The Roadmap for the SPLM & South Sudan crises

BY: Agok Takpiny, AUSTRALIA, JAN/28/2014, SSN;

To anyone who has lost a family member, a friend or a relative in the ongoing futile war, please accept my humble and sincere condolences. The past month had been particularly difficult in our short history as a sovereign country. Our country is bleeding, innocent people are dying everywhere. It is hurting us all, emotions are running high, our diversity is severely being tested, and neutrality is gradually eroding (mine has gone), sectarianism is knocking hard at each of our doors.

Nonetheless, we cannot afford to let our emotions takeover, it is our collective responsibility to help our leaders to find a common ground and mitigate the unfolding catastrophe.

Isaac Newton in his famous discovery of gravitational force once said “what goes up must come down”, we can put this analogy in other way, and that is: “what starts must stop”, let us take comfort in that and hope that the current madness in our country will stop, it will stop. The recently signed ceasefire, although only on the paper offers us hope for the settlement of the crises.

However, when the war finally stops and negotiations continue, we ought not to repeat the same mistake again as was the case during the struggle, I am talking about the SPLM way of doing business.

During the struggle, Dr Garang’s sole focus was to win the battles and finally the war itself. There was little attempt or preparation in anticipation of becoming a government.

All the decisions were made by Dr Garang unaided, some junior officers (the likes of Pagan Amum, Deng Alor, Nhial Deng etc) were granted powers to report directly to Dr Garang himself, thus bypassing a chain of command in-between.

It was the creation of that loop which led to Dr Riek’s first rebellion, many other high ranking SPLM members have tried to correct it but perished in the process.

The 2004 feud between Dr Garang and Salva Kiir was also because of that infamous loop. Nevertheless, like Dr Garang, the duo (Kiir and Riek) failed to rectify the SPLM constitution in their eight (8) years tenure.

Many expected the 2008 convention to be a perfect avenue to deliberate and pass a comprehensive SPLM constitution, but it wasn’t to be, everybody was happy, the money was “abundantly” accessible, and you could hear them saying “oh well who cares, we are working and prowling as much money as we possibly can, so why bother about the SPLM party constitutional refinement”.

In fact they drafted and passed the constitution that says nothing about the seat of chairmanship of the party.

In an ideal world, a world where everything makes sense, we would question the integrity of each of our leaders, however, in our world (South Sudanese world) nothing seems to make sense, therefore we can only propose what we see as a way forward.

The editor of the magnificent platform (southsudannation.com) where we share ideas, wrote a very good article few months ago about the SPLM internal feud in which he blamed the December 6th group for their insistence to be part of the SPLM and not forming their own party if they are dissatisfied with the way the party is being run.

Again, in a perfect world, this would make sense, you cannot start a civil war because of party’s internal power struggle, people within one party are meant to be like brothers and sisters, they are supposed to have a single agenda (party’s mission statement).

Yes, differences do often befall but they are resolved in the closet caucus meetings, a complete deadlock usually forced some members to join other parties or form a brand new party or stay independent.

However, in our case, SPLM is the only popular party, it doesn’t need a brainer to figure it out that whoever enters the presidential race through SPLM ticket would most certainly be a president.

Therefore, it is for these reasons that allowed me to come up with a new approach that could prevent future feuds within the SPLM party which usually affects the country at large.

The new approach

The new approach will not only look at how SPLM part should be overhauled, some senior members of the SPLM Party need to quit politics altogether to allow the cultural change.

However before we discuss what the SPLM should do, let us firstly look at the history of the Australia Labour Party (ALP) and see if we can find something that we can copy or modify in salvaging the SPLM.

The history of the Australia Labour Party (ALP)
Founded in 1901, the ALP is Australia’s oldest political party. The ALP mission statement reads: “Labour’s commitment to fairness at work, access to quality education no matter what a person’s circumstances and a firm belief that we should all have the same opportunities in life underpin what we do”.

To fulfil their mission statement, the Labour party created what they called Labour movement. At its broadest, the movement can be defined as encompassing the industrial wing,-the unions in Australia, and the political wing-the Australia Labour Party (ALP) and minor parties. Like most political cliques, power groupings and factions exists.

Since the mid-1950s, a body known as the Combined Branches’ and Unions’ Steering Committee had been in existence. This was essentially an umbrella group for those who opposed the Catholic-dominated leadership of the ALP.

The Steering Committee had its genesis in the 1955 Split which saw a group of Labour members leave to form the anti-communist Democratic Labour Party (DLP). The original tenacity of the Steering Committee was to oppose the role which the DLP-influenced Industrial Groups played in the ALP.

From the 1950s onwards, however, the grouping that was to become the state of NSW right-faction maintained its tight control over the Labour Party…The year of 1971 was important in the evolution of the NSW left-faction. It was the year the ALP’s Federal Executive had ordered an inquiry into the conduct of the NSW Branch.

The report, written by Federal President Tom Burns, was highly critical of the Party leadership, revealing ‘contempt for proper procedures in financial dealings and the pursuit of factional advantage in a variety of practices, including stacking of annual conferences, instances of bias by the conference chairman especially on pre-selections of delegates.

The leadership of the NSW ALP had no alternative but to introduce proportional representation, a step which proved to be critical in institutionalising a role for the Left-faction.

Proportional representation applied to the election of delegates to the Federal Conference, the Federal Executive, the Administrative Committee, machinery committees, policy committees and (most importantly) to the election of two salaried Assistant Secretaries.

This meant that, so long as it won over one-third of the vote at the 1971 State Conference, the Left would gain a full-time paid officer of the ALP.
The position of Assistant Secretary has remained a vital one for the Left faction. After leaving the job, the Assistant Secretary has typically moved into the Federal parliament.

As portrait herein, the majority of Australian federal MPs enter the House of Representatives or senate through (either left faction or right faction) unions. Problematically, when one faction gain the majority in either the federal or state labour party caucus, they become power brokers.

For example, the state of NSW (Australian largest state) had three premiers in the last term (2007-2012) of Labour government. The “revolving door leadership”, as it was nicknamed, although particularly more apparent in the state of NSW, it finally reached the federal labour party leadership in 2010.

In June 2010, Australian Labor Party leader and Prime Minister Mr Kevin Rudd, was ousted by his caucus in a leadership challenge won by Rudd’s Deputy Prime Minister Ms Julia Gillard, who then became both party leader and Prime Minister.

Less than two years later, history appears to be repeating itself, with Rudd now challenging Gillard’s leadership of the party. Gillard announced a ballot for the party’s leadership… Mr. Rudd’s challenge failed, and Ms. Gillard successfully held off the challenge, winning by 71 votes to 31 votes for Rudd.

After the leadership ballot, Kevin Rudd moved to the back bench (junior MP) and gave his word to his colleagues that he will support the prime minister fully.

However, it wasn’t to be, Mr Rudd launched a proxy silent campaign through some of his disgruntled colleagues who lost their jobs due to their support to him during the leadership challenge. The relentless proxy campaign by Kevin Rudd to get his old job back proved to be a major obstacle for the Prime Minister Ms Julia Gillard to sell her policies to the Australian public.

Consequently, her popularity plummeted. As the 2013 general election approaches, polls indicated that the opposition (current prime minister) party (Liberal) would win the election in a land slide. The pitiable polls numbers for Julia Gillard trigger a panic among ALP MPs who fear that they could lose their jobs.

This made the powerbrokers to reinstalled Rudd to the top job a second time with the hope that he would help the ALP to win a respectable number of seats. And without shame they ousted Julia Gilard in a leadership challenge held on the 26th of June 2013 which Rudd won 58-41.

The ALP new rules

Kevin Rudd, after returning to the prime ministership a second time, forced through changes to the Labour rules to give ordinary party members a say in the leadership, not just Labour parliamentarians.

How much say do grassroots members have?
Under the new changes of ALP rules, if there’s a ballot between two or more contenders for the leadership, the votes of tens of thousands of grassroots (ALP registered) members will be weighted at 50 per cent and the remaining 50 per cent will be based on the vote of the parliamentary caucus.

This gives the rank-and-file members collectively an equal say to the caucus.

How does it work? Candidates for leadership must be nominated by at least 20 per cent of caucus members. If there is more than one candidate, a ballot will be held among all party members. Candidates will have a week to nominate. The rank-and-file ballot may take up to 30 days.

It is understood a combined percentage would be calculated for each candidate, based on halving the percentage result among grassroots members and halving the caucus percentage.

Optional preferential voting would come into play if there were more than two contenders. The votes for the least popular would be exhausted with member preferences allocated to the ones still in the race.

How to remove the leader?
Under the new rules, intended to promote leadership stability, a leadership vote will follow an ALP election loss. At other times, a vote on the leader can occur if the leader resigns or requests a ballot, or at least 75 per cent of caucus members demand one on the grounds the current leader has brought the party into disrepute. The threshold is only 60 per cent when Labour is in opposition.

Now, 75 per cent of caucus will need to sign a petition to force a challenge to a serving prime minister and 60 per cent to an opposition leader. Those hurdles will have a dramatic impact on the extent to which incumbent leaders face the threat of dismissal. Inevitably, leaders enjoy a degree of natural protection.

The SPLM rules

The 2008 SPLM constitution (available on SPLM website) is more explicit on how to elect various seats-i.e. from SPLM general secretary to Boma level. However what is not explicit in the document is how to elect the SPLM leader (chairman).

By all accounts, this is the genesis of SPLM afflictions which has now sprawled out of control.

Again in a normal world where everything makes sense, when creating an organisational constitution, the seat (i.e. processes needed to elect a leader, his/her powers and limitations, the term of office) of the head of an organisation (which would be the chairman in SPLM case) is usually explicitly explained right from the beginning of the document.

However, in our world (South Sudanese world) nothing makes sense, we don’t see far ahead and devise mechanism to mitigate potential problems.

And again in a normal world where everything makes sense, we (citizens) would question the integrity of our leaders.

Who wrote the SPLM constitution?

Have they leaders deliberated on it, if so how could they fail to see that by not including the process of electing the chairman in the constitution would cause problems in the future?

Nevertheless, as I said earlier, I am not here to criticise as many people have exhausted that avenue numerously but without tangible solution.

The purpose of this article is to find a way-out and hopefully solve this mess permanently.

New rules the SPLM should adapt
Like the ALP (Australia Labour Party), the SPLM Party should give the grassroots an equal say in electing the SPLM leadership.

How does it work?
Just like ALP rules, candidates for leadership should be nominated by at least 20 per cent of caucus members (SPLM elected MPs). If there is more than one candidate, a ballot will be held among two thousand (200 from each of the ten states) randomly selected party members.

Candidates will have a week to nominate. The rank-and-filed ballot may take up to two weeks. A combined percentage would be calculated for each candidate, based on halving the percentage results among grassroots members and halving the caucus percentage.

Optional preferential voting would come into play if there were more than two contenders. The votes for the least popular would be exhausted with member preferences allocated to the ones still in the race.

How to remove the leader?
Again, like the ALP new rules, intended to promote leadership stability, a leadership vote will follow an SPLM election loss.

However, since it is unlikely in the foreseeable future for the SPLM to lose the election, the best option would be eight (8) years nonrenewal term expiry.

At other times, a vote on the leader can occur if the leader resigns or requests a ballot, or at least 75 per cent of caucus members demand one on the grounds the current leader has brought the party into disrepute. The threshold would only be 60 per cent in the unlikely event of SPLM in opposition.

These hurdles would have a dramatic impact on the extent to which incumbent leaders face the threat of dismissal. Inevitably, leaders enjoy a degree of natural protection.

Cultural change

After assuming prime ministership a second time and forced through changes to ALP rules, Kevin Rudd and almost all senior ALP members including Julia Gilard quit politics altogether. They did that to allow the ALP cultural change and to save the party’s image from further demise.

Comparably if the SPLM senior members love their party and would want it to continue to govern the people of South Sudan, they should quit politics.

Incentives

The very top senior SPLM members (1) Salva Kiir, (2) James Wani, (3) Riek Machar, (4) Kuol Manyang, and (5) Daniel Awet Akot, should all quit politics in order for the cultural change to take place within the SPLM Party. However for that to be possible, there must be some incentives for them to do so.

Therefore, in my opinion Salva Kiir would be granted $130,000 per year, two personal assistants, four security personnel and four free worldwide travel tickets per year. This would be enshrined into the constitution so that any subsequent president is eligible after he or she left the presidency whether through election defeat or after expiry of their terms. Salva Kiir would continue until the end of his term which is late 2015.

Both Riek and Wani should get $80,000 per year for 21 years, one assistant personnel and security personnel. This category would not be repeated once the duo are dead.

Both Kuol and Awet should get $70,000 per year for the rest of their lives. This would be enshrined into the constitution so that any MP who served for six (6) years or more in the parliament and at the age of 60 or more years older is eligible.

The PB
Politico Bureau (PB) must be abolished and let the cabinet carry out those tasks of politico bureau instead. The PB to the SPLM is the same as union factions is to the Australia Labour Party (ALP) which I have talked about earlier.

But in the case of the ALP, the union factions (faceless men as they were known here) have their “teeth” removed by Kevin Rudd when he changed the ALP rules and introduced the grassroots participation. The PB if allowed to continue would usually hold the party leader (president) to ransom.

Indicatively, Riek Machar and the group base their case against the president on the issue that PB be allowed to set the convention’s agenda, however the president saw that he would never benefit from the agenda that the members of the PB whom he (president) believed have been lobbied and controlled by the former Vice President.

This led to the dismantling of the PB, and since that day, Riek and the group realised that the dismantling of the PB was a move by the president against them, although the gas was building up and just waiting to explode, the dismantling of the PB was the ignition point of the current crisis.

The NLC
National Liberation Council should be abolished or made into upper house (senate) instead. The word “liberation” here is divisive, those never physically participated in the 21 years struggle would always feel like outsiders in that branch.

It is high time now for South Sudanese to select the wording of their institutions so that every South Sudanese can feel comfortable and free to build the country.

Divisive statements

The statement “We are the ones who fought/liberated this country” should be ban and whoever is caught saying it should be punished for that.

Although other sections fought more than others in the liberation of South Sudan, the “we fought for this country and now is our time to eat” has helped sow the seeds of hatred and division in our country and this is helping no one.

The SPLA

I have seen somewhere on the internet the suggestion by some South Sudanese that the army should be equally distributed among many tribes in South Sudan to preclude one tribe from controlling the army as they could in some point hold the country to ransom.

This is a very good suggestion, however, it is true that not everyone wants to be in the army, some tribes want to achieve their dreams through other jobs, hence, we would never balance it (the army) based on tribes as we would love to.

For me, high School certificate should be a minimum prerequisite for the entry into the army. Army general should have a diploma or higher. There must be a specific number of the army, for example, the parliament could debate and make a law that determine how many regular soldiers should South Sudan have (e.g. 100k to 300k) and reserves of 100k.

A data base that keeps the record have to be created to record a loss of a soldier and the system that reminds the generals about the need for the replacement.

Every single soldier must know the constitution and the role that the army play in the country, an oath that would deter soldiers from aligning or giving their loyalty to individual generals or politicians would be developed and soldiers made to pledge their loyalty to the country instead of the tribal leaders.

Reconciliation

All elected members in all levels should be tasked to preach peace and encourage reconciliation, they have to be consistent with what they say, and they should hold rallies in their localities regularly.

In addition, a South African type of reconciliation commission should be established. We would love to bring the perpetrators to justice but I am afraid this would not help us move forward, truth is Riek Machar would never be allowed by his supporters to face justice in South Sudan, this is the same to Salva Kiir.

Therefore we would only hope that the ICC would be the one to take them on but not anyone in South Sudan as it will only complicate the matter further.

What the SPLM need to know
Every government eventually becomes moribund and needs to be replaced – witness and despair at the spectacle of current madness, SPLM would not survive with absolutely no will or administrative procedure for renewal.

The SPLM now is seen as a party of noble aspiration which has been reduced to a hollow shell by the selfish and self-regarding.

My advice to SPLM especially Salva Kiir is this: if there are any people in your ranks who have integrity and strength of character, have the common touch, listen to the people, eschew any avant-garde social activism and have the welfare of this country and its people as their primary objective, then select them to carry forward the vision of the SPLM.

Personally I would lobby for the current governor of Western Equatoria to be the next president of South Sudan because his hard work is what we need.

South Sudanese
The expansion of the electronic media allows most South Sudanese to have good capacity for comment and debate. We can email our comments on statements they (SPLM leaders) make and become more active in our discussions about topics, not kind of discussions I usually see on sudantribune.com.

It would be useful if the journalists facilitate our involvement by mechanisms like southsudannation.com. We have a great country and it is us, the electorate to keep it that way.

We have to let go of the habits of constantly backing some leaders and continuously bagging the others along tribal lines.

Agok Takpiny

4 Comments

  1. malith Alier says:

    Good and less controversial.

  2. Sam says:

    Yes Agok, you also have a good idea and love to this country, we all could make a difference if we can take the last statement in your article serious and I quote, “We have to let go of the habits of constantly backing some leaders and continuously bagging the others along tribal lines”. I want to add something small on this statement, there are more other monsters like tribal agendas at the expense of National good, corruption, non respect to the rule of law, economic security, food security, and provision of basic services to mention a few. Until we are able to realize that we need to correct the attitude and embrace all these concepts the road ahead is tough. Unfortunately our leaders know all these facts.

  3. alex says:

    I enjoys reading your piece it,s very articulate and balance

  4. Wani Lado says:

    Congratulations, South Sudan can still win if we have people like you.

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