Ambitious Vice President, Insecure and Desperate President: the ambiguous, incomprehensible politicking in South Sudan

By Kuir ë Garang

April 20, 2013 (SSNA) — I’m not a fan of any politician or any political party in South Sudan; however, I despise the culture of criticising because it feels good to do so. We have to criticize because the country is in jeopardy.

There are many people who despise Vice President, Riek Machar, for the atrocities that happened under his leadership in 1991 in Nyarweng, Hol, Twi and Bor areas. Whatever he does, good or bad, is always run through this political prisms and dismissed outright.

The ‘Republic Decree’ that stripped Machar of the delegated duties came as welcome news to people who hate him to death. These people are immune to any reasoned position about the possibility of seeing the VP with the current lenses rather than the lenses of 1991.

There are people, on the other hand, who welcome the ‘stripping’ because they see the ‘National Reconciliation’ as meaningless; that it’s not doing something it’s supposed to be doing. These people, I’d want to believe, welcome the ‘decree’ on principle rather than on emotive, uncritical resentment. Their main concern is that the ‘National Reconciliation’ is being used as a political ruse meant to garner political goals for VP’s political intentions. Be as that may, these people as they very well know, and I’ll be naïve enough to say, that these are just mere speculations. We need tangible proofs. A conscientious person would acknowledge that this process is better than not doing anything at all. It’s a welcome initiative. After all, how many initiatives are there in South Sudan? We better hear over and again a ‘Reconciliation’ that isn’t happening than to brood over inter-tribal hatred that affects the fabric of the society.

People who attack Riek’s ‘weak’ leadership qualities as a ground to dismiss the ‘National Reconciliation’ process are missing the point. You can’t criticize something before it starts. That’s pathetic! Besides, he’s not starting something that’s going to kill our people! You could watch and see if he’d fail. Or we could suggest methods which can help in making the ‘National Reconciliation’ effective and helpful to the people. Criticizing without suggesting any efficacious and beneficial alternatives is mere mental impotence. It’s criticizing for the sake of criticizing.

I don’t see Riek as any better than the crooks in Juba. He’s as corrupt as they are; however, he’s started something we shouldn’t play down. South Sudanese need to heal and someone should start it.

I better go with a corrupt man who’s started helpful, if slow initiatives, than to go with a corrupt man, who’s basically a narcissistic tape recorder; advised by a bunch of callous pieces of wood.

We have a culture of ‘I don’t think I can start anything but if someone starts it I’ll try to analyze it to see if it’s good’. How sad! Never criticize if you can’t offer any workable solutions or alternatives. We should criticize to correct not to vilify.

People, sadly, are missing the bigger picture. We are being unnecessarily and unwittingly self-righteous about the intentions of the VP. I’ve criticized the VP in one of my articles on my pessimistic view of South Sudan. I’d criticized the ‘National Reconciliation’ process as having no effective structure, but I had no business saying it should be abolished or suspended. People need to hear that their government is doing something even if we perceive it as ineffective. We already have a host of innumerable failures to criticise; not ‘National Reconciliation.’

A government that is initiative can actually inspire the citizens to be initiative on their own.

We have to criticize initiatives or governmental undertakings only if they are detrimental to the country not because they are perceptually ineffective. Our duty as citizens is to provide inputs to make such initiatives effective.

The bright will make the ineffective effective and the fool will try to kill it because he’s not predisposed to initiatives. Let’s support whoever wants to make peace for waging peace is harder than waging war. We can criticize Riek on all of his other failures but ‘National Reconciliation’ is one aspect of our being that tells me we are becoming dangerously blinded by political feel-goodness. Let’s always support instead of developing a culture of undermining beneficial issues.

Besides, people are being overly unrealistic about the nature of issues in South Sudan. Yes, the president has constitutional right in section 101 to delegate duties and he has that right to take them back. That’s not my problem.

My problem is the insensitive nature in which the decree was delivered. We didn’t even know when and how the president delegated such duties to the VP. The duties were delegated without a decree so why were they removed with a nationally televised decree. What was the president trying to show to the nation? That he’s the boss?

In a nation with greater tribal uncertainties and wobbly inter-tribal histories, a conscientious leader would be very careful as to how he makes his decisions. Insensitive, haphazard decision-making will lead the country down a calamitous socio-political cliff. We cannot ignore the realities of the country for the sake of power struggle. Embarrassing the VP on national television is a pathetic political move that is dangerous to the future of the country.

Another equally alarming phenomenon is the existing relationship between the VP and the president. The two men should be the ones constituting the presidency and any executive decision should involve the two men. The president should consult the VP in his decision making. The presidency of South Sudan is, sadly, made up only of the president. The president has more to gain through working with the VP than to sideline him.

The decision to delegate or withdraw powers should have been done within the presidency without any decree or nationally televised embarrassment. This should have been a simple administrative understanding. Did the VP refuse to give back duties? Was there any impression the VP was going to resist?

Such brusque, no-explanation decision-making is a dangerous precedent for the country. Everyone should be held accountable. The president is entitled to his decisions within the limits of the constitution, however, he’s not entitled to ambiguous and questionable decisions that leave the country reeling with uncertainty tensions.

The president owes the people unequivocal explanations for they elected him to serve them. All decisions should be made in the interest of the nation not on the whimsical benefits of the president and his cronies. How beneficial is this ‘Repugnant Decree’ to the South Sudanese people? We also need to know the reasons in order to hold the VP accountable in case he’s acting outside his constitutional mandate. Are we just supposed to assume the president, who never gets anything right, is right?

Another error the president has made, which amounts to shooting himself in the foot, is the nature of power struggle. If the president was recalling his delegated duties to get rid of any would-be VP’s campaign platform, then he (Kiir) has just committed a political blunder. This intimidation-like manner of thinking is only effective in authoritarian regimes. To wield or brandish political powers wouldn’t help when it comes to appealing for votes. Votes are begged not demanded.

The president and his unofficial advisors have actually made hero of the VP. They are trying to reflect, inadvertently, the VP as someone trying to do something good for the country and he’s been prevented by power-hungry fellows around the president. This is not going to diminish the appeal of the VP in the eyes of the voters or SPLM members.  What the president should have done is to be visible by suggesting helpful changes that’d not reflect him as being insecure, desperate and repressive. The decree is basically a desperate move and it’s not going to help the president politically. The president is basically shooting himself in the foot by intimidating his would-be allies, and peeing off potential voters.

Those who advise the president are actually writing his political obituary. You’re reflecting the president as indecisive, impulsive, insecure and insensitive to the needs of the citizens. Who would vote for such a president?

The president should try to effectivize national initiatives without jeopardizing his own integrity. The president could have removed the delegated duties in a smart way without angering the VP or the people of South Sudan. The president is been portrayed as some small, valueless man afraid of any initiatives.

Unless the president has decided to be a military dictator, he needs to listen to the voice of the people, otherwise; he’s being forced to ‘decree’ his own political demise.

Kuir ë Garang is a South Sudanese author and poet living in Canada. For contact visit or follow him on twitter: @kuirthiy

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