BY: Agok Takping, Australia, MAY/30/2016, SSN;
In a more comical and dramatic way possible, vice president James Igga and Taban Deng Gai hold their hands up in the air while kneeling down in a rally in Nairobi, presumably begging South Sudanese to forgive them as SPLM leaders. On his part, Dr. Riek Machar went to Emmanuel Jieeng church in Juba and told the congregation that the people of South Sudan must now head towards the path of reconciliation while on the same podium, he tried to justify his side of the story to what started the war.
President Kiir and many other government officials have been talking to South Sudanese about reconciliation as well. Undoubtedly, reconciliation is a much-needed process that must start immediately so that we can start rebuilding our country as brothers and sisters.
However, I feel that although the hatred between the Nuer and many other tribes in greater Equatoria Versus Dinka has been gradually growing, the people who really need reconciliation first and foremost are SPLM/IO and SPLM/IG.
We all know that the tension between SPLM/IO and SPLM/IG forces mostly in former Unity state has always been high and still is. The soldiers there don’t see eye to eye. The same is true across greater Upper Nile.
It was less than a little over a week after the formation of the unity government that the SPLM/IG and SPLM/IO forces clashed not far from Bentiu, of course, both sides denied being the instigator.
However, it was extremely worrying to see the SPLM/IO military spokesman boasting about how they beat the government forces and captured some AK47s and PKMs, the man was in Juba and he was reporting with arrogance as if he is not living together with the so-called enemy.
Dr. Riek’s bodyguards feel like “today” will be their last day every time they go to work with their boss, they are in a maximum alert. They don’t trust the government soldiers, deep down in their minds and hearts they believe they can be attacked at any time, they think that the SPLM/IG is out to “kill” their leader.
This is exemplified by the incident in Nuer Presbyterian church in Juba few weeks back, it was reported that Dr. Riek’s bodyguards ordered the church’s car park to be cleared so that their motorcade is the only one parking there.
In a church attended by the former chief of staff of unifying SPLA forces, Gen Hoth Mai, it was a worrying development because the other bodyguards of other Generals were armed to the teeth too.
On the government side, although Kiir bodyguards see themselves stronger and feel ready to “fight off with ease the SPLM/IO attack”, the same is true, they too feel that SPLM/IO have an agenda. Thank God, we are still sluggishly sailing forward without major incident but it just shows you who really need to reconcile with who.
The SPLM/IO want to have cantonment areas for their forces in Bhar el Ghazal and Equatoria not because the forces in those cantonment areas will bring peace, it is purely for the anticipation of war. The SPLM/IO leadership have not openly stated that fact but that is a strategy behind their insistence to have bases in those areas.
This is because in their calculation, the likelihood of war breaking out again between the two SPLMs is very high, therefore, to have a base in both Bhar el Ghazal and Equatoria means that they will have multiple fronts across the country and not just being concentrated in greater upper Nile again like previously.
The SPLM/IG too is predicting a war and so they are not willing to give the SPLM/IO bases in Bhar el Ghazal and Equatoria because they want the SPLM/IO to be in Juba and their previous areas like Pagak, Akobo and other areas in Greater upper Nile.
The SPLM/IG don’t want another front in the contested two regions mentioned. Without that being solved and dusted (albeit hearsay they reached an agreement on it), the leadership of the two rogue SPLMs has no moral right to talk to South Sudanese about reconciliation.
The flippancy on both SPLM/IO and SPLM/IG is there for all to see but the leadership on both sides choose not to rectify it. Instead, they are inconsiderately trying to make us (the average) South Sudanese feel that reconciliation needs to start with us?
My leaders, what are they smoking really? Someone must tell them that do your job first by making sure to reconcile amongst yourselves before coming to lecture us about reconciliation.
What both Kiir and his two Vice Presidents should do is to exchange their direct phone numbers and talk directly to each other. They both need to have one weekend together drinking beer and eating some roasted goat meat at Kiir’s Luri get-away ranch in the outskirts of Juba.
Their respective bodyguards need to have a trust building weekly, get together where they will play some sports, eat together and make personal friendship with each other, in simple, make them feel like they are brothers who are just working to make a living but not some tribal guards carrying out the ancestral duties.
Dr. Riek and his chief of Gen staff, Gen Dual, should visit Bilpham SPLA HQ and address the army there, yes those are the people who need to be lectured about army to army reconciliation.
General Malong did that and I congratulate him for being a leader who knows his exact job description.
People (Lado Gore and Makuei Lueth) who had their tongues cut through the veins of the either opposing sides need to join the course too and visit army barracks, not churches.
When the SPLM/IO forces in Juba are fully reconciled with SPLM/IG forces, then the next phase is for both leaders to go to Bentiu, Akobo, Nasir, Pagak and all major towns in greater Equatoria using the same plane and holding rallies together there.
As they visit various army units along the way, they will need to instruct all heads of armies divisions for both IO and IG in greater Upper Nile to exchange their satellite phone numbers so that they can quickly notify each other if an incident has or is about to occur among their forces.
In fact, there is nothing that should stop the IO soldiers near Bentiu to go to the city individually and buy things from the market, the same should be the case with IG forces near Akobo. I mean if we are indeed doing everything for reconciliation.
In conclusion, our leaders, especially Dr. Riek, need to define their objectives first before executing them. Going to the church as an average Christian whose aim is to worship God is one thing, however, it is another to go to the church and talk politics.
Now is not the time for the campaign. But if Dr. Riek is truly looking for reconciliation, he should first look up in the dictionary the meaning of the word itself and define it, reconciliation means giving up your position on the issue and instead talking about something that everyone will perceive as reconciliatory.
Going to the church and arguing your point and justifying your stance the way you have always believed it, is not reconciliation.
Dr. Riek or Salva must stop lecturing people about their side of the story in the 2013 war. They need to swallow their egos and have each go to the church and tell the congregation only two words: “I am sorry”.
That’s what leaders do, right?
I am not urging anyone to go to the church and say sorry but if Dr. Riek thinks the church is a place to meet people, then he must only go there and say sorry and the same is truer for Kirr and Wanni as well.
The average South Sudanese are powerless, therefore, it matters not whether we reconcile or not. True reconciliation will come in South Sudan when president Kiir reconciles fully with Dr. Riek because they are the ones who have the power to start and stop the war.