf of the people of South Sudan.
“The Parties” politics towards Permanent Constitution Making and Elections:
It is my humble opinion that considering the prevailing political context, party politics shall wither away as political parties and political groups move towards permanent constitution making and elections. This shall be the defining moment for South Sudanese people. The dimensions of party politics shall be influenced by other superficial but critical dimensions such as ethnicity, historical factor, regionalism and gender, etc as opposed to party cleavage. Political forces from across the party divides shall unite on specific or general political program such as federalism, democracy, good governance, human rights, and gender empowerment etc. as opposed to “my party my leader” politics. What shall appeal to the citizen from a given part of South Sudan shall influence their decision and voting behavior.
The author, Oyet Nathaniel Pierino, is the SPLM-IO governor of Imatong state who is also the group’s representative to the National Constitutional Amendment Committee (NCAC).