BY: DR. PETER ADWOK NYABA, RSS, JAN/25/2014;
In a matter of two weeks, South Sudan was at the edge of the apocalypse. The insanity that continues in many places to date negates completely the spirit of solidarity and unity of purpose South Sudanese demonstrated to world on January 9th 2011 and which reverberated on July 9th at independence.
This horrible development forces on each of us to lower head in shame in the same manner our fellow citizens quickly identified themselves as American, British, Canadian, German and Australians to enable them get into the planes evacuating foreigners.
No situation remains the same. The insanity was bound to end somehow. The people of South Sudan were encouraged by the news emanating from Addis Ababa that the parties to the conflict had initialled the agreement on the Cessation of Hostilities.
My first reaction is that this was a significant breakthrough and we commend the IGAD Mediators. It is a step towards unravelling the underlying political difficulties in the SPLM. However, like any other political agreements, the test lies in the implementation.
A priori, three factors work against any meaningful results.
1. President Museveni of Uganda through his numerous statements on the internal situation in South Sudan has declared his intention to defeat Dr. Riek Machar, the leader of the SPLM Opposition. This has weakened IGAD as a neutral broker in the conflict.
President Museveni has troops deployed in South Sudan especially in Jonglei, Unity and Upper Nile states. He has military transport planes and helicopter gunships in South Sudan and two weeks may not be enough for him to withdraw his forces, if he obliged.
The question of who will foot the bill of Ugandan intervention may make Museveni to drag his feet or completely refuse to recognise the agreement on Cessation of Hostilities. This creates a condition for Bashir to intervene and complicate the whole process.
2. President Salva Kiir lacks political good will and may develop cold feet and delay the implementation of the agreement by insisting on his discredited story of a coup as a ploy to keep detaining the SPLM political leaders.
Salva Kiir is not that leader who swallows his pride. He knows that releasing the eleven detained political leaders would be a boast for Riek Machar and the SPLM Opposition.
President Salva Kiir may be afraid of the people around him who pushed him into this situation. He may try to twist the hands of IGAD Mediators to delay the implementation until he and Museveni complete their project of retaking all the ground from under the feet of Riek Machar.
3. The third and the most dangerous factor is the bitterness and urge of vengeance expressed by many Nuers, some of who witnessed the massacres in Juba. The danger with this stems from the likelihood of disobeying the orders of Riek Machar.
It is a fact that the rebellion of Peter Gadet (Bor) and James Koang (Bentiu) were spontaneous in response to the massacres in Juba. Dr. Riek Machar did not order them and even when he assumed the leadership, Riek Machar knew that these military officers acted on their own. Similarly, the White Army (jiech mabour) acted with their hearts rather than minds.
Assuming that the Monitoring and Verification Teams (MVT) will be set up and the implementation of the agreement precedes according to the letter and spirit then definitely the IGAD Mediation process shifts to tackling underlying political causes. This will by no means be simple.
The SPLM has always been the problem to the point I said sometimes ago that the SPLM must be saved from itself before it plunged South Sudan into the abyss.
The problem of the SPLM stems from its history of extreme militarism and lack of political ideology and organization. ‘Militarism’ is what military action degenerates into when envisaged and executed outside the context of its political purpose, to paraphrase Debray. The history of the SPLM/SPLA reveals the astounding reality of dissociating the military and political functions that has now led to the mutilation of both institutions. This led to a distortion of its development trajectory as a national liberation movement.
The lack of political ideology and organization registered in the failure to build democratic institutions in the SPLM reflected in dysfunctionality of the SPLM led government of South Sudan since 2005.
The SPLM adopted archaic ideology, which promoted Dinka ethnic dominance and hegemony in all aspects of social, economic and political life of the country. Promoting ethnic ideology in a modern state constitute a serious contradiction and this explains the SPLM failure to build accountable instruments of governance since 2005.
The tragic death of Dr. John Garang in 2005 at a time the SPLM had just thrust itself onto unfamiliar domain of governing compounded the predicament of South Sudan. What we saw on January 9th, 2011 could not, seriously speaking, be counted on the political work of the SPLM. The people demonstrated their anger with north Sudan and therefore voted to become independent.
The SPLM under the leadership of General Salva Kiir Mayardit failed in nine years to stamp its vision on the reality of South Sudan. It was a leadership style very close to his village in Akon and conditioned by the ethnic/clan politics, in which ethnic and clan leadership took centre stage in the affairs of the state.
For the first time in the SPLM, we heard of ‘Bahr el Ghazal elders’ making a ring around Salva Kiir’s leadership of South Sudan. In this respect, Dr. John Garang was an angel because he surrounded himself with South Sudanese people from all walks of life even the then Bor Mafia found it difficult to influence things in Garang’s court.
Salva Kiir’s leadership configuration was the very unmaking of South Sudan. It clipped the SPLM wings preventing its transformation from a liberation movement to a progressive political party.
The government of South Sudan operated without programme and clear objectives. The only means of institutionalization was ethnic or regional. We would hear of serious crimes committed and yet nobody brought to books especially if the culprits hailed from Dinka Rek of Gogrial and Awiel.
President Salva Kiir’s zero tolerance to corruption stopped when it came nearer home. The President surrounded himself with people from his home turf who virtually transformed South Sudan into a limited liability enterprise, which informalized the state institutions to facilitate the looting of its resources.
President Salva Kiir’s leadership of South Sudan conditioned by the menagerie politics of Dinka Rek animals of Gogrial and Awiel (Awan, Agwok, Apuk and Kuach) was bound to generate serious problems. The current civil strife is a proof that this leadership has a narrow base and therefore cannot meet the aspiration of all the people of South Sudan.
This brings me to the question of ‘what should be done’ to get the country moving again. What pops up is the intricacy of the situation, which tells us that we require multi-layered solutions, and that we should stop thinking ‘inside the box’.
First, although the underlying political contradictions were essentially internal to the SPLM only that now it acquired a national dimension, which renders it doubtful to resolve in the context of maintaining the status quo.
Perhaps had President Salva Kiir not resorted to military action on December 15th, 2013, the then political discourse within the SPLM would have resulted in a peaceful split into two factions. That stage has been overtaken by the violence and mass killings.
Secondly, any thinking along the lines of holding the election in 2015 is not realistic. It would mean restarting afresh the conflict ended by the agreement on cessation of hostilities.
South Sudan will remain in state of conflict unless something radical is constructed. This radical something must factor in the international context of South Sudan.
South Sudan became independent under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter vide UN Security Council Resolution 1966 of July 8, 2011. In a space of two years, the fragile state slided into anarchy and chaos, making its failure almost complete.
There is no national army; what we have are ethnic troops. The state institutions of governance and law and order including the Judiciary have lost their national character. The internal legitimacy of the state has been challenged and this automatically affects its sovereignty.
To salvage the country we need to think outside the box. There would be need to forgo sovereignty for a period of five years during which the sovereignty of South Sudan reverts to UN stewardship under revamped UNMISS mandate. This would require deployment of a huge multinational UN force to undertake the complete disarmament of the armies and the civil population.
In the five years period, establish government of technocrats and professional with the assistance of some African countries like Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, etc.
This government of technocrats under the stewardship of the UN to be tasked with reconstruction of South Sudanese state and to establish its institutions of governance:
• Build a new depoliticized and professional new army comprising all the ethnic communities of South Sudan and imbued with national values of patriotism;
• Build a depoliticized, professional new police force and security organs;
• Build a professional depoliticized civil service;
• Build professional and depoliticized local government very close to the people;
• Build the physical infrastructure or roads, schools, hospitals, electricity and hydroelectric power generation; undertake extensive political education and enlightenment to raise the social awareness and political consciousness that in five years the citizen in South Sudan is informed of their rights and responsibilities;
• Build a robust economy developing and exploiting the vast natural resources of South Sudan especially in agriculture, livestock, forestry, fisheries, etc;
• Build the necessary political infrastructure in terms of procedures, regulations and laws that guide the organization and action of political parties.
These are points for discussion, which require further research. Many people are very hostile to the idea of sovereignty reverting to the UN but they cannot provide answers for unlocking the situation posed by the existence of a failed state and the ongoing civil war in the country.
I believe the oil revenue could be used to fund the process, which emphasizes accountability and transparency in the use of these resources to create accountable system of government. At least it would be better than continued strife and the emerging situation of war of all against all.
Peter Adwok Nyaba
Juba, January 25th, 2014