BY: Joseph Odhok, NOV/07/2016, SSN;
The story of SPLM/A North dates back to the days of the revolutionary war of struggle waged by the Sudan People Liberation Army under the command of Dr. John Garang De Mabior against the Sudanese successive governments. The people of Southern Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile States, attracted by the vision of “New Sudan” joined the ranks of the movement in their tens of thousands.
Their aspirations had been the realization of development, justice and equality based on citizenship in their neglected and least developed areas. The “New Sudan” motto then being advocated by Dr. John Garang seemed the answer to these aspirations.
Having received military training, many of graduating soldiers of these people were deployed in the South and fought alongside their comrades from the South against the government army.
When the war ended in 2005, their forces remained an integral part of the SPLA under the peace deal though they have a separate protocol referred to as “The Resolution of Conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.” This Protocol provided for “Popular Consultation” by the fourth year of the Interim Period.
Under popular consultation, the CPA would be subjected to the people of the two States to ascertain their view on implementation by means of a “Parliamentary Assessment & Evaluation Commission,” tasked to assess and evaluate the implementation and subsequently report to each State which in turn should endorse it or rectify its shortcomings.
On Security Arrangements, under “Redeployment of Forces”, the two forces, SAF & SPLA, were to disengage and separate.
Forces of Sudan Armed Forces SAF deployed in Southern Sudan were redeployed North of South/North border of 1/1/1956. While SPLA forces deployed in South Kordofan/Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile were redeployed south of the South/North border of 1/1/1956. Thus putting the two areas under SAF control.
With this brief background, the reader will be able to a certain extent, make some inference of what would be the nature of future relationship configuration between the SPLA/North and SPLA/South after cessation of South Sudan from Sudan.
The people of Southern Blue Nile and the Nuba Mountains felt betrayed by the new leadership which succeeded Dr. John Garang when they abandoned the movement’s original vision of “New Sudan”.
A united Sudan under new political dispensation would have guaranteed their rights for development, justice and equality, and as a consequence meeting their aspirations.
In fact the CPA offered them nothing tangible than the hope of getting their fair share of development and political participation within the new politically restructured country, where the alliance of the SPLM and the people from the least developed regions would be the dominant political force.
Faced with uncertain future, and given their significant influence in the composition of SPLA forces, and to avoid the negative impact their resentment may cause if their grievance is not addressed, there is a possibility of some kind of a deal having been reached between the two parties on the fault-line. This would include the fate of their forces after South Sudan got it independence.
Which is why all the efforts to transform SPLA into a National professional army of South Sudan came to no fruition, and thus the country’s leadership deliberately retained its name ostensibly to resist disengagement to appease their comrades and also to use them for their secret purposes.
Technically, SPLA/North remains part and parcel of the SPLM/SPLA-IG despite political rhetoric of disengagement by the Juba regime. They are still based in the country and get their weaponry and other support from the SPLA and the government.
They also fight alongside SPLA forces against the Opposition forces across the country. Its leadership is also embroiled in corruption scandals together with the country’s political elite and the military top brass.
At present, they are the strongest military force that the regime has got after the SPLA disintegrated and reduced to a tribal weak force following the current raging ethno-political war across the country.
Last Month, the Sudanese President, Omer Al-Bashir issued an ultimatum to Juba regime to immediately disengage from the Sudanese rebels and force them out of its territories. He gave the regime until the end of the current Month of December 2016 to act or else face the military might of the Sudanese Army.
In response, President Kiir summoned Malek Agar, the Commander in Chief and Chairman of SPLM/A-N and gave him orders to that effect. But Agar downplayed the President’s orders and walked away.
Kuol Manyang Juuk, the Minister of Defense after meeting the US special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, Donald Booth, said he would fight the Sudanese rebels if they refused to leave the country.
The question is: Will the regime risk fighting its allied forces while at the same time fighting the Opposition forces? If not, will it succumb to the mounting pressures of the realities on the ground and reinstate Dr. Riek Machar to his position and revive the peace agreement?
In the event that the regime chooses the first option as the defense Minister Juuk would want it to be, then it would be putting its combat capability on line.
Battling their former allies will certainly contribute to further decline of their military capacity and shift the balance in favour of the Opposition forces groups.
One would assume that the Sudanese rebels would not voluntarily march to their death without a fight after all the sacrifices they made in order for the regime to cling to power. As a consequence, Juba would lose its control over many parts of the country as the ethno-political war continues between communities allied to the main warring rivals.
The international community appears to take at face value what the regime in Juba tells them. The truth is, the war in South Sudan took a dramatic turn from initially being a political power struggle within the ruling party, to ethno-political conflict.
Prompted by losing parts of their lands as a result of President Kiir’s decree #34/2015 which further divided the country into 28 tribal States, and coupled with systematic settlement of the Dinka nomadic tribes in community’s land of Greater Equatoria, many rebel groups sprang up and the waves of rebellion kept on growing.
These groups — The Chollo, The Equatorians, The Fertit and most recently The Murle— all formed a loose alliance with the SPLM/A–IO which is predominantly Nuer.
These groups are now fighting against the government and its allied militia (Mathiang Anyoor & Padang dinka). It is unfortunate that the regime continues to mislead the world by calling them bandits and persistently continues to use its military machine against the unarmed communities which it blamed for supporting these groups.
The second option: Is the most viable option if the government wanted to see peace return to the country. But it must equally be prepared for all that comes with it, which means making compromises for the sake of peace.
The return of Dr. Riek Machar as the recognized Opposition leader in the Peace Process means uniting the other rebel groups allied to SPLM/A–IO under one chain of command and hence stopping the current raging war and looming genocide.
It means resuscitating the peace agreement and opening it up to incorporate the concerns of other rebel groups who rebelled following July 8th Juba J1 Incident.
It means reinstatement of Dr. Riek to his former position as the 1st Vice President and subsequently his new Ministers.
With the peace agreement revived and the TGNU in place, a responsible and meaningful dialogue could be arranged with SPLM/A–N rebels aimed at finding peaceful means to the conflict with the Sudan Government and concluding mutual agreement that would be witnessed by South Sudan Government.
It is now up to the government to choose the path it deems feasible to salvage the country from total collapse and anarchy. The situation across the country is worsening and calls for an urgent intervention.
If the country’s leadership still lacks the political will then the UNSC must exercise it obligation and place South Sudan under UN Trusteeship but not just sit by and watch genocide being committed which has actually begun in some parts of the country. END