A “Political Tsunami” hits the South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA)

BY: Dr Lako Jada Kwajok, South Sudan, SEPT/28/2018, SSN;

For almost a year, the “storm” was slowly gathering on the horizon even before the existence of SSOA. The elements of such an eventuality (divisions) were all over the place as early as the time of the Nyahururu meetings.

The subtle telltale signs were there to be picked up by those who correctly analysed the events in the political space. They didn’t escape the notice of sharp observers.

SSOA is an anomalous body with members bound loosely together against the regime in Juba. Right from the start, there was widespread skepticism among some intellectual circles about the future of the alliance. It stems from the fact that SSOA is a mixed bag of political entities whereby you find opposing objectives.

On the one hand, there are those who want a regime change as the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party has utterly failed. On the other hand, you have those affiliated with the SPLM who are for SPLM reunification but in a new outfit.

So, how do you marry these two distinct positions and remain united in an alliance? Of course, there are the opportunists in their midst, who are merely looking for jobs and personal gains.

The fragility of the coalition was displayed on numerous occasions by plenty of political maneuvering, back and forth relations, and the unique status of one organisation where it’s part of the government while maintaining its membership in SSOA at the same time.

These are the anomalies that I referred to earlier.

On September 13, 2018, a group of members of SSOA issued a joint statement distancing themselves from the signed revitalized peace agreement saying that it’s unsustainable.

The group included the National Salvation Front (NAS), the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM), the Former Political Detainees (FPDs) Chairman, Ambassador Emmanuel Aban signing for the National Democratic Movement (NDM), and the United Democratic Republic Alliance (UDRA).

The group pointed out the fact that the agreement fell short of addressing the root causes of the conflict and maintains the status quo.

Among the grievances enumerated by the group were the omission of federalism, maintenance of the 32 states, and departure from the principle of having a lean government.

They further expressed their dismay for the signing of the revitalized peace agreement by a group within SSOA. They did refer to the collective negotiation position that was developed during the preliminary stages of the High-Level Revitalisation Forum (HLRF) summarised in 10 points.

The following are some of the positions agreed upon:

1. The state of emergency shall be lifted upon signing of the agreement.

2. The country shall adopt a FEDERAL system of governance during the transitional period through the effective division of powers and resources among the federal, state, and local government.

3. Annulment of the thirty-two (32) States and revert to the (10) as stipulated in the TCRSS 2011 and ARCSS 2015. In addition to the two (2) administrative areas of Pibor and Abyei.

4. President Kiir shall NOT lead the Transitional Government because of his successive violations of ARCSS and its eventual abrogation.

5. Dissolution and reconstitution of all institutions of government.

It’s evident that the signed revitalized peace agreement is nowhere close to addressing any of the above fundamental issues. The reservations of the group that signed the deal should duly emanate from the positions above. They said they signed the agreement because their reservations were met.

The agreement text, however, lacks evidence to support their claim. No amendments or modifications were made to the final deal in Addis Ababa. It appears the IGAD Heads of State and Government never paid any attention to the reservations.

Some are trying to find excuses by saying that in a negotiation you don’t get everything you want. That’s very true, but by the same token, your opponent doesn’t get everything he or she desires.

By the looks of things, the government got everything it stood for while those who signed the deal came back empty-handed. Well, not entirely accurate as the agreement awarded them positions at the expense of the South Sudanese people.

For the first time in history, we got a government with 5 Vice Presidents. China with its 1.411 billion souls does not have a Vice President; only a President and a Premier. I got the feeling that we are being ridiculed across the globe.

The press release of the dissenting group within SSOA seems to have infuriated the Khartoum group that signed the agreement. It responded with a statement of its own giving the impression that the time of niceties and cordial treats is over.

But it was outrageous to accuse their previous colleagues, and now probably adversaries, of forgery by using SSOA’s logo on their press statement. They well know that SSOA belongs to all of them and there is no way that any group could claim that it belongs to it solely.

If at all there’s forgery, then it would be the signing of the revitalised peace agreement because SSOA’s charter obligates the interim Chairman to obtain a consensus before signing any deal.

The statement is also misleading as it implies that all the members were on the same page in private although the other group was saying something different publicly.

The public has seen correspondences from NAS and PDM leaderships instructing the Interim Chairman not to initial or sign the agreement on behalf of SSOA, but every member could do so individually.

But the Interim Chairman, Mr Gabriel Changson, chose to ignore the legitimate rights of his colleagues and signed the deal. His act was unwarranted and amounts to what they are accusing their colleagues to have done.

But what I find as the audacity of the highest order is to accuse their colleagues of running away from Khartoum when things got tough.

Among those who left Khartoum, was a certain General who fought numerous battles during the liberation war. He led the SPLA to capture Kassala in the North and Yei in the South.

Now, how dare people who never experienced battlefield environment, where life could be lost in the blink of an eye, doubt the bravery of one of our heroes?!

Moreover, almost all the groups that signed the agreement reside in Khartoum. Why do they want others to hang around and be humbled?!

Such rhetoric is more damaging to the credibility of the politicians who indulge in it. It’s no longer a secret that the mediation team in Khartoum used coercion, intimidation, and obtained signatures from the opposition under duress.

Those who left Khartoum must have thought of avoiding being humiliated. The Khartoum group concluded its statement by saying that it forgives the other groups and extends an olive branch for them to come back to SSOA’s fold.

Well, the other group doesn’t think it ever left SSOA and says the Khartoum group has been compromised.

To that Ambassador Emmanuel Aban, the NDM Spokesman responded on Radio Tamazuj that the NDM under Dr Lam Akol abandoned its principles and objectives. That he and other NDM leaders would continue the struggle till fulfilment of the goals that led to the establishment of the Movement.

And before the “storm” could downgrade or settle down, we were confronted with yet another one albeit very devastating.

The South Sudan National Movement for Change (SSNMC) leadership decided to sack its Chairman, former Governor of Western Equatoria State, Joseph Bakasoro, for signing the revitalised peace agreement.

They have elevated his deputy Dr Vakindi Unvu as Interim Chairman while Kwaje Lasu, and General Abraham Wani remained in their positions as Secretary-General and Chief of Staff respectively.

Even the Federal Democratic Party (FDP) of Gabriel Changson was not spared of divisions. Some of the members tended their resignations over party stance and conduct of business.

It’s only a few weeks ago that Dr Lam Akol and former Governor Joseph Bakasoro went to the media separately declaring that they were in the process of reconciling NAS with the splinter group that broke away from it.

Well, whether those endeavours were genuine or not, they would have been more useful if directed to the right place. Few would miss the analogy of someone rushing to put out a fire in someone else’s house while leaving his home ablaze.

As it stands, the future of SSOA remains in limbo. Gabriel Changson mandate as Interim Chairman expired last month. The Secretary-General, Kwaje Lasu is with the other group.

The situation is one of stagnation because SSOA’s charter requires unanimity in any decision-making process. They never foresaw that such a situation would ever arise.

It wouldn’t have occurred had the Khartoum group not foregone the 10-points collective position.

For example, the Interim Chairman’s term in office cannot be extended nor can a new Interim Chairman be elected. The same applies to the Secretary-General.

SSOA is effectively non-functional as any decision by any of the two groups will not be recognised by the other.

The way forward would have been for both groups to come together and reconcile. It’s not going to happen because the issues that caused the division are irreconcilable.

The Khartoum group has opted for more of the same while those who refused the agreement chose to struggle for realising a real change to the current situation in the country.

The Khartoum group could abruptly disappear if the deal gets implemented and they join the government in Juba. In that case, the group that did not sign the agreement would have the name SSOA all by itself.

But should the deal not get implemented, gets abrogated or war breaks out, then the Khartoum group would find itself in a very embarrassing situation.

Nobody apart from our enemies likes or promotes divisions within SSOA. Unity on a robust platform for the greater good of the people should be what binds the opposition.

Three observations emerged in the aftermath of SSOA’s debacle:

Firstly, SSOA lacks cohesion regarding political objectives. I am not 100% sure that all members want the SPLM party to be removed from power. There are those who want to go back to their previous positions. Therefore, a break up that results in a more cohesive group is not a bad thing.

Secondly, for the first time, and in the open, we saw national matters eclipsing family ties and tribal belonging. I would not mention names for privacy, but it’s a positive development. It tells us that there is still hope to rescue South Sudan from its current predicament.

Thirdly, the politicians from the younger generation seem to be more confident, assertive and command more popularity than those from the older generation. They bring into the political discourse contemporary ideas, knowledge, vigor, and even experience.

Perhaps, it’s time for the old guards to retire and give space to the younger generation.

Dr Lako Jada Kwajok

10 Comments

  1. False Millionnaire says:

    Look how so childish they appear?There is nothing akin to Garang’s leadership in them.They get into wars to have ordinary citizens lose their lives and livelihood for nothing.So go hang yourself Mr doc.That’s the scénario u have been writing to promote all your life on the internet.

  2. Taban Alimasi says:

    Dr Lako,
    You are right, South Sudan Opposition Alliance (SSOA) was loosely put together and hard to comprehend, how political parties with diverse objectives; could form successful collation. From day one, as the negotiation kick off, it was clear the collation was not stainable and it came to pass. The career politician in South Sudan, always put their interest head of national interest and hard to forecast the future generation politician would be different, as they are not in isolation of the current drama.

  3. J. Malooma says:

    Dr LJK,
    Where is the blame that the OI has no vision and objectives for S. Sudan, and strategies for regime change when rejected to join this so-called SSOA? This lacks of military and political objectives shouldn’t surprise anyone because majority of us have seen this coming.
    Again, the internal cracks within the individual group such as NAS have had forced their leader TCS to commit another error by withdrawing from peace agreement of which his team negotiated, initialed, and have signed the security chapter.
    What’s not clear upto now is the next move of this breakaway groups, those who rejected the KPA/AAPA, whether or not they would have the courage and determination to challenge the upcoming transitional government of National Unity!
    If the answer is yes, would it be through violence/militarily or nonviolent political means? I thank that will be your next article…….! For now, the IO’s rejection to join the alliance is now justified.

    • Taban Alimasi says:

      J Malooma,
      You have interested view, I believe you must be IO supporter or citizen who want peace regardless what form it comes. Brother, it’s not signing paper, but implementation, I am sure you were old enough to remember all the agreements signed by Dr Reik since 1991, but none of them had been implemented. I believe you understand, what good governance is, brother South Sudan is yearning for good governance, where you as an individual will have access to services. Not all of us are going to be president or vice president, but all of us would need services, if you apply good governance principal to Khartoum agreement, one would question how someone like Dr Reik would sign such agreement. Don’t argue for sake of argument take time and read the agreement and see by yourself whether there’s any tangible policy statement that would improve the life of citizens apart for ceasefire, which is being breach every day.

  4. Deng Hanbol says:

    Dr. Lako,
    your’e going to wind up a bitter and lonely PhD holder.

  5. LM says:

    Dear Deng Hanbol,

    Don’t envy someone’s education. Why you as educated person attacking Dr Lako PhD.
    If you don’t have one, better try to get one.

  6. LM says:

    Deng Hanbol,

    Why don’t you go and get education? It will be better for you rather than being envy of others achievement.
    After all jenge put a lot of resources to educate fellow jenge than others.

  7. LM says:

    Deng Hanbol,
    Is it too late for you to go to school? If it’s, then don’t bother others. PhD is not a bogus document that are being given to most of by this banana Republics of Uganda and Kenya for free. You have to work for it. What wrong someone having a PhD. You always attacked education of others why? It’s really mind boggling to see a country called south Sudan run by premitive people such as you and blame others for your failure.

  8. Deng Hanbol says:

    LM
    I understand your situation. I’m aware that years of Dinka oppression has led you and Dr. Lako to develop a siege mentality. In other words, you are shattered by Jaang oppression and killing. But the main question is, why don’t you stand up for what you believe in? Nuer/Naath people have decided to retaliate rather than crying for outside help.

    • LM says:

      Deng Hanbol,

      You’re not making sense any more. Supposed you’re jenge or naath, what have you done to your communities. Dr Lako is expressing his opinion but you attacked his education, does it make sense to you? How does someone opinion becomes a siege to you? If you can’t stand his argument, please shut up.

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