By Elhag Paul
September 4, 2013 (SSNA) — With the instalment of Manasa Magok Rundial as speaker of the parliament yesterday, the government circuit is complete, exactly after 40 days when the SPLM started entertaining the nation to a spectacular circus of supposed democracy. Even the most sceptic of the critics including foreign observers got carried away with the impressive bravado. Well done Oyee. You have shown your wits of duping the masses and the world.
This circus has erased from the peoples’ minds the simplest fact that all that have been happening in Juba is a struggle for power within the SPLM and with it the reality that this is an internal war within the SPLM, the very party that has miserably failed the country. Whatever changes happening are only distractions from the real issues. All the actors in this show-down are not any different. Are these not the same people who sucked life out of South Sudan? What makes it different when one crook is replaced with another? This brings us to the question: what next?
To answer this question, let us start with the big bang. On 23rd July 2013 without any warning president Kiir fired his entire cabinet while retreating to his cattle camp in Luri outside Juba, an act revealing of a president stricken by fear. Uncertain about the consequences of his action, he hid himself in the camp among the cows for over a week leaving the country without any government. On 31st July 2013 sensing calm, he emerged from his hide out with a list of the replacement cabinet including Telar Deng as designated minister of Justice.
The parliamentary committee vested with vetting the nominees wasted no time in delivering instant response. Their verdict was that all the nominees were fit except Telar Deng. Telar’s documents were found to be inappropriate. One notable thing in both his first and second degrees was absence of graduation dates, something completely out of the norm with all authentic certificates. The grapevine had it that Telar himself said he could not remember his graduation days. How convenient?
The disqualification of Telar Deng from the post of minister for justice through the vetting committee does not mean that things are at last going to change in South Sudan as trumpeted by honourable Ngere Paciko, member of the said committee recently. As soon as this commotion settles down SPLM will be back to business as usual. They will revert to their normal self.
The history of SPLM is full of such examples where a slight change is portrayed as the beginning of a new era but then it quickly goes back to its cocoon. A good example is the 1994 convention held in Chukudum. This convention was convened at a time when the organisation was going through very difficult times both internally and externally. SPLM was leaking support all over. Frightened with demise, the organisation held this convention and came up with beautiful resolutions. Supporters were jubilant and it was believed that the organisation had changed and democracy would prevail.
Deserters returned to the battle fields from the refugee camps in Uganda, Congo and Kenya rolling back the gains of Sudan government. As soon as the SPLM regained its strength it went back to its normal behaviour. The first casualty was their inability to stick to their own resolutions. According to the resolutions SPLM was supposed to hold regular conventions every 5 years. When the time came for the second convention in 1999 a lot of unfounded excuses were given and nothing happened. Same in 2004 and it was only in 2008 that SPLM was forced to hold a convention because of their position in the new environment of peace under the CPA. The failure to hold their conventions as stipulated in their documents is simply down to fear of changes in the leadership. Now you can see the facade being replayed in independent South Sudan with the should-have-been-convened convention in May of this year. As members wait, the question is: will it ever happen? God knows.
SPLM has a clear pattern in dealing with its difficulties. When it is in a difficult situation it will bend to accommodate and then re-adjust to its former self.
So the disqualification of Telar Deng by the vetting committee follows this pattern and it does not mean anything in terms of change in SPLM itself or in South Sudan. Telar happened to have farmed a lot of enemies for himself among his “comrades” and the vetting decision is the outcome of that vile feelings against him. Who among most of these Oyeeites can claim they do not have blood of innocent people on their hands? The sad and unfortunate execution of Mayek Riak Ater is a collective decision which Dr Riek Machar and Dr John Garang posthumously must bear equal responsibility for.
As the appellate, both Machar and Garang should have exercised utmost care in reviewing the case documents of Mayek to ensure that no miscarriage of justice took place, especially as this was a case of life and death where there was no chance for remedy. Both endorsed Telar’s condemnation of late Ater meaning they accepted Telar’s arguments in his judgment. Did Dr Machar carefully review the case? If he did not, why not? If he did he needs to tell the South Sudanese now why he endorsed the death sentence on Mayek Riak Ater passed by legally unqualified Telar? Answers to these questions are important for fairness sake.
Telar has already made it clear that appointment to judicial positions in the Oyee machine was not based on legal qualification but rather on military rank (Jungle law). It is cases like this that should make the people of South Sudan to abolish the death sentence. I personally do not believe in capital punishment because it does not offer solutions but damages the judges, executioners and dehumanise the society.
In Dr Machar’s testimony to the Parliamentary Select Committee reported by Sudan Tribune on 10/08/2013 under the title ‘Machar Testifies at parliamentary inquiry into appointed justice minister’; he writes: “I deployed captain Telar Ring Deng as a judge for southern sector covering the area of the current Koch, Leer, Mayiandit and Payinjar counties. He was seated in Leer. …….I was told that 1st Lt. Telar Ring was a law graduate.” Unpacking this testimony reveals disturbing negligence on Machar’s part.
It is not fair to not point out such glaring incompetence on the part of Machar’s leadership, especially given the fact that he is vying for the highest office in the land. Machar argues in his testimony that “he deployed Telar under his command as a judge from 1986 to 1992 with the assumption that he was qualified lawyer following a directive from late John Garang de Mabior who recommended Telar to Western Upper Nile zonal area.” Surely this testimony is not good enough.
“Assumption” can not be a reason for exoneration or running away from direct responsibility. One would have expected Machar to have at least personally done checks on Telar given the important nature of his position. Why did he fail to do this? Does this not show his negligence in management as well as in command? If so, is Machar now not personally displaying to the world through his testimony his incompetence in basic management? How is this going to help him in his campaign for the highest office?
Telar is not the only person who may have embellished his qualification if at all he has any. There are lots of Telars out there in South Sudan holding very important positions based on ‘assumptions’ conveniently in promotion of tribalism across the board. I personally know a couple or so who claim to be lawyers and are currently serving as judges in the country. Also I know few others serving in the Foreign Service. People who can not even draft a simple letter masquerading as diplomats. What a joke! What people must remember is that the real qualification for these jobs under the SPLM government is being a member of the SPLM. Do you remember how the SPLM Chapters abroad converted themselves first into Foreign Missions from 2005 and then from July 2011 into embassies? There were no advertisements, no interviews, no vetting, only SPLM membership card and singing Oyee sufficed as the qualification. So long as you are an Oyeeite and a good singer of it, employment is guaranteed. Qualifications mean nothing. In light of Telar’s outing, will the government now carry out checks on its employees to weed out the cheats? Will the government charge them with fraud? Or will it continue with business as usual?
Telar’s reported engineering of the dissolution of the government whether true or untrue has brought upon him the wrath of his “comrades” who luckily got support of the confused public. Telar has become a repository or dumping bin for all the ills of SPLM. When organisations or groups are under stress, the dynamics always singles out one person or a department for blame and failures of the system. Since assuming the reigns of legitimate power in 2005 the SPLM has consistently been performing badly in all areas of governance. Dr Machar on 5th March 2013 in the meeting of the Politbureau pointed out some of these failures as, “rampant corruption, tribalism, economic problems, insecurity, poor international relations and the party’s loss of vision and direction” and declared his intention to replace president Kiir.
This triggered the power struggle in the SPLM being witnessed now. The first victims were Kosti Manibe, Ahmed Alor, Taban Gai Deng and the entire pre 23rd July 2013 cabinet. They became the repository of the rot with each representing the identified ills. The dismissal of Kosti and Ahmed represent the ills of corruption. The dismissal of Taban represents the ills of poor management and so on with the rest. Then comes along Telar Deng with his allegedly forged degrees which provided the perfect dumping ground for everything that has been going wrong with the SPLM. For in Telar’s case one sees fraud, forgery, corruption, mismanagement, failure to follow rules, tribalism, the macabre nature of executions, and you name it.
Now that Telar is the dark horse of SPLM containing its dirt, the organisation behaves as if it feels good that it has cleansed itself and it is beginning to work for the people. Is this really true? What about the crimes that have come out, for example the authorisation of 600 million dollars. What about the case of late Mayek Riak Ater? Will it be re-opened for justice to be served? Will Telar be charged with fraud? What is SPLM going to do to address its crimes? I leave that to you to ponder on, but the truth remains SPLM is an organisation ‘rotten to the core’.
No doubt the National Legislative Assembly has done a good job on the case of Telar, but truth be said they also failed to weed out incompetent and sworn enemies of the people from the whole group of the nominated ministers. The rigorous process Telar has been subjected to should have been equally applied to the rest and certainly more dirt would have come to light. One wonders how people like Abdalla Nhial Deng and Riek Gai Kok got appointed into ministerial positions in a country that they vehemently did not want to see born. These two die hard Muslim brothers collaborated with Bashir and Turabi in the dehumanisation and oppression of South Sudanese in the then Sudan. Not only that, they remained committed to the idea of Islamic United Sudan until the last day on 8th July 2011. They all voted for an Islamic United Sudan and so far they have not recanted. How on earth could they be made ministers in Republic of South Sudan? Is president Kiir and his SPLM for real? Or is this the nostalgia/revival of their policy of ‘New Sudan’? This failure of the SPLM vetting committee to treat people equally and fairly makes the whole process a witch hunt and that is not good. Telar may be a subject of hate but he has rights to be respected and treated fairly even if he abused other people’s rights.
The NLA has now exposed itself as a self serving body. It only acts when powerful members of SPLM sneeze but not in the interest of the country. Let them take note that they have annoyed president Kiir without taking action to protect themselves. Having rejected Telar, they should have instantly tabled a motion to amend the constitution ostensibly to clip Kiir’s wings – removing from him the power to dissolve the parliament in the interim constitution. Their failure to protect themselves is going to cost them dearly. Indeed president Kiir wasted no time in exercising his powers as witnessed in the episodes involving the appointment of vice president and the speaker of the parliament. So Telar’s defeat in the parliament is a pyrrhic victory. It will benefit nobody. In fact it will benefit SPLM dictatorship as it is turning out to be a huge propaganda win for them. This reminds me of Slavoj Zizek, the renown Slovenian psychoanalyst and social theorist who posits that ideology and not facts create realities. Zizek’s theory appears to apply neatly on the charade going on in Juba.
SPLM’s ideology of New Sudan premised on the destruction of the system in Khartoum creates its own realities during times of crisis deflecting attention away from their spectacular failures. When South Sudan seceded, SPLM took the credit and posed as a secessionist organisation when in reality its objective of New Sudan was in tatters. Presently, it is amazing how the crucifixion of Telar has been turned falsely into a success of SPLM in practising democracy. The fact that what is going on is an internal war between comrades is being portrayed differently as a national issue sucking in everybody: members and none members of SPLM alike into an atmosphere of trance.
This internal war emanates from the fact that the organisation since coming to government in 2005 has had no programmes of action. They just wallowed in corruption and human rights abuse which they specialise in. Faced with the impeding elections of 2015 and staring defeat they engage in self denigration, throwing mud at each other while loudly identifying their failures and denying their collective responsibilities. This kind of behaviour is common with all political organisations that have failed to craft credible winning programmes for government.
When a chairman, his deputy and the secretary general of a party are at each other’s throat you know that such a party is nearing atrophy. These three positions in any political organisation are vital for the normal functioning of the organisation and when the holders are bickering accusing each other of incompetence and failure, it is an admission that they have failed but they wish to hang on to power at all costs. SPLM has failed because it has never had any programme of action since their programme of New Sudan collapsed at the referendum poll in January 2011. Neither president Kiir, nor Dr Riek Machar, nor Pagan Amum has had any idea of how the country would be governed. They just wallowed pretending to be governing the country when in reality they have been ruining it. The only programme they have had and continue to have is the enrichment of the SPLM Oyee members via massive corruption.
Governing is about provision of services, the protection of citizens and the country’s borders. In South Sudan that is not the case. Governing is about neglect of the country’s borders, neglect of security to citizens, abdication from provision of service and promotion of corruption and wickedness. Let me share my shock with you. On two different occasions; one in the ministry of foreign affairs in Juba in the summer of 2012, an Oyeeite friend pulled me aside and lectured to me about wisdom of existence in South Sudan. He asked me: “Why do you want to be a saint in a country of devils?” I could not believe what I heard. I asked him, please could you repeat. He paraphrased it by saying “You see my brother, when you are a priest or a God fearing being living among demons you will not be able to make any change. Better join in and look after your children and family (‘Raba ialak wa ita malak?’)”. The second time I came across this same saying was in Nairobi at the beginning of this year from another Oyeeite while I was making my way to Juba.
Thinking about this can make sense in that it opens up a way of looking at why South Sudan lost its moral campus. The values that bind society in South Sudan as argued before in my other articles are gone since everyone now is a devil and the decent few are isolated and overpowered. Hence, the existence of ‘Telars’ in abundance roaming the land unabated. Can South Sudan afford to remain a land of demons or in other words hell? No, something has to be done. Society must be rescued and restored. The Oyee politics of purgatory should be shunned as it does not deal with the essence of politics in itself which is the aspiration to do good to improve human life. Politics is not about self enrichment, it is about improving the living standard of all citizens.
Therefore in order to restore South Sudan moral campus it is imperative that a change happens for the rights values to be adopted. This entails the removal of SPLM Oyee root and branch. Without this there is no way South Sudan can be rescued. To understand this point, let us borrow from Frank Furedi’s thinking. In his book, ‘The Politics of Fear’ he sums this point succinctly by saying: “The restoration of genuine public life involves rethinking the meaning of what it means to be human. An authentic grammar of morality is always embedded in a clear conception of what it means to be human. Promoting a culture that valorises people’s potential and agency represents the point of departure for any agenda that attempts to endow politics with a sense of purpose.”
Does politics in South Sudan under SPLM have ‘a sense of purpose’? Think about it and factor in your experience to make your own judgement. Demons according to all the various holy books have only one purpose in life and that is to mislead and destroy. Any wonder why Telars are roaming the land with the people suffering massively? Any wonder why SPLM is trying to deceive the people by shifting all their ills on Telar to rejuvenate themselves to continue destroying the country?
Given this, it is imperative that the people now seize the moment to stand up for their rights and tell the SPLM it is enough. No more Telars. No more dumping bins. Get out! It is time for politics of purpose with care and good governance as its drivers which means South Sudan needs a complete revamp and a new face. Thus the next thing needed is not Kiir, not Riek, not Pagan and certainly not SPLM.
[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]
The Author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org