By Tong Kot Kuocnin, Lawyer, Kenya, JAN/08/2017, SSN;
The first presidency between president Kiir and Dr. Machar began shortly when the movement lost its historical leader, the great Dr. John Garang De Mabior on 30th June 2005 in a helicopter crush. Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, Dr. Garang long time deputy, immediately got installed as the FVP of the Republic of the Sudan and the President of the Government of South Sudan, as per the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, 2005.
Consequently, Dr. Riek Machar, being the second man after Kiir immediately became the VP of the Government of South Sudan until in July 2013 when the later went on rampage against his boss subsequently causing divorce to their political honeymoon.
In this article, I intend to bring to forefront the achievements, failures and weaknesses of the first presidency of President Kiir and Dr. Machar 2005-2013. Quite obviously, there are major achievements that the 1st presidency of Gen. Salva Kiir and Dr. Riek Machar achieved.
The first and foremost achievement, though it was a common interest of the people of South Sudan was the peaceful and successful conclusion of the conduct of referendum on self-determination for the people of South Sudan. The right to self-determination made all the people of South Sudan of all walks of life to make sure that South Sudan break away from the Sudan.
We successfully voted for an independent state of our own, the republic of South Sudan. We cared less about under whose leadership that the region broke away but what was important was to break away from Sudan and have our own country. We did achieve it for it was our common interest.
The SPLM leadership may brag about it but for sure it was not the making of SPLM but the people of South Sudan for the number of people of South Sudan is greater than the membership of SPLM. We were tired and fed up of all mistreatment in the hands of our brothers and sisters in the north.
President Kiir may brag about it that it’s his success but the fact remains that his only vote can’t determine the fate of a region inhabited by millions of people. But we do give him his credit for although he wasn’t that wise but his being a leader at the time earned him that credit and all its veneration.
The second achievement though it back fired, was his numerous presidential pardons and amnesties issued to pardon all those who took up arms against their own fellow brothers and sisters, notorious warlords and militias and their integration into the national army, the SPLA with which the region relatively had a bit of peace though it didn’t last longer than usual.
The aim of all these presidential pardons and amnesties was to reconcile the people of South Sudan and forge a new beginning in an attempt to build the would-be new state in the map of the world. Quite obvious that his good intentions were taken for granted in which numerous militias took up arms, killed and caused havoc but still they were pardoned and integrated.
These notorious warlords and militias would have surely destabilized the region and caused more havoc and devastation if he had pursued the path that was about to be taken by our late leader Dr. John Garang with all southern militias when he refused to meet with the then known militia leader and the most notorious one, late Gen. Paulino Matip Nhial, in the presidential Palace in Khartoum and threatened to deal with all militias who failed to join either side of the parties to agreement as per the terms and clauses of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, 2005.
However, despite the achievements and successes mentioned above, there were unaccountable failures of the 1st presidency of President Kiir and Dr. Machar, as manifested by the overall records of President Kiir and Dr. Machar 1st presidency, there was a complete failure of the government in maintaining durable peace and security, respect for human rights, human and infrastructural development were disappointing.
The government failed to minimize incessant communal violence and cattle raiding that were rocking Lakes, Jonglei, and Unity and Warrap states, if not putting them into a standstill.
Hence, these failures and several other factors accounted for these poor and disappointing records of the 1st presidency of the two gentlemen.
There were weak institutions of government established along ethnic lines, for instance, if a minister comes from a particular tribe or ethnicity, then eighty per cent of the ministry’s staff comes from his tribe forthwith.
The government failure coupled with weak institutions was responsible for an unspeakable corruption at unprecedented scale where millions of pounds and dollars were siphoned to foreign bank accounts overseas. The president allowed all the state resources to be looted at day time by his ministers, senior civil servants and senior army generals at his watch.
There was complete lack of political will from the president and his deputy to initiate institutional reforms and curb rampant corruption and bring to book of shame and justice all corrupt officials.
During its nine years in office from 2005-2013, the government was marred by a couple of scandals one after another including the famous Dura saga, the four billion dollars stolen by known thieves in which secret seventy-five letters were written to seventy-five officials who were presumed to have stolen the money.
The other scandal was the eight million stolen from the public coffers which led to the dismissal of the former ministers of cabinet affairs and finance and economic planning and the current one being tried before the high Court involving the office aides of the president.
However, many writers argued that not much can be accredited to the 1st presidency of President Kiir and Dr. Machar since they both took oath of office in 2005 until the duo got politically divorced and parted their ways in 2013. It was a kick-backing presidency.
In a nutshell, it can be argued that the 1st presidency of President Kiir and Dr. Machar succeeded in overseeing the smooth, transparent, peaceful and successful conduct of the referendum on self-determination for the people of Southern Sudan but failed in curbing human rights violations, communal violence and cattle raiding, corruption and democracy, rule of law and infrastructure development.
That was the nature of the government we had in South Sudan before the duo quarrel over the national cake in 2013, its achievements, failures and weaknesses.
The writer is a Master of Laws (LLM) candidate at the School of Law, University of Nairobi. He can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org