By Makneth Aciek,
June 30, 2021 — The politics of R-ARCISS and unity government have reached a point in time where nothing seems to be working. The whole Agreement ceased to be effective since the days of the National Pre-Transitional committee (NPTC); dissatisfaction with its implementation, particularly security arrangements, has often been voiced. The realities of the security situation in the country could seriously upset the present arrangement in Juba!
While opposition politicians are consumed by the deciding influence of money, the military relationships are causing tensions as government and opposition soldiers eye one another with hostility from separate but nearby cantonment sites. This serves as reminder that military conflict cannot be resolved by a single dramatic gesture such as the distribution of positions among the politicians
For opposition soldiers, more specifically the SPLA-IO, the advantages promised by the R-ARCISS are withering away, and its legitimacy disappearing. Their sentiments are that the SPLM-IO leadership has used them to reach a peace agreement and now they are being ignored as politicians’ interests prevailed over their grievances. But the issue is deeper than that; one of major reasons why the security provisions in the Agreement faired poorly is the objection of South Sudan deep state to recognize SPLA-IO rebels as a liberation movement, Something IO mediation team and members of mechanism approached with complacency and uncritical thinking
Dr Machar, the C-In-C of SPLA-IO had been lured to Juba by the Region and some of his trusted handlers, his stay in Juba is marked by more questions than answers and more problems than solutions. The circumstances under which he is operating as First Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan are full of moral dilemmas; he is acting in the shadow of finely balanced chances of success and defeat. He may register some success if he opens up to the recalcitrant army leaders and helps them understand the dynamics of IO predicaments, both in Juba and outside Juba. This requires moral courage and intentionality to use the infrastructure of R-ARCISS to help IO soldiers, particularly the Nuer youths, out of the seemingly impossible traps through “negotiated surrender”. Peoples are exhausted both emotionally and physically, encouraging split or internecine conflict will not be a wise idea.
The legacy of liberation struggles has left the land devastated and people divided. Over the past sixty years, the experiences of Greater Upper Nile peoples had been a linear step from violence to violence, guns and skills in marksmanship became powerful symbols of manhood. Many part of eastern Upper Nile were the launching pad for mutinies against Khartoum government; the Akobo mutiny of 1975, the Ayod mutiny of 1983, and the Bor mutiny of 1983 which resulted in SPLA/M. These events created complex experiences of uncertainty among the local masses; such experiences produced a considerable amount of diffuse angst, hatred and free-floating aggression – all in search of an elusive target. Until today the population is so confused to the point that they seek solidarity in the aliens, and cast their immediate neighbours as aliens; this confusion signals the fall of temperature in today’s Dinka-Nuer relations! Our peoples became so cold that they have long forgotten how warm their togetherness may be; how much consolation, comfort and development they may derive from sharing their lots and hopes with their neighbours.
When the opposition forces complain about security arrangements, what they worry about is the unclarity of the world around them! The unity government to which their leadership is a party to, lacks the commitment to relieve them of the burden of war related emotional anxieties, their interest is no longer secured in the way the Agreement is being implemented. The ruling elites in Juba define them as a permanent threat to the state and there is a plan to treat them as permanent outsiders
The regime through the help of IGAD has eroded the opposition through the lure of the carrot and the pressure of the stick; there are indications that the tide of R-ARCISS politics had shifted from reform to accommodation. The recent appointment of Gatwech Dual as an adviser to the presidency on Peace, suggests that the centre of gravity of IO politics has shifted from liberated areas to Juba, so too is the mode of its opposition from armed struggle to political. It should be known to all that the Agreement collapsed eight months after the formation of NPTC, since then the whole project of implementation has been reduced to opinionated vagueness and renegotiations. The unity government was formed through the procedure of negotiated surrender, the IO is suffering from internal quarrels today because those who negotiated Machar’s surrender to juba lack the whole phenomenon of intentionality which is at the heart of soldiers’ emotional experiences. Everything was done in the manner of obscurity and deception as far as army is concern.
It should be acknowledged that the R-ARCISS has failed to deliver what it promised, but no replacements are in sight. Many Nuer folks through emotions would be quick to blame Dr. Machar for not securing a victory for them, but the current circumstances require them to find reason in their emotions. Dr Machar has been squeezed to the fullest! The regime has made him the enemy of state despite his effort to bring South Sudanese together, and more unfortunately those who work for him, be they politicians or close aides, see him not as national leader but as a means for accessing state power and resources. In fact his political image has been quantified into cash by his aides.
The plausible thing Dr. Machar can do now is to negotiate the blending of IO forces into the National Army; this is the only way to rescue thousands of Nuer youths who are left bewildered in the bushes from worry, fear, anxiety, and a nagging sense of purposelessness. The people should see the bigger picture this time and avoid the mistake of the past; the real power which decides the shape of thing is beyond the dichotomy of Nuer versus Dinka, the identity of forces fighting IO, the levels at which the conflict is being contested and the issues being fought over are bigger than what we know. The IO military leadership should do rational scrutiny of the causes of trouble and the means to tackle it, otherwise they may collide with obstacles that would alter their course or shatter their structural unity.
IO as a movement has many components: out of power politicians for whom reform is less a commitment than a strategy for power; ethnic, national and Nuer fundamentalists who are obliged to win the war for cultural pride. These groups may try to ossify the current predicaments into a bone of contention and look around for options to replace Dr. Machar, but all should be mindful of the precariousness of what they wish for. The regime intention is to turn Greater Upper Nile into a hostile wilderness full of ambushes and conspiracies, and in fact the government agents will be ready to wield IO internal chaos as their main weapons against oppositions.
For over 30 years, Machar has been a rallying point and a vehicle of Nuers’ collective action, he directed their political thoughts, feelings and actions. The decision to replace him now has no leg to stand on, it means fighting within SPLA-IO, and more social divisions among the Nuers; all will serve the regime interest to maintain Upper Nile region as a theatre of violent conflicts. Another pointless internecine war in the Greater Upper Nile at the moment will not only kill innocent peoples, but will also turn many parts of the region into a ‘cultural desert’.
War is a dangerous business, therefore courage to accept the reality is the soldier’s first requirement! Machar and SPLA-IO leaders should be bound by this logic and understand the realities of the situation they are in, be honest among themselves and negotiate the incorporation of IO forces into SSPDF and wait for the events. The presence of opposition forces in the national army may force the regime apparatus and deep state to renounce some of their intentions.
The author is a concerned citizen and member of SPLA-IO. He can be reached through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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