BY: John Bith Aliap, Australia, JAN/22/2014, SSN;
Riek Machar has always been a central figure in South Sudanese’ politics. He gained popularity not through his integrity, but because of his warlordism and butchering skills. He’s seen by many as a “symbol of death and tribal extremism”. His past and recent upheavals against his own people and government have destroyed South Sudanese’ social fabric.
Victims of his senseless wars are still extremely traumatized. For these people, returning to normal social life can be a back-breaking exercise which could possibly take a handful of years.
In fact, Riek Machar is a curse to all South Sudanese including his own Nuer tribe. But majority of Nuers are not yet aware of this salient reality.
However, when people talk or think about him, especially in relation to the current situation in the country, the first question that pops up in their minds could be question like: Is (Riek Machar) yet again Bulldozing the Rep. of South Sudan like his failed 1991’s back-stabbing scheme?
Riek Machar should be reminded that South Sudanese, regardless of their heritage have suffered a lot for so many years in the hands of Arabs rulers in the demolished old united Sudan. Now is their time to take a reasonable rest without being yet again exposed to power-driven and senseless war.
Riek Machar presents himself as a man of peace and love as well as an advocate for human rights, freedom, good governance … and the list continues. On other side of the coin, we know that freedom has already been achieved in South Sudan.
Turning guns (which should have been used to protect the nation) against each other is unpatriotic, barbaric, unwanted and highly condemnable. South Sudanese’ freedom which is now being assaulted by Riek Machar was very much welcomed with joy and jubilation back in 2011.
Accompanied by wild celebrations across the country, hundreds of thousands if not, millions of people turned up to celebrate their long-awaited freedom. The scene of celebration was characterized by celebratory and joyous people wearing flag of their newly founded nation, the Rep. of South Sudan, a symbol of what they would describe as their homeland. Some were clasping the flag and welling-up with tears as they pledged their allegiance to their new nation.
However, as the dust of celebration settles, things started to fall apart promptly. Many people with array of expectations, values and beliefs, for example (Riek Machar and his crime-mates) who think that they have not been served well under the current system of the SPLM-led government contemplated that it would be a good idea to revisit the temporarily abandoned tribal loyalty which in their view, would serve them far more better than the newly – formed collective identity under the banner of “nationalism”.
On the 15th of December 2013 in Juba, the capital city of the Rep. of South Sudan, the world got shocked of what took place. It was none, other than Riek Machar whose quest for leadership stands taller than his actual height.
Historically however, Machar’s search for leadership goes back to his ill – thought 1991 split from SPLM/A where the issues of contention with his late boss, Dr.John Garang, the leader of the SPLM/A movement, where centred on his call for self-determination, democratization of the movement and respect for human rights.
John Garang in turn, wanted the movement to maintain its objective for a new Sudan; secular, democratic and united. His unnecessary call for a change in the movement at that time saw him allied with Arabs-the main enemies of South Sudanese; and this resulted to what’s today known as “Bor massacre” in which 2,000 people from Dinka Bor ethnic group were innocently killed.
This figure is even debatable. Some say that the figure could be a lot higher than what has been reported. The massacre was carried out mostly by Nuer fighters from SPLA Nasir, led by him … (Riek Machar), and the militant group known as “the Nuer White Army”.
According to Amnesty International, 25,000 more Dinka Bor died after the Bor massacre from famine as their cattle were either stolen or shot and the fighting had displaced them from the land they had once cultivated.
At the time, Riek Machar described the incident as “propaganda” and “myth”, but in 2012, he publicly apologized for his part in the massacre. He was forgiven by Bor community simply to maintain unity of the country, although survivors of his engineered massacre are still hunted today by bad memories, and face significant challenges in their efforts to rebuild their lives.
But what is his recent predicament with his ex-boss, Salva Kiir? Well, throughout his vice presidency, Riek Machar has been frequently accused by Kiir and others of being unfaithful to the government. His unfaithfulness to the people’s government promoted Kiir to take off his trademark cowboy hat, a sign of preparedness in many cultures.
In April 2013, Kiir issued a presidential order, suspending a proposed national reconciliation conference, until he formed his own trusted committee, a committee tasked to take the reconciliation show on the road. During the initial phase of the reconciliation process, Machar was tasked to oversee the event, but this was quickly scrapped when Kiir issued an order to withdraw his friendly delegated powers from him because of his rebellious tendencies.
Many analysts believed that Kiir’s decision came into light when he disagreed with Machar on the timing and agenda for the reconciliation. Others put it that Kiir wanted the process delayed; and also restricted to reconciling communities that experienced violent conflicts.
Machar on the other hand, wanted the process to kick off immediately and take into consideration issues of tribalism, good governance, justice, development, distribution of resources, land grabbing among others which he argued, were some of the factors which caused disharmony in the country.
The matter got worse between these two men when Machar publicly declared his intention to challenge Kiir in the ruling party’s contest for the chairmanship position in the than postponed SPLM party’s convention.
Kiir in his part, understood that Machar wanted to use reconciliation process as a campaign platform or votes-catching exercise to gain more popularity among the South Sudanese public.
The level of mistrust between Kiir and Machar continues to grow sharply as the public looks on helplessly. On the 23rd of July 2013, Kiir issued another decree relieving Machar from his position as vice president.
However, changes within the government are normal in other parts of the world, but in a tribally divided country like South Sudan, Machar’s sacking was not received well in the Nuer community. It was perceived by his Nuer loyalists as an outright intimidation and worth investigating.
The Nuer Community was stunned and many of them swiftly withdrew their support from the government like a child slapped by an angry father.
Do not give up yet of Machar’s crimes. On the 15th of December 2013, he attempted to overthrow the democratically elected government of South Sudan with his loose alliance of tribal militia forces and mutinous army commanders mostly from Nuer tribe where he hails.
Machar’s past and recent catastrophic wars “with tribal dimensions” have done greater damage to South Sudan as a nation than good. The war which is now engulfing the Rep. of South Sudan shows the world how the tribally-based politics could quickly brings the country down to its knees.
Machar’s coup bid is now tearing the country apart. The UN current estimates indicate that nearly 10, 000, people have been killed, 413, 000 displaced and unknown number of properties damaged or looted.
In South Sudan or elsewhere, the name Riek Machar in the minds of many people evokes nightmare and retrieves unwanted memories. Due to his vicious hunt for leadership, Riek deserves scrutiny from the public to determine if he qualifies for presidency.
Riek Machar is a decent man and he has made a considerable contributions to the freedom of South Sudanese. For example, his U-turn to the SPLM/A in 2002 is a laudable one, but there is a long list of reasons why he may not be the most suitable candidate for presidency in 2015.
Let me walk you through his failures. For example, starting from his 15 Dec. 2013 failed attempted coup in Juba, his 1991 coup against the SPLM/A leadership, his shamed 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement (KPA), his failed LRA – Uganda Peace Mediation and many other failed negotiations on behalf of South Sudanese, one can boldly proclaim that Riek is not just a failed leader.
He has been in fact the cause of failures for yet others. His role as Vice President of South Sudan has failed both his ex- boss Salva Kiir and the country as a whole. Do not give up yet of Riek’s failures.
One could also argue that Riek’s political skills are highly deficient. He lacks the power of persuasion which is an essential condiment for managing a diverse array of political opinions.
Furthermore, Riek has consistently shown that he lacks philosophical sophistication. Without this ability, one wonders how Riek will be able to steer the country effectively in a more integrated global economy. Under his presidency, South Sudan as a nation could miserably scramble.
His critics including the (author of this article) claim that Riek is highly intolerant to other people’s views. The fact that he was not able to get along with some of his colleagues in the SPLM/A-United in Nasir and ended up dismissing them from the movement means that Riek cannot provide the necessary collegial leadership for which South Sudan is hungry.
In addition, Riek is not known for being bold enough. Boldness is especially necessary when it comes to decision making. Without it, Riek will likely not be able to take on his leadership show on the road.
South Sudan needs a leader who is capable to lead effectively. Given Riek’s political feebleness, including his short sightedness and lack of organisational ability that ultimately leads him into settling for suboptimal choices including taking short cuts can be very disastrous for South Sudan as a nation.
It is therefore ironic that Mr. Riek who has perpetually perfected the art of tribal extremism can portray himself as someone with the audacity and moral authority to fight tribalism and corruption.
His rhetoric that he can make a good leader “if allowed to sit behind the wheel” is simply an attempt to trick South Sudanese into believing that he can deliver.
In fact, Riek Machar does not qualify to be a viable alternative president of South Sudanese. He only worships his big tummy. He follows where his mouth goes; and where his egocentric interest lies.
That is why he has been shoring up his rhetoric with the threat of the use of the sword he is accustomed to.
Voters have the final verdict to determine who leads them in 2015. Not someone like Riek Machar who wants to shoot his way into presidency by bullets and not ballot which is a known method for democratic transition of power.
Although South Sudan is currently facing handful of challenges, the most important challenge is the use of tribalism in politics. Many attempts have been made to promote unity and political maturity among South Sudanese, but in the absence of efforts to build genuine political parties that compete on the basis of ideas, rather than tribal loyalties, many politicians such Riek Machar have resorted to tribal allegiance and military power as means for political competition to ascend into the highest office of the land.
Riek Machar and his group in crime have exploited their “tribal loyalty” to advance their individual gains, parochial interests, patronage and cronyism.
These people should be held accountable for the crimes they have committed either domestically or internationally. Rep. Of South Sudan has now become a grave yard, orphanage camp and a global factory for refugees because of them, but can anything be done?
As the history is concerned, the only way forward to achieve democratic society in South Sudan rests in a concerted efforts to build modern political parties founded on development ideas and not tribal allegiances as it’s currently the case in South Sudan.
If established however, such parties must base their competition for power on developmental platforms and not the appeal to tribal coalitions.
In most cases in Africa and South Sudan is not an exception in this equation, those who rely on manipulating tribal alliances (Riek Machar and his group for example) can only bring nothing, but sectarian animosity into the country; and this is what the people of South Sudan are now harvesting as I write this article.
It has to be reinstated here that democracy and not the “armed rebellion” can offer the best chance for sustained growth and prosperity in South Sudan.
South Sudanese leaders should once again be reminded that tribal politics in which Riek Machar is its champion must be brought to an end, otherwise the Rep. of South Sudan will continue to be the global capital for tribal institutions and tribal leaders.
John Bith Aliap is a South Sudanese citizen. He can be reached at email@example.com