April 17, 2013 (SSNA) — It is two now days since President Kiir issued his presidential decree No. 3/2013 withdrawing the delegated powers from the vice president Riek Machar. This decision brought about mixed reactions and quite a substantial number of opinions have so far suggested that this is not about delegated powers per se but it is largely about the on-going political bickering and leadership shadow boxing within the political bureau and the SPLM party. These calculations are tempting to be ruled out as these are indeed the hidden secrets that compounded the power struggle within the ruling party.
These factors later on but now, let us just go to the rationale (if any) of the presidential decree withdrawing the delegated powers of the vice president and the subsequent decree that dissolved the national peace and reconciliation committee, the question that I initially had to asked and all of you could be anxious to ask is, “did the president have to go public in his decision of withdrawing the delegated powers from his vice president”? Mine is a resounding NO. why, because the prudence behind the ‘term delegation or delegated ‘is relative and quite prerogative to the extent that, the president like any other boss in his own right can withdraw by implications the trust that he has bestowed upon his vice and possibly tell him one on one that, he will no longer send him here and there, the president can as well remain silent and choose to delegate other people to do the work that is supposed to be done by his vice at his pleasure, this will indirectly tell the vice president that he is no longer relevant because the president no longer trust him with major government projects. There is a recent example that I must relate to you about these kinds of things. closer home when Kenya was preparing to go to the general elections, president Kibaki was caught up with the choice of picking a successor and because there were so many candidates who were eyeing his endorsement, he decided that, in order to play his cards safely, he had rather started right away and from then on, he forgot about his vice president Kalonzo Musyoka who was not his favorite choice and whom he doubted would be a spoiler in his plans to bring Uhuru Kenyatta to state house. He rapidly delegate Musilia Mudavadi who was then the Deputy prime minister and all he intended was to tell Kalonzo indirectly that, ‘man if you don’t relent on your desire to block Uhuru, then know that, I can always have a choice against you even before the general elections’ this change of events drawn Kenyan into serious arguments and endless debates but in simple terms, it was a withdrawal of powers by Kibaki from Kalonzo Musyoka by implications. Mr. Kibaki didn’t care whether Mr. Mudavadi was called his project or otherwise. He was determine to deter Kalonzo and that, he ultimately achieved.
Now, let’s come back to Kiir and his ‘brother’ Riek, in my opinion, the president could have silently make use of his closest confidants to stripe the so called delegated powers of the vice president instead of wasting time on writing a decree. The president could have send the people that he had earlier sent to investigate Riek on the desire to contest in SPLM to also act for him in things that he use to delegate Dr. Riek to do for him.
What would have been Different?
The people of south Sudan would have been glued to their Television sets and their ears fixed to the local radios if the president had decreed the suspension of the vice president powers under article 105 of the transitional constitution of south Sudan 2011 for the best reasons known to him. This would have made great news although it could have been disastrous and volatile news at the same time.
However, with my non-acceptance of what transpired, I still strongly feel that, Kiir wanted to pass one strong message to Dr. Riek that, “you think you have people in the ground, am still the president of this republic, your political oxygen is squarely in my bare hands and you should be careful how you try to compete against me’. Kiir also wanted to taste the popularity of his decrees to the public in the political aspects and if the reaction is not overwhelming, then he may as well thumb his chest and say, ‘am still in control’, so all in all, Kiir is threatening Dr. Riek that ‘don’t think about SPLM, else you will find yourself in your house before the convention.’
The what I would called ‘damage control’ by the Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin to me does not hold any waters in the current political developments, following are what he had to say when he addressed the Journalists yesterday in Juba regarding the decree withdrawing the Vice President delegated powers that: “Riek Machar is still a vice president with all constitutional powers. General Salva Kiir Mayardit is still a president with all his constitutional powers. They are all in office. What the president had done is that he had withdrawn powers he had previously delegated to the vice president. It is like you asking me to do some work for you when you are preoccupied. This is exactly what happened and it should be understood in this context”, Marial said Tuesday. He added that “There is no difference that I know between the vice president and the president. The two leaders have been closely working together on all issues of national value”.
That is also what I would call ‘rat and Mouse Game’ in Marial’s sentiments. What Benjamin does not understand about this job of his is that, he can always be loyal to his boss and report in his favor but also, he has an equally significant obligation to tell the public of south Sudan the truth. He cannot lie to the people that, there is no problem between the two artificial brothers (Riek & Kiir) and this is already in the public domain. What is needed now is, ‘what are the necessary conflict resolution mechanisms people like Benjamin exploring to avoid the situation from escalating into a different dimension that will negatively affects the lives and progress of the people of south Sudan’. To say that there is no conflict between Riek and Kiir is like dangling the Christmas bell in the ears of the people of south Sudan and I think Marial should be told that we know better than what he think he want to tell us, we need new solutions to those political bureau and the SPLM power wrangle.
The decree suspending the holding of the national reconciliation conference and dissolution of the committee thereof:
My first reaction to this fact was that the president had overreacted because the commission on peace and reconciliation should not have been seen to be a brief case project for the vice president such that the withdrawal of his delegated powers could be done concurrently with the dissolution of the commission, but later on as the details of the conflicted unfolded, I was convinced that, this commission was a sole project of the vice president and some of his closest cronies and the office of the president was never happy with it and it leadership from day one. The reasons for the decision emerged that, with the removal of the vice president from the committee, the office of the president can now work on installing its own cronies to eat into the funding that have been appropriated to the project. So in simple terms, ‘it is, you have eaten enough Mr. vice president, it is now my turn to eat the remaining share with my cronies’ kind of scenario.
Otherwise, if there were no individual interests in the national peace and reconciliation commission, I don’t see any legitimate reason why it should have been incorporated as an ingredient to this political conflict, the people of south Sudan need to move forward and the commission was a milestone in this journey. So it was to say the least useless to drag the commission into this problem.
In conclusion, I wish to offer my free legal advice to the president and his advisors that, next time when you want to embarrass someone, do it in your offices without giving the public uneasy time, because believe me, you, I couldn’t sleep that night when this news was read out and I think most of you did not, the president and his advisors had created unnecessary political tension and this is something they should have handled quietly and neatly. From now on, you must know that ‘delegated powers’ are freely and willingly given by any particular boss and they are or can be withdrawn at will, so there was no need to inform us about it, however, the point of giving the strong message to Dr. Riek being the underlying factor is recognized but again, use other mechanisms next time.
As for the people of south Sudan, politicians are funny animals and can only be likened to foxes family, they can trick you to do what they would not do and recently in Kenya, Raila Odinga after losing to Uhuru Kenyatta in the presidential elections behaved as if he was never going to reconcile with Uhuru and some four (stupid) people committed suicide because of him after the supreme court ruled in favor of Uhuru upholding his presidential elections as legitimate. Two days after Uhuru was sworn in and Raila came back from south Africa, the later was invited to state house Nairobi and the four, (president Uhuru Kenyatta, deputy President William Ruto and the losers Raila and Kalonzo musyoka) had lunch together, get into the jovial mood anyone would ever see and spent splendid time together and one blocker after seeing the pictures of their cordial meeting wrote on Facebook and I must quote “what if we had killed ourselves”.
These are the politicians for you and my honest advice now in this case is that, we should take the decision made by the president as purely leadership wrangle between him and his deputy and should not be taken out of context to cause disunity among the ordinary citizens because at the end, these two gentlemen will be seen sharing several other issues as they are now doing. Let’s take the Kenyan blocker spirit and for that I say “why should we kill ourselves for this duo”
Juma Mabor Marial is a Lawyer and Lives in Juba. Reachable at: [email protected].