Regionalism as set to replace party politics in South Sudan!

By:  Justin Ambago Ramba

June 4, 2013 (SSNA) — Talking about regionalism, insecurity, corruption, nepotism, cronyism and tribalism in the context of the nascent country of the Republic of South Sudan (RSS) should be a boring topic by now, yet here we are again. The dominance of the political debate on the above mentioned vices if anything, it only demonstrates how far away from perfection is this new country in managing its hard won independence throughout the nearly two years since it became a sovereign state.

What we can’t brush aside is the one fact that at last the many regional conferences so far held in Juba and Wau seemed to have finally succeeded in giving a face to a political practice that is as old as the SPLM itself. Someone may argue that regionalism though never new to RSS wasn’t an open political forum, but to tell the truth neither was it a closet forum.

Take it from this article, and you are safe,  for regionalism and tribalism is what South Sudan was and went on  to become officially so under the currently SPLM’s totalitarian rule. 

If you think that regionalism and tribalism are bad, then you are likely to be more frustrated should the very incumbent faces remain in office, for they can only make things worse.

On the other hand should you consider regionalism and tribalism as good things, and then you have nothing to worry about and just go on with you daily chores.  Very soon everything will just be fine and your way – more regionalism and more tribalism, but you must remember to vote for a true tribalistic and a true regionalist politician. Read their manifesto and if it doesn’t clearly mention tribalism and regionalism then you know that you are dealing with a scam politician who doesn’t deserve your precious vote either.

Regional meetings on the sidelines of social gatherings.

Read this quote from the Sudan Tribune as we are about to enter into this wonderful discussion of how South Sudanese tend to perceive and practice tribalism and its begotten child, regionalism:

“ June 2, 2013 (JUBA) – South Sudan’s Vice President, Riek Machar, has warned against regional based politics, saying this can unfortunately take over the role of political parties and promote tribalism in the young nation”.

The above is an extract from the incumbent Vice President and a likely contestant in the 2015 presidential election Dr. Machar’s speech in an occasion organized in memory of the late veteran politician, Dr.  Andrew Wiu. And not long ago before that the Vice President was also reported to have given another political speech in a thanksgiving gathering organized by the chairperson of the war disabled, widows and orphans commission, Deng Dau, which later also turned into a political forum as usually is the case with South Sudanese everywhere.

To an outsider this social gathering (Deng Dau’s Thanksgiving) which without the least doubt was deliberately turned into a full blown  political rally  had all that it takes to deserve being called a mini regional conference, yet those involved  chose not to refer to it that way.

But given the political backgrounds of all those who attended the thanksgiving occasion and went on to give political speeches, one can see that  denying any regional connotation to this gathering of hundreds of top caliber politician’s largely from a single region  is more of a tactic than ideology.

Machar in his deliberations called upon South Sudanese not to be divided on tribal lines by the normal political issues in the country. He also stressed that the South Sudan army (SPLA) should distance itself from the ongoing political debates on transformation process.

Cdr. Pagan Amum, on his side warned any aspiring leadership candidate against the use of the army and money for electioneering. He further stressed that those who will be rejected by the people should just quit and go home.  

The SPLM SG’s statement is a living reminder of how his party   not only abused the public funds in the 2010 general elections, but it also exploited the SPLA (army) personnel and other national security agents, not even sparing the military intelligence in its record breaking ordeal of intimidating, harassing, and confiscations of campaign materials of those who were either running on non SPLM party tickets, their agents or their supporters.

Mme. Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior was also reported to have stressed the need to bring about change in the country.   The minister of Justice, John Luk Jok, minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Michael Makuei Lueth and deputy minister of Defense, Majak D’Agot all delivered their remarks during this wonderful pseudo-political thanksgiving.

In previous writings we had already shed light on the conferences held by the regions of greater Equatoria and greater Bhar el Ghazal. And it will not serve any purpose if we are to deny that these conferences where not meant for political maneuvering in the new dispensation which the SPLM party has finally navigated the country into.

Dr.  Riek Machar has every right to say that regionally based politics which is also known to others as regionalism has gone very far and has practically taken over the role of political parties in the country. However regionalism which obviously is the legal child of tribalism shouldn’t be held or viewed the other way round.

In other words in our case in South Sudan it is tribalism that begot regionalism and NOT the other way round. As tribalism existed before regionalism, the latter can only entrench the former but cannot beget it.

Taking the larger picture into consideration, it becomes more apparent how all these things got to do with the game of proximity and numerical size of communities, and how individuals and in some cases groups would want to use it in order to secure an interest.

There is this old adage which operates right in the centre of the so-called tribalism and regionalism, and it explains it all and so vividly:-

“My brother and I, we are against our cousin. We as brothers together with our cousin, we are against our relative, and we and our relatives; we are all against the stranger”.  

When interests are strictly sought on blood lines while social and peer relationships take the back seat,  as it is the situation of affairs in the SPLM governed RSS, it was a general expectation that it won’t be long before the very architects of this “mess by design” come face to face with the fruits of their own work. And there’s no any doubt in my mind that both the Vice President and you my fellow readers do understand what is being highlighted here.

No party politics without political parties.  

Per the transitional constitution, the Republic of South Sudan (RSS) is supposed to be a multi-party democratic state, and that was true until the Political Parties Act 2012 was enacted thus requiring new registrations for both the previously registered parties that existed in the United Sudan and thereafter and any others which were formed after the Independence.

The naked truth is that as you read these lines, South Sudan doesn’t even have a single legally registered political party, even this big mouth ruling SPLM is not a registered party in the sovereign state of the Republic of South Sudan, per its own political party act 2012. Just imagine yourself being ruled by an illegal party which is completely unconstitutional!

The transitional constitution of RSS called for a Political Parties Act which has since come into existence and has been long ago signed by the President of RSS into law since March 2012, yet nobody is following that law and nobody also seems to bother.

You will wonder to know that the sole  reason why  political parties in South Sudan including the ruling SPLM  are unable to register up till now is that the country’s Political Parties Act 2012 is too ideal for our stage of development, leave alone whether it was ever meant to be implemented at all in our life time.

Follow this link:, to read an article written by the author earlier under the heading: A Gloomy Future for South Sudan Under the 2012 Political Parties Act!! By:  Justin Ambago Ramba, 31 January 2013.

Regional bloc politics flourish in the absence of mature party politics.

What we are failing to see here is that the much talked about “Regional Forums” are man-made political refuges that only flourished as a consequence of the intentional, calculated and categorical censorship that the SPLM and its police state system has all through exercised in the form of constant harassments, intimidations, and an all-out  lack of tolerance towards the other.  

Although succeeding in its totalitarian agenda, like the NCP next door, SPLM has further rendered other political parties and itself all impotent. The truth is that regional forums that act as political blocs have existed long even before the much talked about regional conferences, albeit at a low profile.

Now we are talking about Regional Forums which not only held conferences but also have regional parliaments manned by nominated members who are also members of the ruling SPLM party. The greater Equatoria has so far held three regional conferences and one by greater Bahr el Ghazel.

All these regional conferences were fully financed by the public treasury and attended   by representatives of H.E. the President of RSS Salva Kiir Mayardit from day one to the closing.  And although some people may still accuse these regional blocs for killing the role of the political parties and promoting tribalism, yet it is the very criteria that the SPLM/A has since set forth for itself right from the inception of the movement.

Undoubtedly the average South Sudanese nationalist had had respect for the SPLM in as far as its historical role in the second liberation war, the peace negotiations, the referendum then finally the declaration of independence are concerned and that is almost about it.  Whatever followed after that is one long messing spree which is right in the centre of what the country is to day,

Unfortunately most SPLM leaders remain hypnotized by what is now history and instead of taking the expected step in a way of realistically and sincerely carrying out an audit on its performance, it has chosen to dose off in the so-called regional bloc politics. Believe me given what is characteristic of SPLM; even these so-called regional political blocs won’t escape the fatal curse of “Splmaemia cadavarica”  …………..corruption, impunity and the list goes on.

Anybody out there can claim to be encouraging the so-called political parties to reflect the national unity of the country by securing membership from all the states and tribes. Theoretically that is fine, but given the lessons learned in the 2010 general elections, certain areas are no go zone for politicians hailing from tribes outside the region.

If you revisit the records of events that occurred during the campaigning period in those elections, nearly all the four states of Bahr el Ghazel took part in this kind of political savagery when government officials went on to compromise their neutrality towards one presidential candidate, in favour of the incumbent. .

And it is utterly brilliant for Dr. Machar to go on preaching that,  in a political party politics, it is the individual candidates vision and program that matter, not tribe or region,  and   that a national party can identify a brilliant leader even from a small tribe to lead in order to direct and implement the party’s vision country-wide.

Having read all the above and approved it, you can still agree with me that in today’s South Sudan these idealistic statements are easily said than implemented. And of course no one is surprised to hear all these wider sense of nationalism coming from an incumbent Vice President under whose very eyes the nation can be seen drifting into an abyss.

Let us face it, for indeed the SPLM is a multi-ethnic political party and yet it is now an open secret  that the top leadership are openly  retreating into their comfort zones of tribalism and regionalism in order to gain foot in the national duty of leading the whole country.  

Regionalism like any other ism has its cons and pros; however I don’t buy Dr. Riek Machar’s argument that with regionalism, it will be the voice of a dominant tribe in that particular region that will thrive. Why don’t we just say what we are seeing?

Is it not the same thing with the second liberation war that we fought or the political party that guided it, in which it is always the dominant tribes that led the party and the army?  Pitting region against region or dominant tribe against dominant tribe, well that is not what will happen.

Regionalism even existed in the bush during the liberation war.

In fact it is what is happening not only now, but even before the new order of ‘Regional Blocs’ Politics’ came to dominate the new political scene in the country. If it was because the same regionalism existed even during the liberation war period, then what did the party do to correct it?  Obviously nothing and the proof is that everybody is still stuck in it!

As South Sudanese, records have proven that, tribalism and regionalism are what we do best whether we chose to declare it in clearly defined regional political blocs’ conferences or we prefer to meet in the sidelines of “Thanksgiving” gatherings or even funerals for that matter. These regional conferences have only brought to the surface what was long being done behind the doors.

The way forward is outside the SPLM.

Madame Rebecca Nyandeng did well to join the voices of the millions of South Sudanese now calling for change.  She might still highly rate the SPLM party and hopes to see it reform, but given the “Redlines” she had once warned about, the possible demise of the party may as well be just a matter of time before its brought forward by the official resort taken by the different leaders to consolidate their regional power bases before a decisive victory. 

The other thing is that talking about change from within the SPLM party is just like a fish which cannot survive outside the pond but yet complains of being wet. If you want a multi-party democracy in this country, then you have to quit SPLM because it never had democracy and will NEVER have it in a million years to come, because of an inherent defect that nobody can fix without sacrificing everything they have.

You have to quit and join others to form two or three national parties with true power bases in each and every village the country-wide. If indeed multi-party democracy is what you want, then you have to work to realize it. Anyone preaching against regionalism from the comfort of SPLM guaranteed positions are unlikely to win, for regionalism as it stands has found favour in the eyes of the most ruthless power hunters from within the ruling party itself.

Is it the fear of the unknown that’s holding the people back when they know that as each day passes, SPLM is getting more tribalistic and regional in approach?  For  unless  we all  part ways with that fear we will talk and talk, in regional conferences, thanksgiving occasions, christening occasions, weddings, or even funerals  – at the end South Sudan will  gradually slip off our hands. 

If what is set here in this article as the way forward threatens to force some people out of their comfort zones, then lie assured that regionalism is here to stay and replace any damn and unrealistic party politics.  The bottom line is that hypocritical politicians will have to either sink or swim.

Author: Dr. Justin Ambago Ramba. Secretary General United South Sudan Party (USSP). He can be reached at: [email protected]

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