South Sudan in Turmoil!

By Hon. Daniel Wuor Joak – Juba, South Sudan

April 25, 2011 (SSNA) — This is a direct reference to the ongoing political and social crisis which has engulfed the whole South Sudan where the SPLM led (GOSS) government and various SPLA splinter groups have been battling in different states since April 2010.  This was partly aggravated by the results of general elections in April 2010, where some former SPLA army officers who contested the elections felt cheated by SPLM leadership in favours of their rival candidates. They took up arms and began to fight the GOSS while citing such grievances as main concerns. The noticeable among them are; Lt. General George Athor Deng, former SPLA Deputy Chief of General Staff for Political and Moral Orientations, Col. Gatluak Gai and Col. David Yau Yau.

Some few weeks ago, Sultan Abdul Bagi Ayei, former GOSS Presidential Advisor for Borders Area of Conflicts and Major General Peter Gatdet Yak – former SPLA Deputy Commander of Division IV in Northern Bahr El Gazal State, have declared to have defected from GOSS and formed their own independent factions. Citing corruption, weak political leadership, nepotism & tribalism, lack of political party’s participations & pluralism and weak SPLA organizational structures and sound military leadership as the major concerns in their declarations.

Lt. General George Athor had formed earlier an umbrella movement known as “South Sudan Democratic Movement – (SSDM)” and its military wing – South Sudan Army (SSA). He claimed to have joined ranks with Col. David Yau Yau and Col. Johnson Oliny and have since then been conducting some military operations in both Jonglei and Upper Nile States respectively.

While Major General Peter Gatdet Yak has also formed another umbrella organization known as South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM) and its military wing – South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA). All these rebel movements are coordinating their military activities jointly against SPLA and they draw most of their fighting force from disgruntled and frustrated SPLA defectors and former South Sudanese – SAF components of Joint Integrated Units (JIUs) from Upper Nile and Unity States. Numerous accusations have been labelled against them by their political detractors particularly GOSS/SPLA that they are indeed, Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) sponsored militias. While on their parts, the rebel groups categorically denied all these allegations being pointed at them by GOSS as baseless and unfounded propagandas to discourage South Sudanese from supporting their call for removal of the corrupt government in Juba. The truth of the matter is that the rebels are operating inside South Sudan and they are causing security concerns on daily basis. Yes, Khartoum may have interests for various reasons to assist them logistically. But the question is why President Salva Kiir could not address this concern directly with President Omar El Bashir since he is the First Vice President of the Republic instead of shying away from it? The same accusation is being made several times by Khartoum against GOSS of harbouring military supports to the rebels in Darfur. The two presidents should sit down and address those concerns amicably instead of their followers to continue using cheap propagandas in the news media.

Now, Lt. General Gabriel Tanginye has declared war against SPLA after his forces were attacked and briefly dislodged from their assembled point at Kaldak yesterday on 23rd April 2011, which resulted to the death of several soldiers and civilians. Based on the amnesty pardoned by GOSS President Salva Kiir Mayardit, Lt. General Gabriel Tanginye along with thousands of his followers has been waiting patiently for several months at their assembled location at Kaldak to be integrated into the SPLA ranks. Unfortunately, this deal has adamantly been dishonoured by SPLA leadership. Indeed, the SPLA has added more fuel to the already burning fire which is flaming all over the South. Both Jonglei and Upper Nile States shall no longer be peaceful places any more for both civilians and SPLA fighters. Massive displacements and starvation among the civil population will be unavoidable in these two states. Both local and international NGOs must prepare themselves for the worse humanitarian crisis pending to occure shortly.

Some skirmishes have recently been reported in Eastern Equatoria between some tribal militias under Col. Peter Lorot – former SPLA officer and SPLA forces, which resulted to death of several people and massive displacements among the civilians. Unidentified bands of tribal cattle raiders/ rustlers are still active in different parts of South Sudan and they are causing major security concerns as well.

President Salva Kiir and his team have enormous tasks to deal with. GOSS should not treat such conflicts as isolated incidences. They really pose serious security challenges, which need urgent political solution rather than military confrontation. The demands put forwards by rebels and South Sudan political parties must be addressed most urgently otherwise the current situation shall remain for longer period or the nascent South Sudan shall end up disintegrated into Somalia style of governance which I do not wish to happen.

The author is the Director of African Centre for Human Advocacy (ACHA), which advocates for Democracy & Development, Good Governance, Human Rights and Advocacy throughout African Continent. He was the former Member of South Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) in Juba. He can be reached through [email protected]

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