Riek Machar & the issue of Self-Determination for South Sudan

BY: Kuir ë Garang, CANADA, AUG/09/2014, SSN;

There’s a big difference between proposing something and making it actually happen. Someone who proposes a given phenomenon and another one who actually makes it happen can both be credited; however, it would be wrong to confuse the correct contribution of each one of them.

Self-determination was first proposed by South Sudanese participants of Juba conference in 1947. Anyone who pretends to be the one, who initiated it, if he or she wasn’t present during that conference, is just abusing history.

Besides, Federal System for South Sudan was first proposed by leaders of the Liberal Party in 1953/54 and emphasized by leaders of Southern Federal Party in 1957, a year before the first general election in 1958. In that case, anyone claiming credit now is abusing History!

Dr. Riek Machar has to be very careful or else he’d be seen as taking South Sudanese for fools. We are informed and we know who did what and when!

We have to know that neither Dr. John Garang nor Dr. Riek Machar initiated the idea of Self-determination. It was first initiated when they were either little boys or not born.

Since SPLA doctrinal core was not for the total liberation of South Sudan, any talk of Self-determination between 1983 and 1991 landed one in hot water. Those who wanted independence of South Sudan, such as Akuot Atem de Mayen, Abdalla Chuol and Gai Tut, were vilified by Garang and his core supporters.

These three men were seen as anti-revolutionary and were vilified in ‘revolutionary songs’ even if they took up arms before John Garang: twice!

Independence of the South was their core objective; something John Garang didn’t see as the primary goal of the Southern cause.

Remember, Garang wasn’t actually against South’s independence. He just didn’t think it was the right way to go about things. So self-determination wasn’t first among Garang’s ideological fronts. However, it would become one of the alternative solutions to the Sudanese problem in his famous Vend-Diagrams.

However, it has to be remembered too that Riek’s and Lam’s rebellion brought Self-Determination back into the spotlight and the mainstream political discussion all over Sudan. The duo first proposed it to Khartoumers in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1992 and later forced it through the throats of SPLA-Torit (Mainstream) in Abuja I in 1992.

Dr. John had to instruct his delegation in Abuja to accept Self-Determination to the surprise of not only the Nasir Duo but also, Garang’s allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

While Riek can be credited as having participated in bringing back Self-Determination into the Southern mainstream politics, it wasn’t Riek Machar who made it possible. Riek’s attempts failed with the failure of Nasir programs and his subsequent return to Khartoum where his only success was shameful exit and eventual return to SPLM/A under Dr. John.

Riek signed Khartoum Peace Agreement in 1997 with Beshir but that agreement was dishonored and there was no Self-Determination given to South Sudanese. Dr. Riek could have been right had Khartoum Peace Agreement brought about Self-Determination and Independence of South Sudan.

While Garang didn’t bring back the idea of Self-Determination, he was the one who made Self-Determination possible. Riek initiated the idea however; he had neither means nor political strength to bring it about. We all know Self-Determination came under the leadership of Dr. John Garang not Dr. Riek.

No one, at least conscientious ones, would deny Riek’s contribution to bringing back the idea of Self-Determination; however, it’s completely erroneous and deceptive of Dr. Riek Machar to say that he’s the one who brought Self-Determination and Independence of South Sudan.

Riek is wise enough to know where credit is due. He contributed, yes, but he failed in the path he’d chosen to bring Independence of South Sudan.

While many SPLM leaders contributed to the attainment of independence of South Sudan, it was Dr. John Garang who championed Self-Determination in the CPA and ultimately opened way for South Sudan Independence.

While President Kiir has now failed, he, together with Dr. Riek, was the one who saw that South Sudan become independent.

Riek and Lam reintroduced Self-Determination into the SPLM; Garang embraced it and championed it in the CPA; and then President Kiir made sure what Garang prepared was supervised to its logical end.

Let’s give credit where it’s due!

Kuir ë Garang is the author of ‘South Sudan Ideologically’. For contact, visit www.kuirthiy.info


  1. Bol Khan says:

    Dear Kuir,
    Your article centered deeply in South Sudanese struggle for Independence. To round it up without 1991 correction the bad path of Secular United Democratic Sudan we were being led to would have not enacted our right to Self-Determination in Sudan’s constitution of 1998 and it was for the first time in the history of Southerners’ struggle. Every successful thing has to pass through due processes. You can go and sign it in Franfurt, Wastington, come back and again go back to where you started it from, in order to tie by the rope and pull some people there. This is terms as due processes. You cannot advocate for this objective today and expect the public or your audiences to understand its opposite unless yours is not in the people’s interest. Likewise, one cannot call for unity and expect to be credit for the objective which he didn’t call for. For instance, who will be credited for the federalism or democracy South Sudanese are now fighting for and against? If it has to be successful. Salva Kiir?
    This is it.

    • MAJONGDIT says:

      Bol Khan,

      The 1991 only consolidated the unity of Sudan after Riek ended in Khartoum. Salva Kiir was a known separatist with the SPLM/A. Dr. Garang wanted people to choose, not him what is best for them between Unity and Separation. Salva Kiir made sure that what Dr. Garang stipulated in the CPA is implemented. So, there is every reason to agree with Kuir e Garang. Shukran!

  2. Bol Khan says:


    A known separatist who was busy killing separatists? Who killed those separatists like Joseph Oduho, Gai Tut and others? Two of them were doing it!

    Take it in history.

  3. Peter says:

    I have a believe if Dr. John Garang did not die prematurely, he would have contested for the presidency of The Sudan in the election of 2010 and win, and transform Sudan to his liking and South Sudan would not have separated. Dr. John Garang was fighting for the cause of all marginalised people of The Sudan and his primary objective was Unity of The Sudan under changed system of governance, where all will be equal and some not considered second class citizen in their own Country. Come to the question of who should take credit of self determination I have apportioned the credit as follow Dr. John had so many option and the flexibility required to fight and win over the enemy, Gen. Omar Bashir who ensure that South Sudanese are given their choice, Dr. Riek who brought back the call for separation, though it ended up being call self referendum instead of self determination, South Sudanese who exercise their right by voting for self determination, and Gen. Kiir and Team who supervised the overall process under emernse hardship
    from the time Dr. Garang died till 2011.

  4. Joe M says:

    Reaak Machar was thinking that he will fool south Sudanese people.calling for self deprivation while pointing his guns on his people.

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