‘Mr. Nice Guy!’ and ‘Mr. Whimsical!’: An Open Letter to Dr. Lam Akol and Dr. Riek Machar

By Kuir ё Garang

So get your coffee or beer because this going to be a bumpy ride.

October 29, 2012 (SSNA) — As someone who grew up under the enigmatic leadership of SPLM/A, and suffered through the unfortunate, yet incoherent split of SPLA/M in 1991, I think it’s time for me to write this piece. However, this piece is rather a policy position inquiry to our ‘learned’ and ‘famed’  ‘PhDs.’

For those who are prone to misunderstanding, the letter is meant to ask questions that’d move the country forward. It’s not to question why the SPLM split in 1991. I know the reasons presented in 1991 and the reasons that continue to be given. I’m just inquiring as an inquisitive young South Sudanese poet and author.

Our country was born just over a year ago, but it’s now suffering from the world’s famed ills of ‘Afronomy.’ The chronic ailments in all African sociopolitical and socioeconomic environments are well-known so I’m not going to delve into the contents of Afronomy.

To make this article sensible, I’ll start with some of the things our two leaders chronicled in 1991.

Cheap of the complaints against Dr. John Garang was his dictatorial or one-man leadership style.  SPLM under Garang was presented as an organization in which decisions were made without consulting the top leadership of the movement; people were killed anyhow (at time ritually) without any due legal procedure being followed. There was also no formalized leadership structure or coherent policy positions other than what Garang decided and instituted. For those who’ve read SPLM Manifesto; it’s nothing but a piece out of George Orwell’s 1984.

The two PhDs also lamented Garang’s incoherent and costly vision of ‘New Sudan’ so they wanted to change course and fight for the total independence of South Sudan. 

In short, the leaders wanted to liberalize and democratize SPLM, pitch a coherent and attainable cause and goal for the people of South Sudan and present Garang as a man who’d confused his own political agenda and vision for the country, with the aspirations of South Sudanese.

Remember, I’m paraphrasing so forgive me if some points veer badly away. So that’s my two cents. So what happened to the two ‘PhDs’ since then? I’ll have to ask them some questions and make some comments.

So why only the two of us…you may ask?

I do believe the two of you are able to change South Sudan in a positive light. I chose the two of you because I know you had the chance to look at issues outside the SPLM circle for some times. The self-righteousness within SPLM is suffocating and disastrous for the country.

I believe if the two of you change course and start being doers not talkers, then good things can happen in South Sudan.

Dr. Riek Machar: ‘Mr. Nice Guy!’

Dr. Riek Machar, you’re the second most powerful man in South Sudan so I’d assume you can now implement the agenda of 1991. I have to confess, for those who’ve read the policy paper of the two of you in 1991; the paper was appealing on face value. If all the things narrated in the policy position were implemented in the manner they were documented, South Sudan could be a different place now; a peaceful, prosperous place. But what happened? We know what happened.

The two of you ended up in Khartoum and back in SPLM. So Dr. Riek Machar, your vision for South Sudan was thwarted by your disagreement with Dr. Akol, your eventual split and your consequential tribalization of the national agenda. That was then.

But why are you not implementing your 1991 vision since you now have some power to do so? Why are journalists being intimidated? Why’s Kiir vested with so much power that everyone in Juba fears the Presidency? Why’re national security agents censoring newspaper articles? Why are young people not given programs to help them prosper? Why’re church leaders being censored? Why’s our economy controlled by foreigners, who hardly pay taxes while our people languish in unemployment? Why’s SPLM still undemocratic? Why’s the case that there is no coherent policy framework in the SPLM and the government of South Sudan? Isn’t this part of what you lamented in 1991?

Why do you demean yourself in cases such as threatening to block the registration of SPLM-DC? You split with Garang, supposedly, because of such dictatorial tendencies so what in the name of the Jewish son are you doing? Why’re you not presenting a clear strategic position of your government? So when Dr. Garang did these things then they were bad but when you and Kiir do them then they aren’t bad. It looks like you’re ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ afraid to make mistakes.  1991 was a fundamental policy and principle differences terribly gone wrong

It appears to me that 1991 was orchestrated by Dr. Lam in its entirety and that you had nothing absolutely to do with the split. You were just used by Dr. Lam as a question of number advantage.

If I’m wrong and that you actually had the interest of the country in heart then, then why are you quiet policy and human right wise as the country continuous to slight into uncertainty? You need to come out in force and represent your government just like you did (I think) in 1991 policy-wise, if at all you contributed to 1991. 

Young people are just wondering. You just postulate issues that make people like me wonder: ‘Where has the brain of Dr. Riek Machar gone to?’ Has he attained the things he wanted so he doesn’t care anymore about helping the country move forward? Or does he want to kowtow to Kiir for a chance to be anointed the next president? Or is he just twice shy?

Dr. Riek, I’m confused and you need to come clean. I want to believe that you’re not an opportunist, who’s found what he wanted and doesn’t want to ruffle feathers anymore. Speak up!

Dr. Riek Machar, many people admire your courage to come back to the SPLM after the atrocities of 1991. That was a selfless act and it shows critical minds that you at least have some interest of the people in heart (Well others might say, mmm, after what?…he’d failed). But that’s beside the point. You’re letting South Sudanese down and you are letting young people like me down. Those with you in the government have never seen things from the outside but you did. Speak up!

Dr. Lam Akol: ‘Mr. Whimsical!’

With your savvy prose and suave political postulates (not arguments though), you’ve convinced (not that I didn’t know) someone like me that you were the brain behind 1991. From the time you were Sudan’s foreign minister to the time you formed SPLM-DC, to your absence during South Sudan’s independence celebration; all have something to tell South Sudanese. I must confess; I admire your eloquence and evasive canniness.

I also admire your almost pious idealism. You have grandeur idealism that I only see with young people. What you need to know with South Sudanese though is that idealism is something they are yet to understand. As a foreign Minister, you were representing Sudan and that was what you did, efficiently. That was the ideal thing to do given your job description. However, South Sudanese wanted you to represent their voice. I just don’t understand how you could represent the country abroad and talk against it! This is something South Sudanese didn’t grasp or didn’t want to grasp.

You accepted the ministerial post knowing that you had to present the Sudanese position to the world; and that position wasn’t for the interest of South Sudanese people. This makes me wonder. Why did you accept this position with no qualm given that dilemma? Don’t tell me Kiir because he had no idea what he was getting into. They wanted you to clean the Sudanese image abroad! Uh!

If your interest is South Sudan, then why did you represent the Sudanese position? If you were cornered by the role you had to play (Which I understand because that is the position you had to represent) then why did you accept the position? Or why didn’t you resign?

It all comes down to one thing: you did it for your own political agenda; to present your face to the world. This makes me wonder if you used Dr. Riek in 1991 in the same vain: at the expense of the people.

When you were removed from the ministry of foreign affairs, you went ahead and formed a party in a country that still has a long way to go to embrace liberal democracy. Why didn’t you take one ministry and make it exemplary for the rest of the country? You could have asked Kiir to give you one ministry, reform it, and make it immutable to the rest. What we need now in South Sudan is not someone to tell people to do things. You have to show them how to do things. You are more than capable of changing South Sudan but your political ambitions just stand in the way of your helping our people.

If you’d taken one ministry and make it exemplarily functional, you could have mocked the rest of ministers; telling them that ‘this is how you run a ministry!’ You could have shamed them by telling them that ‘my ministry is almost free of tribalism, corruption and my achievements are there for the rest to see.’ You can guess how South Sudanese could have regarded you. Good examples in deeds indeed!

Imagine yourself taking over ministry of Transport, take the funds allocated to the ministry and make the major roads functional; accounting for every dime. You could have been a messiah in South Sudan.

But you chose to form a party in a political landscape in which political opposition is a misunderstood phenomenon. You knew this very well but you went ahead anyway. I know you write press releases and present policy positions but SPLM is a party of despots and you know they’ll never listen to you. You split in 1991 and then again to form SPLM-DC. This sounds like deja vu even if it’s under different circumstances.

And oh, your absence during July 9, 2011 independence celebration is selfish, unwise and detrimental to your political ambition in South Sudan. It tells me you don’t put the interest of the country before anything else. Can you tell South Sudanese what, in the name of the living deities, didn’t you come? So Kiir had to talk to you in Nairobi for you to come to your own country?  A country for which you dodged bullets? Nice political stunt! But who the hell is Kiir? South Sudan doesn’t belong to Kiir. I might be young and naïve but hey, Uncle Lam, you didn’t think that through.

Now, your brain is being wasted on theoretical propositions just like some of us. So you call ‘sensitizing’ South Sudanese and an achievement? That’s what the likes of us are supposed to do, Uncle Lam. Be a doer not a reminding mind of the doers!

You could have effected many changes within the deformed—to use Dr. Garang’s word—SPLM. Now outside, you understand this better than anyone in South Sudan; they’ll never take you seriously. They’ll always see you as a selfish political opportunist after his own political agenda. And you know they say things without any evidence. And people will indict you on those things because we are in a country in which people don’t think for themselves. Cult of personalities!

Look at what your 1991 friend is doing! Whatever happened to Dr. Riek Machar in Juba beats the living logic out of me. He’s just there. Now, you’re outside the decision making process of South Sudan and you’re just there. 

Stop being an idealist and be pragmatic. The times for your kind of idealism will come with people thirty years younger; or leave it to us. Stop talking and start doing!

By the way, multi-party democracy is a necessity in our country, so don’t get me wrong. Timing of such is also a necessity, and you know that.

Kuir ë Garang is a South Sudanese author, poet, publisher and word artist living in Calgary, Canada. Kuir has authored four books and the upcoming nonfiction book, ‘Is ‘Black’ Really Beautiful?’ The book tackles Race, Color and Racism in a more Afro-centered manner. For more information visit Kuir’s webpage: www.kuirthiy.info. Or follow him twitter @kuirthiy

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