BY: Taban Abel Aguek, Member of Parliament & State minister, MAY/02/2018, SSN;
President Salva Kiir Mayardit has, for the first time, expressed his regret for sparing the lives of his political opponents. He stated this at Dr. John Garang Mausoleum last week in Juba when citizens and members of South Sudan military had gathered there to pay their last respects to the late Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. James Ajongo Mawut.
President Salva Kiir isn’t alone in anger towards his political opponents over their abuse of the president’s goodwill and what the public see as continuous efforts by the same group to destabilize the country either to force President Kiir out or bargain for share of power in any new transition arrangement.
Many supporters of the President across the country have clearly opposed the decision to have the political enemies released into a world of freedom, including the freedom to span more chaos and strengthen the opposition.
For many, President Kiir’s so many amnesties and his reluctance to be tough are the major causes of the country’s problems.
A cross-section of his supporters among all regions and among all tribes of South Sudan think the President, in his being too soft, is the problem. Some of his own supporters already refer to him as “Abuna,” an Arabic word for “pastor” or “Priest”. For being an ardent Catholic who go to church every Sunday, others say his catholic upbringing is a factor in his major political decisions.
The argument among President Kiir supporters is that he is refusing to be John Garang in the sense that Garang used to be feared because he could crush his opponents mercilessly, imprison them or kill them.
So, from this viewpoint it looks like the pressure from the public, mainly from his ardent supporters – and the continuing ugly aggression by his opponents including those that saw freedom through his mercy – have made president Kiir to regret his decision to spare the lives of his political opponents.
Although the members of Former Detainees have, through their spokesman Kosti Manibe, quickly denied that Kiir spared their lives, the truth is all there open to all.
Kosti Manibe, one of Kiir’s beneficiaries, in his talk to Radio Tamazuj said that it is “unfortunate” that Kiir said he spared their lives. He went on to say that, “It is the system he put in place that spared our lives, not Salva”.
This is a whole former minister in so many Portfolios in South Sudan absurdly contradicting himself.
First, did Kosti Manibe not acknowledge that the regime of Salva Kiir has a system put in place contrary to all what they have been saying about reforms and the country being without systems?
Secondly, did our former minister not know that in most parts of Africa, court orders are not obeyed? If it’s Salva Kiir’s system that released them, then the credit still goes to Kiir.
So, it’s not correct for Kosti Manibe to say that Kiir made them “go through a fair process”, the same process which released them and again deny that he didn’t spare their lives.
After all, when has African courts been above the powers of a country’s president? In few recent weeks, a Kenyan politician, lawyer Miguna Miguna was deported out of the country twice against several court orders. The SPLM Former Detainees would not have been freed had the President not allowed what they now called ‘a fair process’.
The fact of the matter is that the SPLM Former Detainees were spared by President Salva Kiir through the influence from both regional and international actors. Again, the hope of the president was that these guys would rethink their decision and join Kiir’s camp rather be on their own. That did not happen, though.
Dr Riek Machar’s coup in 2013 was clever enough and unexpected that government could not establish his whereabouts, let alone an attempt to kill him. But in the J1 fight of 2016, Riek’s forces were badly annihilated leaving him holed up in J1 alone and in the mercy of Kiir.
Indeed, if Kiir had wanted to kill Dr Riek Machar, there was no any better opportunity to do it than during the J1 fight. In a bid to save the peace accord, the president and his second VP Dr James Wani Igga had to hover over him to protect him from the angry soldiers who lost their dear colleagues in the fight and got him escorted to his base in Jebel.
When fighting resumed the following morning, President Kiir went out calling for calm and silencing of the guns as he urged Riek Machar to come back to work. The fight still ensued and it went completely out of hand.
The real and the first time the SPLA wanted to kill Dr Riek was when he defied the president’s call and headed again back to the bush. Gen Malong, who was then the Chief of Staff of SPLA, had immediately pledged that it is either Riek kills him or he kills Riek. But in the end he managed to escape unharmed.
The bottom line is, as much as others refute it, President Kiir actually spared the lives of the Former Detainees and the life of Dr. Riek Machar.
With that said, I am not so much in agreement with those who call Kiir an “Abuna” (pastor) though. No kind of a soft pastor would choose to fight two brutal wars in his life. President Kiir is a tough soldier but with a kind heart.
However, the president should not regret having done that. The decision to spare the lives of his opponents put above the rest. Humanity is happy with it. God is happy with it. It presents a complete opposite of what the people have labelled against the president.
Those who called him a dictator, killer or any other thing were proven wrong. Every problem has its ending. Wars are (and have been) fought and they end; what does remain are their stories.
South Sudanese in many generations have gone through the history of conflicts. One will be on the right side of history if he or she has tried as much as possible to spare lives of those in danger.
It’s a heroic deed that no one should regret about regardless of the pressure from the angry supporters who want to see a tough ruthless president in South Sudan. All leaders must learn to forgive and so, it is a worthy credit to spare lives.
Taban Abel Aguek (MP) is State Minister for Gender, Child & Social Welfare in Eastern Lakes State, Yirol. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org