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Opinion: The bloody power struggle for succession and the enemies from within

By Stephen M. Bior,

Juba, South Sudan

April 10, 2021(Nyamilepedia) — On March 14, 2021, the former Minister of Defense and Veteran Affairs, currently dubbed “the Senior Presidential Advisor” (whatever that means), Gen. Kuol Manyang defected from the government of the Republic of South Sudan. On the 16th of March, Gen. Kuol went on air through a local radio station in Bor and announced his defection, declaring that the government has failed, a fact that many South Sudanese have seen and sung for more than ten years – THE GOVERNMENT HAS FAILED – but this time, the declaration came from the horse’ mouth just like Gen. Salva Kiir did to Dr. John Garang in 2004. In a nutshell, the national government and states’ governments have failed; the security sector has failed; the economy has failed; the health sector has failed and foreign relations have failed. South Sudan is disintegrating and decaying in the hands of its liberators!

This is a self-explanatory truth that everyone knows including president Salva Kiir but until you are defecting, as a senior politician or a military general, you are not supposed to admit it that “koc aguach”. The likes of Kuol Manyang are expected to stomach it no matter how bitter it feels and die with the truth or wait to be hosted together with the president. Otherwise, you can’t have it twice. The choice is between speaking up and keeping silence which is what draws the bar between “patriotic citizens” and the “rebels”, according to Salva Kiir’s Draconian literacy.

So when Kuol Manyang declared it on March 16 that the government has failed , a large portion of the civil population were impressed. However, Kuol Manyang’s declaration rang a very loud bell in the Republican Palace in Juba. In addition to having been at the center of corruption and destruction of the country, Kuol’s betrayal reminded Salva Kiir of his own defection of 2004. Without further adieu, he had to do everything in his powers to lure Kuol back to Juba, just like what Dr. John Garang did in 2004 although it later resulted into his untimely dismiss.

The defection of Gen. Kuol Manyang from the system was a clear betrayal to president Kiir. Kiir has failed the country but Kuol Manyang failed Jonglei State and the army. Accusing president Salva Kiir of failure when he was the one who fueled the conflict in 2012-13 and promised to capture/execute Riek Machar in 4 days was a political miscarriage.

Gen. Kuol Manyang Juuk has contributed in failing South Sudan more than any other politician in the country but because he found himself cornered in J1, and he could no longer bear the heat, he had to blow the whistle which Daniel Awet Akot returned. To ordinary citizens, Kuol’s statement was an acceptance of truth but to political elites, it was the smoke of  Dinka’s internal power struggle. There was more to it than just a testimony!

The Jieng’s internal power scrambling.

The Dinka as a community has its own political interests and one of those interests has been how to retain power. This has been ongoing for many years but it was perfected recently during Dr. John Garang de Mabior. Although Garang was not as tribal as Kiir, he drilled tribal ideologies into the structures of the SPLM/A and these are what Kiir and the Jieng Council of Elders are implemented today.

Further, it should be underscored that Garang kept Salva Kiir close to himself for two main reasons – he was not a threat to his leadership and also he was a fellow Dinka who can take over the leadership in case if he dies. After Garang’s controversial death, those of Kuol Manyang, who knew the drill, rushed to push Salva Kiir into the throne expecting him to return the same favor before or immediately after the independence but now it’s turning into a dreadful nightmare to get Kiir out of the way – Kiir cannot drive yet he does not want to let go of the gear!

Having come to terms with his scoathing paralysis and death that is slowly closing in on him, Kiir thought it would be wise to surround himself with his fellow Dinka men, who in case if he dies, will take over the leadership and continue to rule the rest of the tribes – passing on an iron fist that he unexpectedly inherited. But unlike Dr. Garang, who implanted his fellow Dinka men into his inner-circle at a very early stage, Salva Kiir  has found himself surrounded by force by none-Dinka politicians. According to SPLM hierarchy, the closest most senior Dinka politician would come fourth after Dr. Riek Machar Teny and Dr. James Wanni Igga, and that would be Kuol Manyang Juuk followed by Daniel Awet Akot. Therefore, Kuol hoped that if Riek could be pushed aside or eliminated, then he may have a chance over James Wanni Igga, but that is no longer true, the rules of the games are getting more unpredictable!

To complicate the matter, the Dinka Bhar el Ghazal wants to retain power beyond Salva Kiir’s term but the Dinka Bor believe that power should be rotated between Dinka Bhar el Ghazal and Dinka Upper Nile/Jonglei. In Bhar el Ghazal there is another power struggle between different sub-tribes and regions, and elders like Daniel Awet Akot, Bona Malual and Aldo Ajou Deng have found themselves less popular and vulnerable to Gen. Akol Kor and Nhial Deng Nhial who seem to be the main candidates among the Bhar el Ghazal Dinka. For this reason, Gen. Awet has endorsed Hon. Nhial Deng Nhial to lead if Kiir exits but Gen. Akol Kor, on the other hand, has popular support among his clan men and also in the army. For this reason, he sees himself as a better alternative to Nhial Deng Nhial who is weak and dormant. This is a big raw in Juba and on social media. The two men, Nhial Deng Nhial and Akol Kor, have divided politicians and generals behind themselves, and it is possible that either of them could win the struggle if it were to be left to Bhar el Ghazal region to decide who should succeed Kiir.

While the Bhar el Ghazals are so consumed by this internal power struggle, Gen. Kuol Manyang – who has been secretly endorsed by President Kiir and given fake hopes through a non-existing office – “Senior Presidential Advisor” –  has found himself in the middle of nowhere and began to lose hope. On one hand, Nhial Deng is using intensive media campaigns to market himself over Akol Kor but at  the same time Akol Kor is establishing himself through the national security and would probably eliminate both Nhial Deng Nhial and Kuol Manyang plus their allies should a chance avails itself.

This is when Kuol Manyang evaluated his political puppeteers and found his career has ended but he is still being milked in J1. He has been assigned to this unconstitutional position that has no powers and no duties but with the title to advise without advising and without seing the president. Maybe the president had a good intention for Kuol but the plan could have been hijacked by Nhial Deng Nhial, Tut Kew, Akol Kor or someone else in this competition. By keeping Kuol Manyang in the shadow, Nhial Deng became more popular and this worried Kuol Manyang supporters.

In order to get the attention of the president, Kuol was dragged out of Juba and told to speak to media to see if that could change his sad predicament. So far it seems to have worked but has it worked? Only time will tell. Our short history has it that Salva Kiir has successfully used “konkoach” in the last 16 years to tranquilize his opponents and what just happened could only be another form of “konkoach”.

The game in J1 is very intense. For president Kiir, it is all about maintaining status quo but for Gen. Kuol Manyang, being called the “Senior President Advisor” could mean that he is the most preferred heir to inherit the thrown and therefore he has to be patience but that is exactly what Nhial Deng Nhial, who sees himself as the most preferred Bhar el Ghazal heir, thinks. On the other hand, Gen, Akol Kor has upper hands in his own terms, and all this frustrates Gen. Kuol Manyang Juuk to his smallest intestine. When Kuol Manyang tried to speak up, Daniel Awet Akot came out to silent Kuol Manyang dictating that power should be handed over to Nhial Deng Nhial and that was enough to horrify those of Michael Makuei Lueth and other Bor senior politicians, leaving Gen. Kuol Manyang in the cold!

The author, Stephen M. Bior, is a concerned South Sudanese. He can be reached through email at manyokbior1970@gmail.com.

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