Dr. Riak might as well call it quit

By Chadi Michael

July 30, 2013 (SSNA) — The fear that has gripped the nation in the last couple of days in the anticipation of tribal violent is now dwindling away and people across the nation are returning to their normal life. This state of respite was brought by non other than Riak himself after making two calm speeches, one with the media outlets three days ago at his residence, and another one was a follow-up on Sunday with his core constituents during the church service in Juba. These peaceful waves are good for public confidence because they give everyone a hope of living to the next day as many of us are not going to worry now that the fog of war has been cleared. But as dust settles in, Riak and his supporters have yet to determine their political move if they ever dream of returning to public domain.

Right now, the president is pleased with Riak’s nonviolent affirmations, and for helping the nation recovers quickly from the long three days of comma, if you will. President Kiir is no longer in the hiding as his Monday’s speech evidenced. He would now continue to do all the things he claims have long been prevented from doing by Riak and his bunch. Most of Kiir’s back to work priorities are to reinstate the good ‘ole SPLA/SPLM’s mentality and maintain public order through forcible measures. Kiir needed more power, and With Riak out of the picture, he has all the power in his disposal to move the mountains, turn the nation into Maoist-circus and do whatever he pleases. Everyone now in the country including Dr. Riak is ready to submit to Kiir’s one-way policy and the SPLM’s monopoly, or risks it all. Governors must now swallow their little pride by disciplining themselves accordingly and every government institution is ready to listen to what their superior had to say or else.

Meanwhile this Hobbesian absolutism leaves Riak and his supporters in limbo with undefined future. In his church speech two days ago, Riak seemed to believe that he would still impact the SPLM’s party by maintaining his deputy chairmanship. But judging from the tone of the President Kiir this Monday while addressing the remnants of former red army, Riak’s expectations do not coincide with the reality that’s taking place inside South Sudan. Having grown up in Riak’s likeness because people around me were all die-hard Riak’s supporters, it’s by all honesty that one is sure to admit to Riak and his supporters that their current political stand doesn’t look like it may lead to successful political comeback or obtain a significant support among South Sudanese unless they act fast.

On Sunday, Riak reiterated his faith and commitment in the SPLM as the only political party that would bring overdue development, peace and good governance back to the people of South Sudan if only it could be renovated and be given some facial makeover. Riak thinks he would do that through proper channel or peaceful and democratic means. And that’s by remaining in the SPLM to contest the leadership of that party with its current chairman and the man who have just thrown him out of government less than a week ago. To many of us who really follow the crisis in this new nation, Riak is either expecting a miracle to happen or he’s simply kidding himself.

As one who admires him the most and cherishes many of his liberal principles of government, it is no delusion to wonder that his current persistent to remain in the SPLM’s rank resembles what his critics already termed as “failed expectations” and I begin to reconsider my previous objection to this kind of criticism. This line of reasoning is hopeless because there is no way Kiir who have now gained much power, self-confidence and impetus would allow anyone in the SPLM’s party helps Riak wins the nomination as the next party’s chairman. Losing one’s job as vice president is an indication that any guarantee of becoming the SPLM’s leader is very slim and close to zero. If Kiir can throw override the will of Politburo to remove the party’s secretary general, what could stand in his way from tossing you out of the political party in which majority of its members are employed by him in the national government? Members of the SPLM’s Political Bureau are ought to listen and respect Kiir now more than they ever done because some of them are standing in the threshold of losing their jobs if he finds out they are going against his one-way policy.

Another Riak’s obstacle is the lack of financial resources in his disposal. This is an undeniable reality for any opposition party in a Third World’s failed state like South Sudan. Party is stronger if it has the funds to hold rallies, conferences, conventions and political seminars across the nation. Riak, by all means is going to leave the SPLM whether on his own accord or through internal vote of no confidence. Kiir and his loyal supporters like Gov. Manyang of Jonglei and many others are determined to kick Riak out of the SPLM’s circle because they consider his willingness to challenge Kiir in the SPLM’s next leadership convention as rebellious and insubordinate. It is no secret to say that some of these guys in the Political Bureau were Riak’s immediate comrades during bush days and at the same time his sour political rivals. They view him as an outsider, a renegade or an outlaw by all measures. It would seem impossible for all the political pundits to hope that Riak has any shot at this time to lead the party SPLM.

Riak is wasting his time at the moment for not taking this current crisis, as an opportunity to go back to basic by consulting with his political base and listen to what his supporters think should be his next political strategy. It wouldn’t do him or anyone of his supporters any good by staying in his compound before Kiir issues another order sequestering him within Juba’s walls just like Pagan Amum or denies him of any political association with more than five individuals at any given time. If he waits to see the end result, the impossibility of having his name in the next ballot box will increase drastically because by the time he realizes the SPLM doesn’t need him, he would find no supporters left to form a party.

Riak isn’t only risking his political career for not stepping up at this point; he’s destined to see many good people bought off by Kiir and his clique or walk out on him just like they did during the Khartoum Peace Agreement. Riak is an engineer who takes his time to think a lot but politics is different from the engineering career. Politics needs an open-minded person who is able to react and confront the situation head-on or as it happens. A politician must be a very reliable person who is, quick to adopt to the needs of his constituents, ready to executive tasks and address specific problems at specific timeframe, listen and resolve matters quickly before they escalate further or any other issue kicks in. Riak by all accounts is a decent person, a gentleman by birth, a liberal by principles and an engineering scientist by profession, but he’s not a politician. He is not flexible enough, persuasive and practical like many of us thought he was. His downfall seems inevitable at this time, unless a miracle happens because all odds are stalked against him, and we all know too well that almost in every fight, we can only expect one winner, and the winner of this power struggle is Kiir.

As one of Riak’s loyal supporters, it hurts so much to call it quit but if Riak continues to preach calm, restrain and forgiveness like a pastor while his adversaries aren’t living any stone unturned, many of his friends and supporters would be tempted to reverse their political course.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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