Power Struggle in the SPLM

By Elhag Paul

April 4, 2013 (SSNA) — The tremor triggered by the power struggle within the Oyee machine is creating unprecedented fissures in the supposedly mighty organisation. Since the story broke out into the open, every day the sun rises the fissures widen with rumours spreading like wild fire. These cracks threaten the entire survival of this monstrous organisation. To calm the situation down, the Oyee machine appears to have engaged a new breed of spin doctors whose job is to confuse the public. This is represented by people like Mr Akol Marial and his article “Sour politics of conflict and suspicion due to adversarial relationship between SPLM leaders” published by South Sudan Nation on 30th March 2013.

The power struggle among the Oyee machine leadership is heating up and bringing forth the ugly memories of 1991 split with its aftermath. Understandably, the SPLM machine is now gripped with fear and anxiety with its followers confused not knowing what to do. Marial expressing his helplessness which may be representative of the average Oyee member points out that several failed attempts have been made by SPLM highest political organ , the political bureau, to put its house in order and to go to the national convention with just one voice like in 2008 but to no avail.

The challengers of President Salva Kiir, (Vice president Riek Machar, Secretary General Pagan Amun, Speaker Wani Igga and Madam Nyandeng De Mabior) are just as unruly as they have always been in the government and are refusing to submit to the president. Each one of them wants the high chair at all cost. As the convention is still few weeks away the Oyee Machine is in turmoil without any direction and this also no doubt affects the running of the already dysfunctional government of president Kiir.

According to Mr Marial the contestants have come to the conclusion that president Kiir is a total failure and he can not be relied upon anymore to continue to lead the country. This is a fact. Most of South Sudanese reached this conclusion a long time ago. Grounds given by the contestants for challenging the president include “current economic crisis, rampant insecurity, corruption, rebellion in the part of Jonglei and regular SAF incursions at the border areas”. Please see “The Cogs of the Oyee Machine Desert President Kiir” published by AllAfrica.com on 28 May 2012 http://allafrica.com/stories/201205290096.html

These aired reasons no doubt constitute negligence on the part of the president and in any properly functioning state, president Kiir would have been impeached long time ago to account. Unfortunately, the fact that the government is dominated by the Oyee machine, and policed by brutal security services loyal to the president and the party meant that the state has not had the chance to be appropriately managed as it should for the benefit of its citizens. In short, the state has all along been wantonly mismanaged with the full knowledge of the contestants.

These contestants who Marial calls luminaries and Gerard Prunier describes as “idiots ….rotten to the core” perhaps should reflect a little bit on their own contribution to the failures of their supposedly new adversary in the person of president Kiir. Without exception, all the contestants have been key players in the government of president Kiir with key responsibilities. Take for example, vice president Riek, he was responsible for the renovation of the entire ministries buildings including ministerial housing in early 2005/06. He had at his disposal to be precise three hundred million US dollars to perform the task. What did he do? Nothing! The resultant work was total shambles which if properly audited would cost no more than 30 million dollars, an amount representing 10 percent of the overall allocated budget, but yet the remaining hundreds of millions of dollars vanished without any accountability. Does this not constitute grand corruption? Again, on the issue of Panthou, Riek and the Abyei boys handed a precious piece of South Sudanese land with huge mineral resources to Khartoum freely due to utter incompetence. Is this not first degree negligence and failure in government? Would you be comfortable with this person as your president?

Let us look at Pagan Amun, his performance in talks with Khartoum leaves a lot to be desired. Pagan and the Abyei boys connived to allow South Sudan borders with the Sudan to be porous in the September 2012 Addis Ababa agreement with the Sudan in spite of the fact that such concept does not exist between any countries anywhere else in the world. Does this not show lazy thinking and poor judgement? Again Pagan embezzled South Sudanese money on SPLM party which led to the saga between him and Arthur Akuen Chol. The fact that SPLM is using state funds to run its affairs in itself is a crime. As a political party/movement, it is an entity by itself and therefore it is like any other individual. Thus it has no right whatsoever to be favourably nurtured and treated by the state at the expense of all other parties in the country. What does this say about Pagan’s ability of judgement? Would you be comfortable with him as your president?

What about Wani Igga? Interesting. His case would make such a lengthy story but let me work out how to cut it short. Mr Igga is a very loyal subject of the Oyee machine. He is prepared to do anything to gain love of the powerful in this organisation. In July 1987, Mr Igga’s SPLA forces moved into Equatoria visiting Moru land and Yei districts. In Moru land he arrested late Col. Martin Kejivura with some church men. Soon after following pressure from the international community, the church men were released but Col. Kejivura remained in detention until late 1990s when he was murdered in cold blood with those of Martin Majier by the SPLA.

To date there has not been any credible reason given for this heinous crime. So Mr Igga has a case to answer now or in future. Why did he arrest Col. Kejivura who was retired at the time and was not a threat to anybody or organisation? Why was he indefinitely detained? Why was he murdered in detention? Fundamentally what crime did Col. Kejivura commit? The treatment meted on late Col. Kejivura before his murder, God forbid but it appears to be applied on Moulana Peter Sule who indefinitely now remains in detention on trumped up charges.

Mr Igga’s self-subjugation to president Kiir in the current power struggle is not surprising at all. Mr Marial writes in reference to the contestants, “All of whom except James Wani who’s decided to throw his weight behind Mayardit.” Although Mr Marial tried to present it as sweet as he could it can not hide the reality. What weight is Mr Marial talking about? The issue of Mr Igga’s weight is debatable because he seems to have no credible support within the SPLA and within greater Equatoria. Mr Igga in reality symbolises the extremely weak position of greater Equatoria in the Oyee Machine. He also unfortunately does not exhibit any leadership qualities.

Mr Igga’s preferred choice of taking a piggyback on the president instead of leading his people is not only an opportunistic act, but it is the ultimate revelation of the man’s inability to lead in times of crisis. If there was any time that Mr Igga should stand up, it should be now during this leadership crisis. But it has to be noted that this is not the first time for Mr Igga to duck responsibility.

When Riek Machar fled from Bashir with a coiled tail in 2000 following the failure of his “peace from within”, he returned to the Oyee machine seeking accommodation in the leadership. Dr Garang and the others were firm in holding onto their positions. Guess who vacated his position to Riek. It was Mr Igga and he did this to endear himself to Dr Garang. So this is the second time that he is chickening out from taking difficult decisions about national issues. As you can see he is an appeaser and leadership is about taking tough decisions. Imagine, here is someone who is tagging himself to a failed president who has been labelled with evidence as hopeless. What a disgrace to Equatoria and South Sudan? On corruption, Mr Igga is the one person who fleeced the Nile Commercial Bank to its last penny. The current inability of the parliament to hold the executive to account is down to his subservient character and his incompetence. Would you like such a person to lead you or to be in a leadership team ruling you?

It is the perceived lack of appropriate leadership in greater Equatoria that has allowed some people like the writer Mr Marial to take a swipe at the current 3 governors of Equatoria. Marial disparages Equatorians as tribalists and unnationalistic people who are dividing the country. He crows, “But the fate of our country is still in the melting pot where some leaders still think along tribal lines or rather the so-called greater regions, whatever you call them, is the cancerous disease that kills in the midst of the spirit of nationalism and unity of our people. I want to see a nation where political differences do not mean antagonism.” This is very rich coming from one of the masters of tribalism and disunity. But it is important to bear in mind that the problem with people like Mr Marial is that they use terms without actually understanding their meanings. It is their arrogance and ignorance that make things complicated. If they could only take time to research the words they use, we would be a lot better off in our exchanges.

For Marial to brand a whole region as unnationalistic is a display of ignorance of unimaginable proportion. What is nationalism? Nationalism in its simple meaning refers to identity and its attributes such as language of the people, symbols used by people, land of the people, geographical location of the people etc and the fierce will of the people to protect such attributes. South Sudan nationalism is a result of a process that can be traced back to 1947 with the Juba conference of 1947 where the chiefs of South Sudan tribes collectively spoke about the distinct nature of South Sudan to the British, the colonial power at the time.

This conference clearly became the marker of who the South Sudanese are and what territory they occupy in the Sudan giving them a distinct identity. Further this identity was bolstered by the fact that South Sudanese are of African descent and practise Christianity while the Arabs in the north of Sudan are of mixed stock and Muslims. It is this identity of South Sudanese comprising its unique culture and the people that form the basis of South Sudan nationalism and it became the motivator of the struggle and inspiration to fight for freedom from Khartoum.

South Sudanese nationalism (including Equatoria) was demonstrated beyond doubt when they overwhelmingly voted for secession with a result of 98.83 percent in January 2011. With this cast iron evidence, what makes Marial to question Equatorian nationalism? Or, is he trying to intimidate the Equatorians into silence as a way of forcing them to deny themselves and give up their rights in South Sudan?

The contemporary history of South Sudan clearly shows that Equatoria is the basis of South Sudan identity and nationalism. Equatoria started the fight to free and protect South Sudan identity before the like of Marial even knew what South Sudan is. In light of this, nobody has the right to question Equatorian nationalism. The calls by Equatoria conference of 14/15 February 2013 for release of Moulana Peter Sule and federalisation of the country is in fact in pursuance of South Sudan nationalism and harmony in the country. The intention behind these calls are to ensure that South Sudan survives from further splits that could result from formation of regional nationalism if South Sudan is perceived by its people from the different regions as unfair, unjust, discriminatory and oppressive.

What is not nationalistic is actually the behaviour of the Oyee machine. For example, it imposes on South Sudanese identity attributes that have nothing to do with the country and the people. Take the case of the name of the Oyee machine itself. It names itself as Sudan People Liberation Movement. This is confusing because this party is actually identifying itself with the Sudan and not South Sudan. Why is this? Again, take the case of the flag of South Sudan. This is used by the fighters of SPLM North. They wear it on their military fatigue. Why is South Sudan identified with a rebel movement in another country? The failure of the Oyee machine to take these issues seriously will no doubt land South Sudan into troubles. Furthermore the ills listed by Mr Marial himself in his article as reasons for calls against president Kiir are acts of crime as opposed to acts of nationalism. Because the Oyee machine is not nationalistic and is run by tribal cabal, it mismanages the country and chips away at the identity of South Sudan by their reckless behaviour. Therefore, Mr Marial needs to properly understand that it is the Oyee machine that “is the cancerous disease that kills in the midst of the spirit of nationalism and unity of our people” and not Equatoria.

There is no point in confusing the people of South Sudan in order to promote the Oyee machine. South Sudan is bigger and greater than the Oyee machine. The crisis befalling the SPLM is of its own making and it should not drag the rest of the country into it. The so called luminaries who Mr Prunier identifies as “idiots …..rotten to the core” can not get South Sudan out of its troubles for the simple fact that all of them are part of the problem. Their frame of mind is the same and they can not see outside of the box.

The failures of president Kiir is a collective failure shared equally by all the so called contestants or luminaries. It is unfair to hold president Kiir solely as the culprit when these so called luminaries milked the country jointly with him. They have all let South Sudan and its people down. As the struggle for power is an SPLM issue, the rest of the country should take note and not be fooled by the contestants’ songs. They are birds of the same feather. Please see “Corruption saga – the SPLM Five Big Guns or the Quintet Squirrels” published by AllAfrica.com on 26 February 2012, http://allafrica.com/stories/201202271279.html

The rest of the country has an obligation not to vote for the Oyee machine thieves come 2015 if at all there will be elections. What South Sudan needs is a completely new breed of honest leaders with the country at heart. Riek, Pagan and Nyandeng are just challenging president Kiir because they want power to protect their loot and to boost their ego. Having been part of the crimes in the country, each wants to ensure that these crimes remain buried. Thus their challenge to president Kiir has nothing to do with the well-being of the country but selfish ends. So whether president Kiir remains or is replaced with any of the three, it will be business as usual without any tangible change in the country. Change can only come with a new breed of leaders and a new South Sudanese party. Albert Einstein rightly said "We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]

The Author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected]

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