BY: Jay Johnson, JUN/4/2013, SSN;
According to Sudan Tribune report (May 31 2013), South Sudan security service is reported to have ordered SSTV management to refrain from covering Vice President’s political activities despite the fact that he is the acting president and commander in chief of south Sudan armed forces, including the security services.
Security personnel are also reported to have warned the manager of Citizen TV, Mr. Nhial Bol Akeen to desist from publicizing Dr. Riek public functions. Intimidation and harassment of journalists by security agents is very unfortunate indeed. Mr. Nhial Bol have faced similar threats in the past and so does SSTV journalists based in Wau who were arrested last December 2012 for allegedly refusing to cover the President speech in Wau during the riot incident.
Another SSTV presenter, John Garang, was also arrested last year by security agents for his indifference and willingness to have the footage of president broadcast while he appears to have been in a gloomy mood. The murder of Isaiah Abraham allegedly by security agents indicate the risky of journalism as a profession and the heavy price paid by advocates of free press. Our journalist and media personnel deserve better than what they have been experiencing at the hands of security services.
On the hand, our vice president should have been accorded full respect and courtesy by security personnel. Political intimidation and harassment of opponents should have no place in our society. I am not a supporter of the vice president, but he has right as a government figure and as a citizen of the republic of South Sudan to exercise his freedom of speech regardless of the message he wants or intends to convey. Speech does not become objectionable because of their contents but rather when they contravene a national security and ethical statues and regulations.
On the hand, there is genuine fear within the president’s circle regarding Dr. Riek, given his reputation as a coup plotter. Though he had publicly declared his desire to challenge the president in 2015 as the SPLM party candidate or as an independent candidate, the right thing to do is to keep close eyes on him at a distant. He has literally been fired when the President withdrew the powers he delegated to him.
Most of the coups in Africa occur when the incumbent president is on a foreign visit. But the president allies need not to panic because a coup cannot take place in the absence of military involvement, something the SPLA men and women in uniform cannot envision under the wise leadership of Lt. Gen. John Kong Nyoun, Oath Mai and Oyai Deng Ajak.
These men were appointed by the president to safeguard and defend the infant democracy the nation have gained under the leadership of Lt. Gen. President Salva Kiir Mayardit. Their ultimate responsibility is to ensure peaceful and smooth transition of political power.
Arguably, the Vice president is not happy with the direction the country is taking, a position shared by the country’s elites as well as by the public. But the substantial question to be asked is whether Dr. Riek is the visionary politician and the leader the nation has been yearning for?
Does the vice president have the courage and political ingredients to develop our resource rich nation? What is Dr. Riek waiting when he was in fact publicly humiliated by the president following his decision to strip him of the powers he previously delegated to him?
It would be a blessing in disguise if the vice president breaks away and forms his own political party and then competes with the president in 2015 presidential election. This will create a competitive political environment in the country given the fact that the SPLM-DC party Luo political mobilization strategy has failed miserably.
My opposition to Dr. Riek to take over from president Kiir is solely based on his 1991 decision to split from SPLM/A movement. The panic President Kiir’s supporters have shown recently cannot be dismissed outright because when the vice president is not happy, as he was in 1991, there is a genuine fear that he may attempt another bloodless coup.
The reason Dr. Riek and Dr. Lam broke away from SPLM/A in 1991 was in part because they were not happy with Dr. Garang’s new Sudan vision and regime change strategy. Dr. Riek in particular was critical of how Dr. Garang was managing and running the affairs of the movement. Another grievance was poor human rights records and lack of democratic principles within the movement for which he held Dr. Garang responsible.
So the SPLM/A Nasir was formed to fight for the separation of South from Sudan so that Southerners could determine their political future through the right of self determination in a referendum. Dr. Riek vision was to fight the SPLM in order to removed Garang from power with his New Sudan ideology. After that Southerners were to fight for separation and total liberation of the South. The principles of democracy, including human rights were going to be promoted. It sounds wonderful and possible to most Southerners, especially the separatist elements.
As we all know, the first action by SPLA/M Nasir was the unfortunate and regrettable summary execution of Dinka officers who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. To add another salt to the wounds, the next political blunder by SPLA/M Nasir under the leadership of Dr. Riek was the decision to unleash the Nuer dominated Anya Nya II and Lou white army as well as thousands of well armed Nuer civilians to invade the South Western region of Jonglei state.
The combined forces of Anya Nya II, Lou Nuer white army and armed civilians went willingly to settle some old grievances against their natural and sworn enemy, the Jieng and to show Dr. Garang their determination to remove him from power. Dr. Riek clearly knew where John Garang SPLA forces were but he instead authorized his forces to go south in the direction of Bor town.
So the combined forces descended mercilessly on innocents Dinka civilian of Duk, Twic East and Bor counties like hungry vultures. Hundreds of thousands of elderly, women and children lost their lives in the melee that lasted for about 3 years. The cruelty and savagery was unimaginable. Children, Women and elderly people were burned alive to death.
An eye witness interviewed by amnesty international recount having seen beautiful Dinka girls shot to death in the head when the captors were unable to agree. Thousands of girls were captured and taken as wives never to return home after the war was over. Hundreds of thousands of head of cattle were raid and taken. So this was another action by Dr. Riek, the champion of human rights values which in part motivated him to break away from SPLA in August 1991.
The reason I brought back this painful memory is to evaluated Dr. Riek’s creditability on human rights issues which he continually used to criticize the president performance. Though human rights record has been poor under Kiir administration, I am not convinced that Dr. Riek will provide the needed human rights protection in the country. He may if he becomes president in 2015 wipe out the little human right principles gain under the leadership of his Excellency, Lt. Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit as he did in 1991.
It is likely that the Vice president has matured politically, but that is a wishful thinking which I am unable to substantiate. There is genuine unease and uncertainty as to what exactly he would do if he becomes a president. We can forgive but we cannot forget the past. However, individual past actions are part of his or her resumes which are critical for making an informed decision when it comes to voting.
As a citizen and member of Torit faction within SPLM party, I am not convinced with Dr. Riek’s political rhetoric on vision, good governance, democracy and human rights he often cited as the reason for challenging our president. Does he have creditability and clean human righst records?
As a member and supporter of SPLM party, I am not pleased with the overall performance of the president. I would rather support someone from SPLM Torit faction as opposed to Dr. Riek.
The Khartoum peace Agreement of 1997 signed by Dr. Riek’s SSIM party under the banner of United South Sudan Democratic Front (USSDF) was a visionless and short sighted political action which Dr. Riek cannot reasonably defend. It was indeed an embarrassment because it failed to achieve the objectives of the right to self determination. He was politically tricked by GoS into signing the agreement which contained open-ended, vague and ambiguous promises on self determination. Khartoum eventually reneged on the agreement by refusing to implement most of its provisions.
His own Juba government was intentionally starved of funding. The SAF and NIF politicians imposed Southern regional government ministers on him. Meanwhile, the GoS sponsored South Sudan Defense Forces militia was infiltrated and largely controlled by Sudan security services of Salah Gosh, which renders it ineffective as a guarantor of the Khartoum peace agreement.
Understandably, Dr. Riek quit out of frustration and disappointment. He was circumstantially forced to swallow his personal pride and decided to join the SPLM/A Torit faction of Dr. Garang which he helped undermined and back-stab for 11 years.
Admittedly, our dear and lovely president, Lt. Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, lacks clear vision for the country. This is where my criticism and concern has been. The cry about corruption though valid has been taken out of context. Corruption does happen all over the world, including the United States of America which the opponents of the government used as a yard stick by which to judge the performance of the SPLM led government.
The objective question should have been about the government strategy to address the rampant corruption in the next 5 to 15 years instead of why it is happening. Lack of strategic vision is a valid argument and criticism for which the government deserves scrutiny and accountability. Human nature clearly tells us that regardless of severity of anti corruption statues, including even the death penalty, people will continue to steal.
Theft and unethical practices, which I do not endorse but for which I have great in-depth understanding are part of human beings and culture since evolution or creation time depending on what theory you believe to be true.
Dr. Machar lacks the needed vision to take the nation forward. Reluctantly, I wish to bring to light his post 1991 decisions as the leader of SPLM/A Nasir, SSIM, SSDF, SSDP and as a signatory of 1997 Khartoum Peace Agreement (KPA) in order to support my argument. Unquestionably, Dr. Riek, like Anya Nya II was a separatist and a strong advocate of right to self determination. Absent was the military and political strategic vision which would have enabled southerners to realize their aspirations of an independent South Sudan nation.
Mere pronouncing of political right as was the case with “the right to self determination” does not oblige us as citizens to credit him with the independence of South Sudan as it has been propagated by the separatists and collaborators. In fact he did not contribute anything because his own Khartoum peace agreement was thrown into the garbage can by Khartoum regime.
He came empty handed to the SPLM/A Torit in 2002 without his thousands of soldiers he took with him in 1991 due to fear of reprisal from SPLM/A Torit. Like the 1972 Addis Ababa peace agreement which was abrogated and dishonored by Nimeri and his Kokora allies’ politicians from the Equatoria region, Dr. Riek’s Khartoum peace agreement which was lacking safe guard and implementation timelines was discarded into the same dustbin.
The divisive nature of Kokora, which haunted Southerners during the liberation struggle, continues to divide our nation today as call for federalism intensifies despite the fact that our nation is already a federal democratic republic.
Unlike 2005 CPA, the 1997 KPA was not a genuine peace but a Khartoum government strategy to buy time and weaken the SPLA Torit by dividing Southerners. Feeling Humiliated, powerless and defeated, Dr. Riek called it quits and decided painfully to join the dictator, the unionist and the undemocratic John Garang SPLM/A Torit faction from which he broke away 11 years earlier.
So when he joined the SPLM/A Torit, he knew well in advance that the very vision of new Sudan for which he previously rebelled against was still the effective strategy for attaining Southern independence. And indeed the New Sudan vision was an effective political and military strategy which eventually forced the Khartoum government to the negotiating table.
Convinced that the war was not winnable on the battle field because of mighty SPLA, the NIF decided to negotiate with SPLM leadership in good faith. And so the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed granting the South the right to self determination through an internationally monitored referendum to be held in 2011. The safe guards were in place and implementation schedule was specific.
The New Sudan vision was a realistic, appealing and effective political, military and diplomatic strategy. The Ethiopian government under the leadership of his Excellency, Mengistu HaileMariam was able to support SPLA forces by providing weapons and training camps in Gambela region. The SPLM/A was to act as a proxy of Ethiopian government against Sudan for their support of Ethiopian and Eritrean rebels.
Hundreds of thousands of soldiers from Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue region who served honorably and fought courageously alongside SPLA forces were able to join the movement en mass. They stand firm with SPLM/A mainstream because of New Sudan vision and ideology during the 1991 split.
And indeed South Sudan political aspirations for an independent Federal Democratic Republic of South Sudan was eventually realized in part because of New Sudan vision, military victory by SPLA forces in the battle fields and unwavering support for the SPLM/A by our president, Lt. Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit.
The New Sudan vision of United Democratic Sudan have inspired hundreds of thousands of citizens from Nuba, Blue Nile and Darfur as they struggle for political freedom under the brutal regime of president Bashir. Can you imagine how many nations will support the SPLA –N if their goal was to fight for separation of Darfur, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile region instead of regime change strategy?
That was the Question the SPLM/A leadership was faced with in 1984. And of course the people of Blue Nile, Nuba mountains and Darfur would not be disappointed with the SRF if they could negotiate a similar peace agreement like CPA in the event of military stalemate. They would be thrilled to secede from Khartoum regime which had consistently imposed Arabism and Islamism on them for almost a century.
Disappointingly, the recent report by World Tribune indicates the political ambition of our Vice president. The vice president is reported to have secretly formed a fund raising committee headed by his wife, Angelina Teny and Ezekiel Lul Gatkuoth. So far, Ms Angelina and Mr. Lul had managed to raise US$5 million from wealthy Arabs Middle Eastern businessmen. The Vice presidents, as the citizen of federal democratic republic of South Sudan has right under the interim constitution to run for any office of his choice. He also does have right to raise funds to finance his political campaign.
The concern however, is why the Vice president chooses Arabs businessmen who have ties with President Omer Bashir? Is the vice president still maintaining his friendship with Mr. Bashir? Or is it just a desperate political measure? And why should wealthy Arabs businessmen finance our political campaign when in fact the vice president can raise money within the country? Are we as citizens comfortable with foreigners determining and dictating the outcome of our political elections? Is that not in itself a violation of our sovereignty?
In conclusion, the president has no political vision to take the country forward. But if we give him another chance in 2015 for 5 more years, which I am confident we will, he will turn things around. Alternatively, we have some capable and fine members of Torit faction within SPLM party who can take the country to a brighter future should the president decide to change his mind not to run in 2015.
I would have supported comrade Pagan Amum but am afraid that he may lose to Dr. Riek in a general election because of his close relationship with late Dr. Garang, our founding father who is not popular with separatist elements within SPLM party and some members of the public.
Comrade Wani Igga who stood firmly with the movement is also a fine man and a hero. His chance of beating Dr. Riek like comrade Pagan are also too slim in my humble opinion. This is so because he lacks wide support among Equatoria elites and intellectual because they viewed him as a Dinka operative and in part because he is a staunch opponent of Kokora politics. He would come under severe attack from pro Kokora Equatoria politicians and elites should he decide to run in 2015 presidential election.
I can forgive Dr. Riek past mistakes but I cannot forget his political decisions which nearly brought down the movement. Political decisions good or bad are the mirror through which we can envision the future of our nation should he become our president in 2015 general elections.
South Sudan needs a visionary politician and it is my view that Dr. Riek has neither shown political vision in the past nor he is likely to mysteriously have one in the future.
Am not pleased with our president but I will stick with him come 2015 if he ends up competing with Dr. Riek for the presidency. The gains South Sudan made under the leadership of our dear lovely president, Lt. Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit should be acknowledged and appreciated by the people of South Sudan. Our president deserves a second chance to continue with the nation building he have started 7 years ago. South Sudan Oyee! SPLM Oyee!
Jay Johnson is a former liberation fighter and a staunch supporter of SPLM party
He can be reached @firstname.lastname@example.org