People First: A Response to Dr. Lam Akol

By Kuir ë Garang

November 5, 2012 (SSNA) — I’d like to thank you for your article dated October 31, 2012 in response to my open letter. This letter not only positioned you positively in the eyes of conscientious and well-meaning South Sudanese, it also gave us a glimpse into the reasons why you do or did some things.

Despite obvious points of disagreements, misconstruals and misunderstanding (from you and others), your response changed the minds of many young people (not to be your followers but) to have greater respect for you. And I tell you this not as a conjecture, but because your response was thoroughly discussed on Facebook in a very heart-warming and promising manner; a manner that is beneficial to South Sudan.

The letter also, incontestably, set you apart (from the rest of our politicians) in the minds of those who didn’t know that you can positively engage the ‘average person’ in a nation-building dialogue; a dialogue divorced from personality-vilifying ignorance. Your intellectual prowess is obvious for the rest to see so I can’t say anything in that regard.

However, despite our delight as young people in your response to the open letter, there are obvious concerns I’d like to respond to. I’ll outline them below for the sake of clarity.


Calling you ‘Mr. Whimsical’ was to capture your political unpredictability and fanciful political positions so I believe the term wasn’t oxymoronic. Besides, I presented you as someone who’s made some mistakes and continue to do so, but I also presented you as a man who can do good things for South Sudan, if you so choose. If that sounds paradoxical, then it’s the availed situation not the author’s lack of situational grasp that’s confusing.

Policy Coherence vs. Consequential Incoherence

As I mentioned in the letter, your policy position was appealing on face value; that is, as a written work. However, the application of the intention went contrary to what South Sudanese (and including the two of you) wanted. You obviously wanted a reformed and coherently functional SPLA/M. You didn’t want a South Sudan ripe with internecine, inter-tribal murderousness; and politicians politically kniving one another way in policy papers and in the media to the detriment of the average us.

The policy paper was coherent, but what happened after the declaration of the ‘coup’ confused everyone. Despite positive contributions such as instigating positive changes within SPLM and Capitalization of Self-determination, 1991 led to unnecessary deaths of innocent civilians, your disagreement with Dr. Riek, your signing of Fashoda Peace Agreement and your eventual, mind-boggling return to Khartoum.  The incoherence is in the consequential events after 1991; and 1991 as the disastrous causal factor of the aftermath.

The ‘coup’ was intended to, I suppose, help SPLM/A and South Sudanese, however, it ended up almost frustrating the cause of South Sudanese people; leading to the deaths of many people. Your natural intention was to fight the enemy in Khartoum only to join the same enemy that was killing our people. Your intention might have been good and I know you can cite Fashoda Agreement; however, Bashir was killing our people when you signed the agreement and after you signed the agreement. It’s up to you to explain the practical coherence (not the policy coherence) of 1991 split.

A Misconstrued Query

I’m a poet and I bet you some people have complained about the incomprehensibility of some of my writings. But I intend to make people think not simply present trite writs they easily forget the sooner they finish reading.

Some of the questions I asked Dr. Riek Machar were intended to invoke constructive discourse. I also asked some of the questions not that I’d established some truth about them, but because I wanted Dr. Riek to prove us otherwise so that those who’ve written him off can see him for the ‘good’ or ‘bad’  leader he was, the leader he is, and the leader he could become.

You claimed I admitted ‘unequivocally’ that

Dr Riek had a vision for South Sudan which got thwarted because of the reasons you gave. One, then, wonders where that accolade has gone when you said on addressing Dr Riek Machar again that “it appears to me that 1991 was orchestrated by Dr Lam Akol in its entirety and that you had nothing absolutely to do with the split.

I didn’t give Dr. Riek any ‘accolade’ so you’ve obviously misunderstood what you’ve quoted. I’m also, still, wandering and wondering for answers so I’m not admitting to anything.

Riek was the leader, supposedly, of the 1991 ‘coup’ so many would assume he contributed (largely) or initiated 1991 ‘coup’. He wanted to have a chance (we are still wondering) in leadership to change South Sudan for the better. Now, he has the chance as the second most powerful man to implement the change he dreamed of in 1991. However, Dr. Riek isn’t implementing anything in 1991 policy paper. Then one wonders! Did he actually have anything to do with 1991 or was he just used by Dr. Lam? Remember I used ‘it appears’. Riek appears to have had a vision because there was a policy paper under his leadership. Good assumption I guess.

I, and many South Sudanese, want to know if Riek had a vision or he was misled by you. If he wasn’t misled then where’s the vision of 1991 in Juba? That’s my question and it’s far from ‘unequivocal admission’ of anything.

At the Helm of Foreign Ministry

Your response to this issue left me confused as to your understanding of facts relevant to a given situation verses facts as they have to be. You wrote:

In the first place, why should you assume that the Sudanese position was not for the interest of South Sudanese people? Be informed that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) stipulates that the SPLM and the National Congress were in partnership to implement the agreement.

This response actually surprised me. I don’t know whether or not this was a rhetorical question. The South Sudanese position and the Sudanese positions have never been the same and will never be the same. Why would you assume that just because the CPA was signed then the Sudanese interest and the South Sudanese interest have all of the sudden become reconciled? CPA was signed not because SPLM ‘knew’ it was good for South Sudanese, but they signed it because it was what they ‘thought best’ (given the circumstances) to be the preferable option. This doesn’t reconcile interests and shouldn’t give anyone any impression it helped harmonize them.

The SPLM you represented disagreed with you; the average South Sudanese decried some of your positions at the ministry. Why would you still believe you were representing the interest of South Sudanese? You are confusing CPA implementation with the interest of South Sudanese, Dr. Lam, and that surprises me. You didn’t read the mood of South Sudanese; something a person of your caliber can easily do?

SPLM is full of crooks, yes, but what did you do to change their perception of you? There was something they misunderstood about your political, policy and leadership mannerism, but you threw in the towel without any attempt to meaningfully change their minds about you? Humility and hermeneutical prowess (something you have but didn’t use) is part of impeccable leadership.

You explained to us the way you were treated by SPLM and Kiir. I’m not surprised for that is SPLM, but what did you do to try to change people’s minds about you. You have an excellent capacity to do so but you didn’t do so.

Arguing that Southern and Northern interests became compatible given CPA stipulations is a grave failure of imagination on your part. You needed to situationally contextualize CPA implementation rather than take it on face value; something NCP enjoyed immensely.

Now, was it in the interest of South Sudanese to have a separate, later referendum for Abyei? Was it the interest of South Sudanese to have divided Southern oil 50/50 while the South wasn’t getting any share of the northern oil? Was it in the interest of South Sudanese to deputize everything? From the president to committees, we were all deputies. Was it in the interest of South Sudanese to be denied key ministries? Was it in the interest of South Sudanese to have Sudan remain united? What was the position of South Sudan in relation to the Darfur problem?

I don’t know where you think the interests of South Sudanese and that of Sudanese are compatible (well, trivially… hope for Peace, Development, Sustainable Economy… etc.).  

Perhaps you have something else in mind. You know very well the conditions and external pressures under which the CPA was signed. And you know the compromises that had to be made not because they were in our interest. I’d like you to convince me and South Sudanese where our interests were compatible, nontrivially, with those of Sudanese.

You know or should know ‘Paper Coalition Governments’ and ‘Practical Coalition Governments.’ There are coalition governments in the real world and coalition governments as defined in paper. Was CPA implemented letter by letter? No…because what is in paper isn’t always practised as exactly written. You’re in our world but why you want to understand issues in that frustrating, vain objectivity baffles me. Should you have adhered to a ‘Paper Coalition Government’ as exactly defined even when it was against your people? I understand how coalition governments work but the circumstances of the Sudan’s government of National Unity (GNU) make GNU a bad example of a coalition government you could respect as exactly stipulated on paper.

Building a Prototypical Ministry

Your understanding of ‘opportunism’ and ‘pragmatism’ is either impoverished or you’re just being brilliantly evasive. ‘Pragmatism should not be synonymous with opportunism’ you say, and I agree but that’s what you should tell yourself, not me. By being pragmatic, you shouldn’t think you are being opportunistic. Your performance would exonerate you in the eyes of your critics or doubters.

However, you seem to see things through the prism of Dr. Lam’s benefit and dignity vs. SPLM crooks. Where in heaven’s name are we, the average persons you and the SPLM fought for? Your dignity should be in fighting for your people by making their lives better. What’s the problem with ‘stooping down’ for the interest of your people?  You offered to die for them as an SPLM commander so what’s stooping down in comparison? What’s the problem with humbling yourself down to help your people rid themselves of some of the ills facing them? ‘Stooping down’ would be a pragmatic step for the interest of the people. And people would know you’re not taking this ‘Prototypical Ministry’ for your own interest if you practically benefit South Sudanese more than any other ministry. Who’d hate a Minister who brings tangible results? Who’d call a minister an opportunist when he doesn’t benefit but his people ripe the benefits of his ‘clean’ performance?

Opportunists only think of their interests not of others’. By taking a ministry without thinking of yourself, then you’re not being opportunistic. Pragmatists work for the sake of results regardless of benefits to themselves. Pronounce the benefit to the people loud and actually do what you intend to do and you’re not an opportunist; you just want the practical and the best way to help your people


You’ve already answered the question as to whether or not South Sudan is ripe for democracy. You’re not, NOW, living in Juba because you’re afraid of your safety, your party officials are being harassed by SPLM security puppies, and you also cited instances in which you were stopped and blocked from reaching some areas in South Sudanese. If people are losing their teeth, people being killed, people being left on the side of the road packed in bags, UN officials being expelled for voicing human rights abuses, then you’ll tell me if that atmosphere is ripe for democracy.

Asking who the ‘hell’ is Kiir is a rhetorical question intended to provoke you into getting the answers required so that was obviously well thought out. By the way, I’m not asking you to join SPLM. I’m informing you of past missteps and issues that can inform your future political endeavors.

My Redundant Addendum

And by the way, I write because it’s a delight for me to write so don’t worry if you don’t read my books. But perhaps you should consider reading them out of curiosity. But listen, how do you call a person who’s simply proud of his Race? And is there a difference between a person’s ontic self and the color that describes him? Stay well, Uncle!

Kuir ë Garang is a South Sudanese author, poet, publisher and word artist living in Calgary. Kuir has authored four books and the upcoming book, Is ‘Black’ Really Beautiful?; a nonfiction book on Race, Color and Racism . For more information visit Kuir’s webpages: or

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