By Justin Ambago Ramba, MD
March 1, 2010 (SSNA) — Many have already happened before I even thought of writing this article. However the incumbent President of South Sudan the hopefully retired First Lt. Gen. Salvatore Kiir Mayardit, who has begun his campaign for a second term in office amid numerous odds within his ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), was quoted in the media to have called for a free and fair elections all over the semi-autonomous region.
By everybody’s judgement, the situation on the ground before the April 2010 elections is in fact the least to bring about any credible elections. There are already reports of intimidation on the southern opposition parties as well as the brake away SPLM independent candidates.
The general situation in south Sudan is certainly gravid with many unpredictable events which are likely to explode any time during the campaigns, or during the actual voting process or immediately in the aftermath. The president has on many occasions promised a safe election, but seeing by the conducts of his loyalists in the state apparatus, it is already a common knowledge that these irrational agents are willing to go at any length to secure victory for their favourite political party which is currently undergoing a lot of internal fall outs.
The SPLM under president Salva Kiir has seen one of the most weird developments; first the split with Dr. Akol, then followed by the substitutions of party popular candidates with those who are directly loyal to the president and his colleagues in the political bureau, then the complete disownment of these popular candidates.
And in many places e.g. the remote Western Equatoria State, the whole situation has blown out into confrontations between the party (SPLM), grassroots who support candidates disowned by the political bureau on one hand and the so-called loyal party officials and the security organs on the other hand.
The above can be captured in the statement made by the WES care-taker governor:
“Take it from me, any SPLM member contesting seen supporting the Independent Candidate shall be dealt with and smashed, this is the message I have carried from Juba from the SPLM chairman Gen. Salvatore Kiir Mayardit,” Jemma Nunu Kumba, Caretaker Governor told SPLM members during a 2-day workshop in Yambio.( 25/02/10, Sudan Tribune).
In President Kiir’s kick off campaign, he has called again on the independent SPLM candidates to step down in spite already having endorsed their dismissals from the party ranks. Of interest, seen with Kiir on his campaign is his deputy, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, whom the president has declared to be his running mate, and will be maintaining his position as the Vice president should Kiir make a comeback into office.
Equally of concern is the situation represented by Mrs. Angelina Teny, the state minister for Energy and Mining in the government of national unity and the wife of the SPLM deputy chairman Dr. Riek Machar Teny. Mrs. Teny is currently challenging the SPLM PB blessed candidate the Unity State incumbent governor Brigadier Taban Deng Gai for the governorship post.
How on earth can both men be seen campaigning together and calling upon other independent SPLM candidates to reverse their stands, while they both have failed to accomplish that within their own backyard?
The question is, “what does this leadership take the south Sudanese people for”?
Otherwise for God’s sake how on earth is it going to be possible for people who cannot unify political views within their own houses be trusted to do it at a national level and especially so given the complexities of our backgrounds?
What we are witnessing is a clear leadership crisis brought about by gross incompetency, lack of vision and a compulsive urge to dominate others by a group of amateurs who to their best have chosen to take the entire south Sudan for a ride. This matter is of a real national concern.
We can see bad intentions all over the place and Kiir’s team is caught off guard due to their erroneous over assumption to have cowed down the whole of south’s populace. Whoever is the campaign strategist here must know that now opting for an outright chaos is yet another miscalculation.
Kiir has started his campaign by actually setting the stage for everything that is not good for fair elections. The very move at re-employing the same old unpopular governors as care-takers in WES, Western Bahr Ghazal, Northern Bahr Ghazal, Jonglei and the Unity states are premeditations for rigging the election in these states, a fact that only the feeble minded can fail to see this.
If nations could be built by beautiful statements that are never followed by equally responsible actions, then the words said by President Salvatore Kiir on the official lounge of his campaign would have saved south Sudan and the its people from all the intended evils about to engulf us.
This was what Kiir said in Juba, seven weeks or so before the general elections:
“We have suffered tremendously; millions of us died,” said Kiir, speaking in Arabic to a supportive crowd of several thousand, who gathered for a seven-hour rally in the baking heat. “Some of us unfortunately continue to inflict pain on ourselves,” he added.
The south has been hit by a series of violent clashes between rival ethnic groups, amid fears that the political contest could spark fresh violence.
“It is my personal call – and the SPLM appeal – for us to reach out to one another: let us heal our wounds, and let us preach harmony and peaceful co-existence,” said Kiir, a former guerrilla leader.
Unfortunately there were already previous reports in the media that attested to some SPLA soldiers in the JIU, did vandalise the SPLM-DC’s campaign materials in the city of Malakal the capital of the Upper Nile State and other parts of that state, and similar attitudes everywhere else is clearly deemed to undermine whatever message Kiir intended to sell out on that big occasion.
Kiir also went on to say that if re-elected, he would work to stamp out the corruption that many say has crippled redevelopment efforts in the south. “We have zero tolerance for corruption, nepotism and tribalism,” Kiir said. “The assumed culture of impunity has to stop: no one is above the law”. He added.
Going back to Kiir’s previous speeches throughout the last five years or so, it can be gathered that, this elegantly dressed retired general, has said these very words for tens of times without any changes been witnessed on the ground, except maybe for the ghost names which he was a party, by remaining in military uniform for almost have a decade in defiance of his official retirement from the SPLA by non but the late Dr. John Garang de Mabior himself. Of interest would also be to know why he was thus retired that early.
But whichever way we would want to put it, we have to be very sincere in the fact that, given the huge scandals and embezzlements estimated in billions of US dollars , that is associated with this regime, Kiir will always remain to be remembered as the symbol of incompetency, corruption, nepotism, tribalism, favouritism and the most unprecedented impunity. He is part of the problem and never a solution.
Kiir also threw down a challenge to rival Lam Akol – the only contender for the post of southern president, and the leader of the splinter SPLM-Democratic Change party.
Many SPLM supporters accuse Akol of being backed by former civil war enemies in Khartoum, something the SPLM-DC strongly denies.
“There is only one challenger and I don’t think that the challenger is from the southern Sudanese political parties,” Kiir said, referring to Akol. “I wish that he comes to launch his campaign so that we hear from him the agenda that he has.”
Though this is too little, too late, however for the collective good let us hope that Kiir’s wish is a true wish to run a free and fair election. And we hope that the coming months should be enough to test the true texture of his above statement to include the aftermath of the polling process.
The other crucial issue is of course the delay in releasing the funds to finance the campaigns of the various candidates. Whereas the two dominant parties, the NCP and the SPLM are free to push their hands into the public coffers and spend on their campaigns, other smaller parties and independent candidates’ campaigns are being intentionally starved with the aim of paralysing their efforts.
At this particular juncture, the political leaders of south Sudan should understand that to block public financing of rival candidates can be very detrimental to our national interests and I hope that as matured citizens none of us should underrate the dangers that can come along with foreign political sponsorship, should that find its way into south Sudanese politics.
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” King Jr. Martin Luther
Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba, M.B, B.Ch, D.R.H, MD. The Secretary General of the United South Sudan Party (USSP). The Party that stands for the Independence of South Sudan. He can be reached at either [email protected] or justinr[email protected]. All the articles of the author are available at www.nilebuffalo.com and blog http//ussp-news.blogspot.com