A peaceful and sustainable path to define the future of South Sudan nation-building process.
BY: Mr. Natale Nuer Kuot A. Rehan, FEB/03/2014, SSN;
Let’s start by stating that the current political turmoil despite its horrific and abysmal manifestations and outcomes, provides unprecedented opportunities for South Sudanese to rethink the off-track and faltered nation-building process under the leadership of the current ruling party-SPLM (both governing and opposition groups) and to revisit the mistakenly conceived, long-held and ready-made assumption that the very existence of South Sudan as a viable state is inextricably dependent on existence of SPLM despite its evidently failing dysfunctional structures, as it’s ruling party.
Well, it is needless to say that the current senseless and brutal infighting and other similar past bloody inter-ethnic fighting throughout the south Sudanese struggle discourse refuted these incessant calls that the remedy inevitably lies in transformation and reform of the ruling party and its Siamese twins the military wing-SPLA.
Perhaps, it is a high time to comprehensively rethink the root causes of recurring South-South crisis and radically counter-propose a rather brave and patriotic choice which summarizes in genuine call for a peaceful and voluntarily dissolution of SPLM- a multi-faceted broad-based coalition that has successfully led a militaristic rebellion against the consecutive regimes in Khartoum and finally achieved the peaceful independence of South Sudan through referendum held in July 2011 via well-attended popular referendum.
In their tireless efforts to illuminate the dark-tunnelled, tragic situation that has recently plagued South Sudan, the 2 and 1/2 years old world newest country, many views and opinionated analysis of the problem have been offered by a lot of reputable analysts and policy-making research institutions locally and internationally.
Most of these pundits referred the country’s current bloody violence- which is not a stand-alone conflict- to failures of south Sudanese elites and in particular the militaristic elites of the ruling party (SPLM) to transform the party from a militaristic liberation movement into civil Democratic Party with a clear social responsibility agenda to lead the nation building process.
And they therefore concluded their analytical efforts and undertakings on the country crisis with a business-as-usual suggestions and repetitive endless call for the transformation of both the SPLM and it’s military wing the SPLA into professional institutions in their respective realms, which has always constituted a failed task as it has been evidently manifested in the current inhumane and brutal violence that will add another burden and agony on the elite-betrayed south Sudanese populace.
The current South Sudan crisis has three interdependent parameters-a political power struggle over the ruling party leadership; that was automatically echoed within the ranks and files of SPLA, the ruling party military wing constitutionally turned into a national Armed forces but hardly undergone any authentic integration to transform it from just summation and coalition of former militias lacking any national ethos except their allegiances to their former leaders or ethnicities who were historically grouped together under rhetoric of common external oppression threats.
Consequentially those infightings within the army become quickly overtoned by ethnicities threatening to throw the whole country into ethnic war.
The current political crisis within the SPLM evolved when a numbers of key seniors members of SPLM expressed their interest to replace (in case of Former party secretary-general & current VP- James W. Igga) or challenge (in case of former VP & Madam Rabecca- Garang’s window) the current Chairperson of the party, Lt. General Salva Kiir after he has privately disclosed to his local inner circles and international allies his disinterest to run for another term.
Since that moment, things were not the same again within the SPLM, and the political disputes started rolling up and building momentum like a rolling snowball, till it spilt over beyond the capacity of already dysfunctional institutions of SPLM that lacks any organized hierarchical decision-making process and become public with each group accusing the other of failing the Party and thus failing the aspirations of South Sudanese peoples.
Competing Leadership aspirations are natural, normal and healthy struggle provided they managed within well-institutionalized political parties and even considers as drivers of development and innovations that could positively bolster the affairs within the party to chart a better path for party evolution.
But these considered healthy political practices always, almost triggers a breakdown in the case of loosely managed party’s institution as with the SPLM- a rather broad Coalition of conflicting political ideologies with contradicting social agenda and interests that only could survive by external common threats and oppression.
It hard to avoid stating that South Sudanese struggle discourse historically led by SPLM/A and other revolutionary armed forces (Anya-Nya movements) is unlike other regional and international revolutionary movements who were developed as socio-political movements throughout struggle discourse and eventually created its Military wings to accelerate the attainment of its socio-economic objectives.
The SPLM/A as well as its predecessor (Anya Nya military movements) on other hand started as Military movement lacking any social change agenda except the undefined broad rhetoric of Marginalization, oppression and the loose call for equitable new Sudan; and had developed its political wing during its struggle discourse.
That upside-down logic of putting- the horse- behind -the cart in its establishment and evolution explained many consequential damages that has cripple down the functionality of SPLM/A and thus rendered futile all the transformation attempts so far.
During its early military struggle to frustrate the attempts of consecutive Khartoum regimes to govern the country, the SPLA relied on mobilization, and recruitment of myriad south Sudanese ethnicities and races and later on other Marginalized group and united them to fought the liberation war.
With its immature organizations and feeble institution, this ethnicity-based mobilization has unconsciously let to ethnicization of power sharing within the SPLA and it’s political wing the SPLM.
Been a loosely knitted coalition of politicized ethnicities- represented always by individuals with conflicting interests and visions-within the SPLM structures is responsible for dysfunctionality of movement as cohesive party and its Inability to peacefully manage any disputes -always power struggle-within its various institutional levels.
It is therefore understandable, that given the weaken party organs and ill-institutionalized power relations with the SPLM any conflicting interest and political dispute quickly degenerate into violent ethnic crisis at grassroots level as it is evidently illustrated by the current tragic crisis and other historical similar crisis during south Sudanese struggle discourse under SPLM/A umbrella.
It is ironically evident that the casualties in South Sudanese’s life and properties both in terms of numbers and gravity is more devastating with South-South crisis than it was with North-South crisis and this itself is categorically blamed on the failure of politico-militarist elites of South Sudan who lack any social agenda to socially and economically transformed the masses from ethnic and tribal entities into citizens.
It seemingly evident throughout the tragic history of south Sudanese struggle and particularly when it come to domestic dispute, the highest prices is always paid by innocent civilians specifically, women, children, and elderly population whom are ironically rewarded less when the militarily power struggle is peacefully settled on negotiation table as it happened in Addis Ababa 1972, Khartoum peace agreement of 1997, and finally the Naivasha 2005.
All these power deal-making agreements brokered by international communities ended up with south Sudanese politico-militarist elites been rewarded with highest political and military posts in various state institutions and almost zero dividend to south Sudanese masses whom suffered most and got nothing in term development projects at least to change their mode of living to better or at lest acceptable humane scale.
This galling manifestation proved the state of alienation that characterize the relations between south Sudanese masses interest and its elites interests.
Ironically this the same characteristic that define their northern Sudanese counterparts who replace the colonial authority in running the Sudanese state affairs pursuing theirs own interests and ignores the needs of various Sudanese citizens and communities and thus exploiting the masses even worse than the colonial powers that they replace. The result was the fragmentation of the country.
With the current crisis in South Sudan and the horrible trajectories that it has already taken, one wonders; whether South Sudanese politico- militarist elites lack capacities to learn from their own history in that political disputes were never and will never be resolved militarily; disputes, as it their own power struggle history tells, always have to be resolved on negotiations table.
Or whether these elites interests as it is evidently clear- are totally aliens to those of south Sudanese masses whom the only appeal to, during their power struggle and forgotten during dividend distribution.
As they warring parties to the conflict still dragging their feet in Addis Ababa to commit itself to peaceful settlement in anticipation of gaining any militarily victory on the battlefield based on illusionary-business-as-usual miscalculation that it will provide them with a leverage on the negotiation table, highest prices are continuing been paid by the innocent south Sudanese masses in terms of wasted lives, destroyed properties and means of living, and hijacked futures for their loving little ones.
Still it is so hard to escape the logical question: what is all this senseless war for? Is it just an internal power struggle within the same party or there is something more to it that is causing the whole South Sudan masses to highly paid unnecessary prices?
I am inclined to believe that the problem lies with the politico-militarist elites of the ruling party who fell short to understand that nation-building process is rather different from a liberation war that was fought, during which they escaped any sort of social responsibility towards masses and they naively heavily relied on humanitarian relief organizations to shoulder the social needs of abandoned South Sudanese masses.
Nation building process is hard process that requires skills and knowledge rather than a blind and biased political loyalties; it needs differing political ideology and inclusive political organizations to harness that difference and direct it to common interest of the people.
Therefore the stubborn insistence of necessity of being in one politico-militaristic coalition like SPLM could be justifiable during the liberation course as the then objective and subjective conditions might have dictated, but that should not be the case during the nation building process which necessarily demand diversities in political ideologies and programs to enrich the development discourse that is badly needed in country that is rich and diverse in everything but it’s leading elites!!.
Reflecting on the current political crisis and its historical evolution within the ruling party, one can easily deduced that the Politico-militarist elites of the ruling party are kind of being trapped by the necessity and obligation of remaining within the SPLM especially after it’s historical achievement of South Sudan independence.
This is out of the fear of been easily labelled as traitor or betrayer among south Sudanese masses- as majority of them dearly and elusively count SPLM/A as vanguard movement through which the collectively attained their freedom from their former oppressor.
This was evidently experienced by those who defected from the movement in 1991 (I.e. Nasir, Fashoda , Bor & Bahr-el-Ghazel factions), they suffered a lot of political disgrace that has threaten to put an end to their political career had they didn’t make the hard choice of returning back to the main stream movement (Torit Faction).
It was as well the case with the recent defection made by Dr. Lam Akol when differed with some of influential senior elites. He insisted of keeping the same name SPLM with an annex D.C (Democratic Change) to differentiate it from the main one, which I do believe it to be a courageous decision whether agreeing or disagreeing with it.
The main reason behind that insistence on the SPLM name is the inner conviction by these leading elites of the contribution and sacrifices they made during the struggle discourse to make the SPLM/A as most cherished politico-militaristic organization on South Sudanese psyche which make hard to abandon it to any group to enjoyed its ready made political basis.
This same conclusion answers the question: Why don’t these conflicting political ideologies break up into different political organization and spare the lives of innocent civilians?
The answer lies with SPLM’s inextricable ties with the SPLA and prominent romance and support it enjoys among the majority of South Sudanese masses.
This heritage and leverage are the difficult and hardest choices to make; that it is preferably easier to fight within the SPLM than easily leave to any antagonistic group and to face a political wilderness as a result.
That could also explained the basis of appeal by then political rivals and now warring parties to each other that any discontented group could easily leave the SPLM if they are not satisfied with the state of affairs within it.
It was first initiated by President Kiir the Party’s chairperson during a public rally at Garang Mausoleum in Juba and repeated by Dr. Machar during his group press conference on Dec 6th, 2013 at SPLM house in Juba for the president group to leave the SPLM.
As the parties (still members of the same party SPLM) to the conflict are negotiating their differences in Addis Ababa under auspices of IGAD mediators, it is necessary to caution the parties to the conflict and regional and international mediators as well to avoid the business-as-usual compromised tactical solutions that only temporarily soothe the conflict and delayed its tragic manifestation of the crisis to later stage to only emerged heavily on even worst scale.
The two negotiating teams both the government and rebel needs to make the hard choices that will spare the life of innocent civilian- that is to negotiate beyond their narrow interest of power sharing shouldn’t now be the case when evidences of masses graves have filled up the country for unnecessary reasons.
One of these hard choices is to peaceful and voluntarily dissolve the ruling party SPLM and to spare it legacy as a collective historical liberation organization that have once in history united the diverse efforts of south Sudanese and other marginalization group of former Sudan irrespective of their creed, ethnicities, religion, and political ideologies, and not to commit any further atrocities under its name.
And finally, at least, to honor the memories of our fallen heroes who fearlessly and selflessly gave up their lives for the noble cause that the remaining loved ones will pursue their happiness in freedom and peace.
- Avoidances of reproducing the status quo stalled political impasse that has crippled nation-building process.
- Repulsion of a long-hold illusion by south Sudanese elites and theirs regional and international partners that the very existence of South Sudan as a state is intrinsically dependent on the existence of SPLM party as its ruling party until further notice!!!
-The origins of the current politico-militaristic crisis and the historical formation of the SPLM/A within the context of old Sudan political struggle since it’s independence in Jan. 1956.
-The irony of South Sudan situation is the choice between its very existence as a viable inclusive state and the existence of its vanguard movement the SPLM.
- Message to the negotiating parties, mediators, South Sudan elites and its regional and international partners to avoid tactical solutions that only deal with crisis symptoms and to embrace a strategic ones that will avoid this cyclical crisis occurrence.