Opinion: The root causes of the ceaseless conflicts in South Sudan

By General Stephen Buay Rolnyang,

July 11, 2021 – In 2005, the founding father of the SPLM/A Dr. John Garang de Mabior signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the Sudan government under Omar Hassan al-Bashir that ended the longest Sudanese civil war that dated back to the mid-1950s when Southern insurgents took up arms against the Islamist government in the Sudan who were oppressing the Southerners, the war which resulted in the death of more than 2 million, only between 1983 and 2005.

The root causes of the ceaseless conflicts in South Sudan
Collage of President Salva Kiir (L) and Vice President Riek Machar (photo credit: Business Times)

Unfortunately, Dr. John Garang was killed in an Uganda helicopter crash on 30/7/2005, and as a result of the tragic death of Dr. John Garang, President Salva Kiir who was an SPLA battlefield commander with little knowledge of the democratic governance and rule of law was shortly installed to lead South Sudan, home to over 12 million people drawn from 64 tribes with diverse culture, religion, and languages.

Kiir appointed his longtime rival Dr. Riek Machar as his deputy. Both leaders (Kiir and Riek) failed to meet the expectations of the people of South Sudan who were fighting for freedom, justice, and equality because they felt they were being oppressed by the Arabs, but now the oppression of Kiir and Riek is worse than the oppression of the Arabs.

The South Sudanese people expected Kiir and Riek to guide them towards a genuine democratic system of governance in the country. They failed to establish a viable state and build vital institutions right away from the independence of the Republic of South Sudan. The only institutions that exist in South Sudan are the army (SSPDF) and the national security forces which are predatory institutions.

After being in the presidency for two years after the independence of South Sudan, the two leaders revealed their true colors with Kiir being a dictator and Riek a vicious self – aggrandizing politician who cares about his selfish interest.

In 2013, Kiir and Riek squabbled in the SPLM/A about who was going to be the leader of the SPLM/A, with Kiir accusing Riek of attempting a coup, the move which plunged the country into a civil war which caused a battle between the ethnic Dinka and Nuer in the presidential guard division.

The notorious recruited Dinka paramilitary known as Mathiang Anyor and other armed Dinka civilians in Juba took the law into their own hands, hunted down ethnic Nuer, and targeted them in the capital Juba. The fighting swiftly spread across the country causing serious destruction in the country with civilians of either ethnic Dinka and Nuer being targeted, launching a full–scale civil war in the country that resulted in the death of nearly 400,000, and displacement of more than 2 million people.

As a result, Riek formed his own movement, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-in Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), with a reform agenda. The two leaders got pressure from the international community and signed a power-sharing agreement in Addis Ababa in 2015, which was violated in 2016, by both leaders in tragic circumstances when fighting erupted in J1 known as the J-1 dogfight. Riek fled to Congo amid a hot day-and-night pursuit by government pursuit for 41 days.

Several of Riek’s fighters were killed on the way. In 2018, the peace that was violated in 2016, as a result of the J-1 fight, was revitalized under the auspices of the IGAD countries and another agreement was signed in Khartoum known as the (R –ARCSS) that reinstated Riek as First Vice President and this time around with other more vice presidents which resulted in the formation of the fragile and embattled Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (RTGONU), and it agreed equivocally to hold elections in 2022 or 2023, with the recent reconstitution of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly (RTNLA), while the formation of the unified command and graduation of the unified forces as stipulated in the provision of the security arrangement is far from over.

After staying in power for 16 years, and for his own political survival, Kiir has revealed his true color by indulging in a dictatorial and kleptocratic tendency and has created his own private paramilitary security apparatus to intimidate, torture, execute people, lynch political dissidents for crimes they did not commit, too much corruption to the disenfranchisement of over 12 million poor people of South Sudan who largely depend on foreign aid for survival.

Kiir has failed to resolve the proliferation of firearms which is the cause of rampant inter-communal violence, revenge killing, rape, cattle raiding in the countryside.

The solution to this leadership and political mess is simple.

If the people of South Sudan need a genuine and permanent peace in the country, the two leaders must step down and allow the citizens to choose their own leaders through a democratic election because they are unable to resolve South Sudan internal political conflicts which they themselves caused.

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