BY: Taban Abel Aguek, State MP, RUMBEK, APR/18/2015, SSN;
In a press conference in Juba last week, the leader of South Sudan Opposition Party SPLM–DC, Dr Lam Akol, criticized the government of South Sudan on being against the West. The issue seems to weave around the involvement of TROIKA in the upcoming IGAD Plus talks in Addis Ababa. The Government has since made its position clear that TROIKA should only be involved in an observer role, and nothing else. And for that, the government spelled out its concerns which are convincing to the South Sudanese public.
I believe this position of the government on TROIKA’s role is what Dr Lam has perceived as being against the West. Those people who know Dr. Lam well are now left confused on seeing him swap his attitudes towards the West in 2015.
Dr. Lam, by the time he was National Minister for Foreign Affairs – was a hard critique of the West. Both Lam and Beshir had to depend on Russia and China to thwart the West’s effort for peace and civilians protection in Darfur in 2006.
Now that Dr Lam publicly condemns the government of South Sudan on being harsh to the same West that he used to scorn upon during our days of the ‘united Sudan’ is quite interesting. Perhaps, it does justify the long-held notion that in politics “there are no permanent enemies, but only permanent interests”.
That remains that. But what is trending now is the developing perception among the South Sudan’s public that Dr. Lam Akol might have developed the ‘strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Hyde’.
This was coined from the novel by a Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, “The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”. And it is commonly associated with the rare mental condition often called “split personality”, referred to in psychiatry as dissociative identity disorder, where within the same body there exists more than one distinct personality.
Now this has been taken to describe a person who is vastly different in moral character from one situation to another.
In politics it becomes even much worse. If one cannot agree with himself, then how does he expect people to agree with him? I heard him speak over the Miraya FM the other day and there he made me think about how many faces he has changed over the period he has been in contact with our national issues.
As mentioned earlier, in the prime years of the CPA, when Dr Lam Akol was a powerful Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Government of National Unity, he was a hard critic of the West.
I remember one of the hotly contested issues between the West and Sudan was whether the UN should deploy its forces in Darfur or not. President Beshir opted to term the UN civilian protection in Darfur as an invasion of a ‘sovereign’ state of Sudan. And Dr. Lam worked for him and agreed with him even when he said that he would ‘rather lead the war against a foreign invasion than allowing them abuse the sovereignty of the Sudan’.
The person that was doing all the shuttle diplomacy was none other than Dr. Lam Akol on behalf of President Beshir. Both Dr Lam and President Beshir lost faith in the West; and therefore, they inclined to go to the East and got sanctuary in China and Russia. Yet, in doing that, he was going contrary to the position of his then nominating party, SPLM and the then semi autonomous government in Juba.
In one of his diplomatic trips abroad, Dr. Lam claimed having achieved ‘victory’ on behalf of the Beshir’s NCP when he came back with a green light for the formation of dysfunctional hybrid force “UNAMID” for Darfur. Judged by current events, the deployment of UNAMID became a victory to Khartoum and a bad loss to the people of Darfur.
Working for Sudan Tribune Daily Newspaper in Khartoum, which some circles claimed was sponsored by Dr. Lam himself; I had no any other avenue to lodge my pleas than to take to the internet. I wrote an article titled, “South Sudan: dumped in the mouths of some Khartoum SPLM Traitors” and it was posted in Sudan Tribune.
The SPLM traitor was Dr. Lam Akol and his associates that benefitted from CPA but allowed themselves to be used as walking sticks by the same old foe – the NCP.
I thought Dr Lam would stick to his old hard criticism against the West. Or else he needs to tell us what made him change his mind now to be a sympathizer of the same West he stood against during the days he was serving as a minister of Foreign Affairs in a united Sudan.
That Dr. Lam has changed face to be a supporter of the same West he fought fiercely against is to me a surprise. That is Dr. Lam’s Change of face number two.
One may wonder why this should be change of face number two. Get it here again fast tracked! Dr. Lam was the architect of the document known to most literate South Sudanese as “Why Garang must Go!”.
Together with Riek Machar they decided to launch a ‘bush coup’ against Dr. John Garang. They proudly announced a coup which did not only end in shambles but, like the current war, caused skirmishes and reduced gains of SPLM/A and South Sudan.
Dr Lam, few months after accepting to work under Riek, opted to form his own party in complete betrayal to Riek. He failed to work with Dr Garang, chose Dr Riek and divorced him again in a very short time.
That represented swapping of faces in very short time by him but we can call it Dr. Lam’s Change of face number one that we came to know.
Shortly after the failed coup in Juba on December 2013, Dr Lam Akol appeared to condemn the actions of Dr Riek Machar. He got the public support to lead the team of opposition parties at the Addis Ababa talks.
But a few days into the talks Dr Lam changed immediately from standing with South Sudanese public position to confusingly spreading his legs over on the IGAD proposals and bilaterally chose also to hold ‘secret’ meetings with Dr. Riek Machar.
Maybe those people who argue that he was lured into an idea that both President Kiir and Dr Riek will not be allowed to participate in the transitional government impacted his decision.
But still he could have been advised but he took the decision. That might have prompted him to lodge himself into possibility of replacing Kiir as the President of South Sudan.
From condemning the coup to supporting Riek, Dr Lam left many of South Sudanese confused. That is Change of face number three!
It was all announced that South Sudan wanted to hold elections in June this year. But backed up by the International Community and Civil Society Organizations, Dr Lam led a campaign against the conduct of elections. Dr Lam even went further by leading a coalition of political parties to court to challenge the decision.
South Sudan, under that pressure, rescinded the decision to hold elections. But the decision not to hold elections also carried legal implications. There is no way elections can be called off and put nothing in the vacuum. That would lead to constitutional crisis.
The best way to accommodate the peace talks without a constitutional vacuum is seeking the parliamentary extension of the term of the Government and parliament to give room for Addis Ababa negotiations with a legitimate ruling system.
That there was one Dr Lam Akol who asked for postponement of elections and the same Dr Lam who again opposed the suspension of elections represents an amusing change of mind in the swiftest of time. Change of face number four!
Dr Lam Akol ought to know – and I believe he knows – that the South Sudanese he is dealing with are not the same South Sudanese of the last decades. If Britain were to colonize South Sudan today, they would have found it very difficult. There is no way we can allow any move to go uncalculated and people are so vigilant nowadays.
It is a fact that Dr. Lam has been relevant with the South Sudanese politics since the inception of SPLM. It is a big credit to South Sudan and Democracy that there has always been an opposing voice.
According to me, that is healthy politics. But it must be noted that criticism must rightfully be placed. And one should not oppose just for the sake of being in opposition.
The Opposition and all the groups that led a campaign against the holding of elections should not look at the extension of government as means for Kiir to earn extra years in power. Rather, it should be viewed as a concession by the government.
President Beshir of Sudan has been constantly extending his rule through bogus elections. South Sudan has tried to avoid such a case. Kiir would have contested elections and likely win a five year term in office.
But the decision to delay elections was taken to give time for peace negotiations. By God’s grace, if the final peace deal is signed, then its terms may take complete precedence to what was done by parliament.
Someone needs to tell me how we can pass peace documents without a functioning Assembly? We need the assembly to enact into law the agreed terms of the peace agreement.
South Sudan is not against the West as alleged by Dr Lam. It’s him who holds records for being so ardently against the West. For him to change sides now is simply foxing.
Nevertheless, Dr. Lam Akol is a role model for so many young people. He is indeed a capable leader. But the society we are in is one of the most difficult ones. Every act is placed under a scrutiny. Therefore, one needs to calculate his actions and take decisions that garner the public support and then stay by them.
To change is not bad, but to keep changing is not healthy. It’s high time that Dr. Lam tries to make up his mind and tell us one thing. South Sudanese should not be told to move to the sun and when they are there, someone again says come to the moon.
Taban Abel Aguek works in Rumbek – South Sudan as a member of State Legislative Assembly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org