Contributor's Dak Buoth Opinion South Sudan

Opinion: The Bloodless Coup in Mali makes South Sudanese Regret

By Dak Buoth,

A crowd of people cheer Malian army soldiers at the Independence Square after a mutiny, in Bamako, Mali August 18, 2020. Picture taken August 18, 2020. REUTERS/Moussa Kalapo
A crowd of people cheer Malian army soldiers at the Independence Square after a mutiny, in Bamako, Mali August 18, 2020. Picture taken August 18, 2020. REUTERS/Moussa Kalapo

August 21, 2020(Nyamilepedia)The African people on the continent and beyond have a common history and destiny. Our long and combative histories of liberations are characterized by armed struggles for self- determinations from bad colonial rules. Our aspirations are always alike. We long for a new and brave Africa free of corruption and negative foreign meddling. The relationship of Africa with the international community should be based on true friendship and mutual respect. 

The post-colonial struggles for democracy, good governance and the rule of law must go on than never before. Africa wants second liberation different from the one which the likes of King Haile Selassie and Dr. Khame Nkrumah ushered in. History has proven us right that our current octogenarian African Leaders are worse than the colonialists for one reason or another. Numerous social commentators have labeled them as liberators turn oppressors. 

It is a shame that African Union which the likes of Selassie, Nkrumah and Kenyatta formed become a ‘‘toothless organization.’’ In the end each despot and dictator will face the full wrath of the law. It must be said loud and clear that the people of Mali and the People of South Sudan have the same challenges such as armed rebellions, impunity, injustices and runaway corruption et cetera. These gravest challenges among others are the greatest obstacles barring our way to peace, economic and political freedoms. 

Those of you who have ears and eyes must have seen that immediate Ex- President Keita of Mali and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan have many things in common in terms of leadership. They are lazy leaders with unending lust for state power. 

They hardly heed to the wailing citizenry. When hungry citizens cry they regroup and rejoice as they eat what belong to them. More often than not they suppressed dissenting voices despite the fact that dissents are the fertilizers for democracy. 

Instead of doing what they are supposed to do under the law and the peace agreements which they signed, they play their own interests and that of their surrogates with a view to maintain their iron hold on power. They must step up or step down for the writing is on the wall. 

On 18th August, 2020, we heard and witnessed the bloodless military coup in Mali. This coup came in the wake of months of protests and demonstrations across Mali. The hopes of Malian people are restored by their young officers. Up to now no single gunshot and death was heard and reported. This extraordinary event was followed by jubilations and resignation of the President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. 

As of now, Malians are still pouring on the streets of the capital Bamako. More so, life had so far return to normal. The people of Mali have suffered for so long in the hands of the former regime. With this bloodless coup, change is on sight. The euphoria on streets is evident that Malian people needed change. 

I had likened this peaceful change of guards to the past military event that led to the resignation and stepping down of the Zimbabwean longtime ruler, Robert Gabriel Mugabe years ago. We have seen that, this is coup whose time has come. It reflected the wishes of all the Malian People. Other than the ordinary Malians, the opposition and the Rebel leaders of Mali have welcome this rapid peaceful transition of power. 

In DW news report, ‘‘the coordination of Azawad movement (CMA), an Alliance of Tuareq independence and Arab nationalist groups formed during the Mali conflict of 2012, reached out to the junta leaders. These groups have demanded that the junta preserve the Algiers peace treaty signed in 2015.’’ This is another success story of the Youth in Africa. 

This timely revolution was led by youthful military officers in their forties. The new leader, Colonel Assimi Goita is a youth. And as a youth i thank him and welcome the coup because we know it will lead to peaceful democratic elections in the near future. 

I don’t support and encourage unpopular and meaningless change of leadership via unconstitutional means. But the wills and the wishes of African people who are the sole and original makers of the constitution must be respected. 

Whenever the news of such a peaceful intervention emerges, the people of South Sudan blame themselves. We often regret and point blaming fingers on our young military officers for we wish they could have done good service in our time of need. We have had dire situations where our military leadership could intervene and take responsibility from our failed political elites to avert loss of innocent lives. 

On 15th December, 2013, then Army Chief of staff, James Gathoth Mai could have rescued the country from falling into abyss by apprehending and arresting the two protagonists, President Kiir and vice President, Riek Machar. Nonetheless, in the AU report, James Gathoth was quoted as say if he had arrested the duo, Dinka people would say I had targeted their son, Salva Kiir. It was this wishful thinking that prolonged the war. The question is: Is there any targeting that is bad the other? What about when the Nuers were targeted in Juba? 

In 2018, a young lady from Jikany Nuer approached me after she was told I’m Liech community Chairman, she asked me: Why do Nuer people hate James Gathoth Mai? I told her Nuer people do not hate Gathoth, but they blame him for leading an army that was killing Nuer en mass in 2013 up to 2014. I told her I never heard or met an individual who says he was wronged by Gathoth. I once met General Gathoth in the company of then Higher Education, Dr. Gai Yoah when I was an Interim Chairman of the South Sudan Students Association In Kenya (SSSAK) in 2014, we chat a bid as we wait to meet the minister; I saw he was calm and soft speaking person. I told the lady, in my view, if James Gathoth knew at the time that he could not prevent the tribal forces which were armed and brought to Juba by President Kiir and General Malong Awan, he could have resign and or rebel like other senior Nuer Generals such as General James Koang Chuol alias CDR and General Gatdet Yaka as a sign of sympathy to Nuer. 

There is no Nuer General in the SPLA history that is more dedicated and loyal to SPLA than James Koang Chuol and Taban Deng Gai. In 2013, the duo broke ranks because of what President Kiir’s regime did to Nuer community in the eyes of the international community. 

I’m sure even now that Taban and James Koang went back to the government they don’t regret standing for their community and the country against what they knew was unjust and unfair treatment of the Nuer and South Sudanese people at the time. James Gathoth love himself more than his family and his Nuer people, and this was shown recently when he kept quiet when his son-in-law, Peter Biar Ajak was arrested and humiliated in prison while he was still serving the government as minister of Labor. One would ask: How could one continue serving the regime that does not respect and protect your community and family members? 

Similarly, in 2016, James Gathoth successor, General Paul Malong could have done the same when fighting erupted in state house aka J1. In fact Paul Malong had better chance to arrest the leaders of the warring parties than Gathoth. I don’t know what was he thinking or doing at the time. He sat idle and waited to be arrested and send into exile in Nairobi. 

Perhaps, Paul Malong thought he was free from humiliation and harassment by virtue of him being a Dinka General. He forgot that SPLM regime does not spare anyone. A serious south Sudanese military officer should learn from the fate of General Stephen Buay who is half Nuer and Half Dinka because he was fathered and mothered by Dinka and Nuer parents. In 2019, Buay was stripped of his ranks from General to civilian for unclear reasons yet he fought and defended the government from the beginning to the end. 

I wish our military had inculcated the spirit of nationalism and patriotism that the Malian military officers have. Time has come for South Sudan military officers to abandon tribalism for nationalism otherwise they will continue to suffer like civilians in the hands of our greedy and traitorous political elites in the SPLM. 

As i conclude, i urged the new leaders of new Mali to ignore the unfortunate comments coming from some members of the International Community and African Union. By the way when France said they denounced this coup, and won’t recognize its leaders, they are commenting as who? Is France talking as a colonialist or friend of Mali? Is it the Malian people and stakeholders to recognize the new leaders or France? The phrase that ‘‘the Africa future lies on the youth’’ has now come true. In as much as we welcome this bloodless coup, I appeal for president keita and members of the former regime to be set free immediately. There are unconfirmed reports that President Keita is under arrest. If this is true, he should be allowed to stay free in the country for now. His hasty resignation from presidency is a good sign that can warrant leniency on him. Let him be set free to listen and participate in shaping the new path for new Mali.

The Writer is the Chairman of Liech Community Association in Kenya; the views expressed here are his own, he can be reached for comments via eligodakb@yahoo.com ,

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