By Gordon Buay
April 16, 2011 (SSNA) — Commonsense has it that the brewing Tsunami in Unity State cannot be avoided by taking military measures as Gov. Taban Deng Gai is attempting to do. However, I realized one thing in the time I spent in South Sudan. That is, South Sudan politicians only react to events and don’t plan ahead of time. The lack of planning affects peace throughout the South because you need people who think ahead of time to build a nation. Lack of a think tank is one indication that the South has a problem.
The rebellion of Peter Gatdet requires statesmanship on the part of Gov. Taban Deng Gai. A statesman is defined as a political leader regarded as a disinterested promoter of the public good. I worked with Taban Deng Gai in 1991 in Nasir and learned pragmatism from him. But it is now 20 years since 1991 that one may hope that his views might have matured. But it looks to me that he will mismanage the case of Peter Gatdet if he fails to think like a statesman.
The only way for Taban Deng to avoid war in Unity State is to resign and tell the people of Unity State to find a new governor who will unite them. In that way, the looming Tsunami will be avoided. But if Gov. Taban chooses military confrontation, his former public student like me would advise him that he is likely to end up like Laurent Gbagbo or military confrontation may lead the South to breakdown before July the 9th.
But there is something in human nature that even if you advise a person, he may not accept the advice for various reasons. Laurent Gbagbo, who was a professor of history before becoming a politician, failed to learn from history to accept giving up power until he was captured last week like a thief. It is true that people intoxicated with power cannot see. If God had shown Saddam Hussein a video of his future, he would have accepted George W. Bush’s offer to leave Iraq within 72 hours with his entire family. But pride led him to die with his boys.
If Taban Deng Gai will not become a visionary leader and accept to resign to avoid the looming Tsunami, South Sudan will experience a civil war worse than 1991. But the problem is that anybody in power is most of the times partially blind to see the danger. My friend Taban Deng Gai thinks that the SPLA will contain Peter Gatdet. But rational people who cannot fish for the moon in the Nile water know that Gen. Peter Gatdet is not George Athor. If Japan cannot contain Tsunami or earthquake, then, it follows logically that SPLA cannot contain Peter Gatdet like George Athor. Maj. Gen. Gatdet is a popular officer. Besides, he is from a Nuer tribe and he is a good mobilizer who is efficient in battlefield. Those who think that they will contain him militarily will find it difficult to do so.
The problem in South Sudan is that politicians are guided by emotions rather than rational thinking. If politicians in Unity State are driven by public interest, Taban Deng Gai should step down for public good. Pride of power will have serious consequences that historians would wonder in the future why other options were not pursued in 2011 to avoid the Tsunami.
In human history, there are things that power cannot stop and one of them is human will. When the Arab street started uprising in Tunisia, there is now uprising everywhere in the Arab world. Power has a limit that is why it is honorable to exit from power when people do not want you.
Gov. Taban needs to rise above emotions and think deeply about the future of Unity State. Maj. Gen. Peter Gatdet is a Tsunami that cannot be contained. Those who think that the SPLA army will contain him will soon discover that they are mentally blind. The first step to avoid war in 2011 is for Gov. Taban to resign. His resignation will pave the way for meaningful dialogue. Public opinion will persuade Peter Gatdet to accept peaceful dialogue if Taban resigns. But the use of military force to deal with Peter Gatdet as those intoxicated with power pursue will lead to unforeseen consequences. It is one thing to call Peter Gatdet "Nyagat", it is another thing to practically contain him.
The SPLA/M called Gordon Koang "Nyagat" in 1980s until John Garang swallowed his pride and pursued peaceful dialogue which led to Kuanylow Agreement.
The author is a former Secretary General of South Sudan Democratic Front (SSDF) and a signatory of Washington Declaration between SPLM and SSDF. He could be reached at [email protected]