By J. Omunu, OCT/02/2015, SSN;
According to George Santayana, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Such a description best befits the character of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which is mired in bitter internal bickering endless animosity.
Specifically, its recent political history that favored a top-down approach in decision- making, which was very much controlled by the then party Chairman, Dr. John Garang, tends to frustrate intra-party democracy. Incensed by socialist ideology, Dr. Garang himself argued fervently against political pluralism and inclusivity. This came about after a protracted liberation struggle during which pro-democracy advocates within the movement were either tortured and killed or sidelined.
It is worth noting that the SPLM has always been dominated and sustained by powerful individuals with no shared common ideology, vision or strategy.
A good case in point, all administrative decision-making processes today rest entirely with the office of President Salva Kiir doubling as Chairman of SPLM, who makes nearly all unilaterally and single-handedly major decisions on a wide range of issues affecting the party and the populace.
Under such circumstances, anarchy becomes the order of business. Thus, egoism, greed and insatiable appetite for power among the ruling élite, are some of the major quandaries that impede the democratization process in the country.
This contradiction has considerably undermined the initial main objective of the SPLM/A liberation struggle in a manner that justified armed revolution in the first place.
The SPLM/A’s 1993 manifesto states that its objective was the construction of foundation for democratization a new Sudan based on equality, freedom, economic and social justice and respect for human rights. The SPLM/A declared also itself to be committed to fight discrimination, eradicate tribalism and sectionalism.
With Dr. John Garang’s tragic death, the SPLM’s principals began to consolidate political power for those in leadership positions. An extreme tribal clique from the President’s ethnic group (Dinka) evolved into the ruling elite that surrounds President Salva Kiir.
Some of this elite was even ‘in bed’ with the former ‘enemies’ across South Sudan’s northern border, whom SPLM pundits nicknamed ‘Jallaba’ or ‘colonialists’. This group started to drag the ruling party out of its reform agenda, and manipulated the interim constitution development process in order to secure their hold onto power.
A good number of these party wing nuts won’t compromise on anything positive and aimed at moving the new country forward.
Instead, they have taken the party hostage in the wake of President Kiir’s stunning announcement in early November 2013 that he had dissolved all the SPLM party structures; a move that provoked strong reactions from the other senior party leaders, including the former Vice-President, Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon, who all condemned their party chairman’s actions, describing it as illegal and dictatorial.
Against this backdrop, arises the question: Can a dysfunctional party so fragmented by endless political squabbling over its leadership’s style actually govern the new country?
I argue that the beginning of the end of the “Mama-na-Baba” party has just started. That the splits have never been greater, and that the idea of compromising even within one’s own party for common good, is seen as weakness, is all but indicative of a dying party simply because the SPLM in Juba has gone corporate and being micromanaged by leaders who lack any meaningful vision for the country.
Despite the Arusha Agreement for Reunifying SPLM, Minister of Information and Government Spokesperson, Michael Makuei, stated on national television that Dr. Riak Machar and Pagan Amum respectively SPLM Vice Chairman and Secretary-General will not share power with the party Chairman Salva Kiir!
By this measure, Makuei admitted out loud what the ruling elite are only supposed to say in private. Accordingly, it served as a timely reminder that the SPLM is no longer focuses on the welfare of the people of South Sudan, is now little more than a power-wealth madness.
Unsurprisingly, the entire party establishment, both inside or outside the country continues to defend the failed past legacy. Thus, the problem with the current crop of SPLM leaders is that they only care about the petrodollars (money) and power, and nothing about what the party expressed as its vision and mission.
Indeed, the ruling party has lost all sense of any human values and dignity. They care less that people who were once respectable citizens, are now living in the UNMISS camps in the most horrendous inhumane conditions, continuing to experience untold sufferings, and dying every day at worrying rates.
Meanwhile, the SPLM unconscientious functionaries only care about wealth accumulation and amassing the destructive power it brings with it.
Like the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in Khartoum, the current SPLM-led government in Juba has long abandoned the reform agenda due to internal disagreements over power and the obsession with acquiring and diverting public goods by wrongly treating these as “spoils of the war of liberation”.
In fact, the cases of political intolerance are not unique to the SPLM. In the run up to the 2010 presidential and parliamentary elections, for example, the SPLM Politburo and leadership was controlled by a small elite who defined its policy, organized grass root “elections”, where party nominated candidates were supposed to automatically win in the general election.
That chaotic elections outcome led to serious political divisions within the ruling party, which ignited violent insurgencies in Jonglei and Unity States.
Disgruntled senior SPLM/A elements such as the former SPLA’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Political and Moral Orientation, Gen. George Athor Deng, openly accused the SPLM’s Politburo and President Kiir’s government of rigging him out of the April 2010 elections in favor of his opponent, the then powerful incumbent governor Kuol Manyang Juuk, who himself is a member of the SPLM Politburo.
Nevertheless, the mistakes of those sham elections, including the party selection measures, were not satisfactorily addressed. The unsettled leadership squabbles played out in the run up to its party’s controversial flawed nomination process, reveals just how the SPLM’s political party is deeply divided.
Consequently, the SPLM has not only polarized the nation, but it is in a permanent state of disorder. It is torn apart by a full evolution of powerful Dinka tribal elite known as Jieng Council of Elders (JEC) who don’t seem to understand that in the modern, civilized world you don’t get 100% of what you want in a negotiated political settlement.
Thus, warring factions started to set the SPLM party on a pathway of ugly scheming, with one group of hardliners plotting against the other.
Many political observers have argued that the political tensions between different warring factions within the ruling SPLM party started shortly after the tragic death of its Chairman, Dr. John Garang in 2005, and it was just a matter of time before the ticking bomb would explode in Juba.
Hardliners in the SPLM, and particularly the Dinka elites around the President, are believed to have dragged their feet when the so-called top-tier SPLM party’s senior cadre demanded party reform.
This struggle for political power had sharpened ethnic division in the country and laid a firm foundation on which the mid-December 2013 SPLM internal political crisis developed, plunging the country into civil war and senseless killings of innocent civilians.
Indeed, in the absence of strong checks and balances, the excessive concentration of power in the presidency has perhaps led most destructively to the suppression and emasculation of the Legislative Assembly and erosion of the independence of the Judiciary in South Sudan.
Not surprisingly, the South Sudan Parliament has been reduced to a rubber stamp for endorsing the Executive’s political decisions. This unfortunate, deliberate, and manipulative political maneuver has considerably weakened accountability of the Executive and compromised on its capability to run the country in a transparent and accountable manner.
Ironically, unrestricted participation in public affairs of the state requires that people be at the center of decision-making processes, simply because all South Sudanese from different walks of life fought in one way or the other for social justice when millions participated in the 2011 Referendum that set them free and gave them independence.
In fact, many South Sudanese would agree with me, even to some extent that the protracted wars of liberation since the 1950s were particularly informed by the need to open the political space in the country to competitive politics – most importantly, after half-century of marginalization and domination by the Sudan’s successive Arab-Islamic regimes since Independence.
The foregoing analysis shows that those deep divisions offered a gloomy assessment of the state of this once-a-predominant party and possibly its demise due to numerous factors.
Chief among these factors are tribalism, endemic corruption, incompetence in government, and personalization of public institutions. In short, the lack of the rule of law and good governance negatively affected the entire fabric of the society as the SPLM unfairly entrenched its control over South Sudan’s politics and governance.
Fundamentally, South Sudan is more divided than ever before along regional and ethnic lines; the initial sense of belonging to one country called South Sudan has been systematically undermined by the SPLM ruling clique that openly practices the politics of exclusion.
Today the SPLM has remained a party without socio-economic and political direction. In fact, I would argue that many people who occupied senior party or government positions, have nothing to do with the SPLM, they are being motivated only by narrow financial gains and personal interests.
The recent political crisis should be the eye opener to those SPLM leaders and their blind supporters in Juba and in the Diaspora that are zealously shouting empty revolutionary slogans on the rooftops, is not enough.
If they don’t recognize that the fact that this once powerful “Mama-na-Baba” party is “rotten to the core”, and that the need to change and respond to the will of the silent majority of the South Sudanese majority is now, only then will the gluttons in goat skins be left behind to celebrate the demise of this historic SPLM party.
My simple straightforward answer to the critical question raised earlier in this article is, a resounding ‘NO!’
If party leaders cannot agree to solve minor problems among themselves over petty party issues, continue to silence journalists, suppress internal dissent, threaten and intimidate opposition for calling on the government to perform its duty, and overcome the retrogressive politics that has consumed the country, we should not expect any radical change of socio-economic and political transformation now and in the nearest future.
Looking back at the last decade of SPLM’s more than 10-year report card, one can easily trace the SPLM demise to the failure of its leaders to pursue any nation-building agenda.
Without fulfilling the necessary change the SPLM leadership has been promising the people of South Sudan has turned into disaffection, frustration, cynicism and loss of trust in the government of the day.
The tragedy is that both the party and the government which are supposed to protect, provide basic social services to the people of South Sudan and carry them to development and prosperity, are oblivious to their duties and pose the greatest danger to the lives and well-being of their own citizens! END