South Sudan Needs Intensive Care

By Elhag Paul

November 19, 2013 (SSNA) — The current leadership of SPLM has steered the organisation to serve the interest of Warrap further creating divisions within the greater Jieng group.  President Kiir knowing that he has lost support of the SPLM/A is resorting to building up a militia uniquely composed of Warrap boys only.  This private army is illegally funded by tax payers’ money and structured to work along side the SPLA under the name of Republican Guards.  A name discredited in Iraq.  As expected, its presence is causing tensions and unease with the top leadership of the army.

This is a dangerous development.  Apart from being illegal activity and contrary to the provisions of the constitution, president Kiir is unfortunately sending a signal to his opponents who may now feel threatened to start forming their own armies for any eventualities. This has been compounded with president Kiir’s action of 15th November 2013 of dissolving the SPLM Politburo and the National Liberal Council.  This audacious move from the president effectively neutralises the powers of his party together with his opponents raising the stakes in the struggle for power in SPLM.

Riek Machar, the former vice president and deputy chairperson of the SPLM; Pagan Amum the suspended Secretary General of the SPLM;  and Rebecca Nyandeng the wife of the late charismatic leader of the organisation, Dr John Garang De Mabior have been pushed further away from the centre of the organisation to the peripheries.  Unless something happens they will all be history in the political space of South Sudan soon.  President Kiir’s late action which no doubt is a result of confidence garnered from the presence of his militia in Luri may be intended precisely for this purpose.

Riek, Pagan and Nyandeng will need to respond swiftly while the rod of the internal opposition is still hot to deliver a blow to their nemesis.  Harsh but true – Riek has in the recent past squandered a lot of opportunities in which he could have easily unseated president Kiir, but he failed to act.  For instance, when president Kiir illegally sacked him instead of launching a robust challenge at the time the country was expecting so, he naively acquiesced in his own dismissal by acknowledging that president Kiir had the right to sack him.  Unbeknown to him this very act dampened the hopes of the country and portrayed a new image of Riek as a naive and weak person not in tune with realities of South Sudan brutal politics.  Frequent question now asked is: Is Riek a person with the pedigree of a leader?

Now another opportunity has presented itself.  Will he together with the others (Pagan and Nyandeng) act seriously enough to wrestle with Kiir to dethrone him and claim the price, or will he and the others again behave in a wishy washy manner to squander this last chance as always for them to be consigned to the dustbin of South Sudanese politics.

Time is of the essence here.  This seems to be the only opening left for any of them or all of them combined to challenge for the leadership.  Failure will mean – as stated already – a one way march to the garbage bin of politics.  It will be next to impossible for any of them to make a political come back in South Sudan for the simple fact the SPLM (their beloved organisation) is already waning with its unforgettable history of massive corruption, crime, Jienganisation, and killings.  If they choose to be binned, perhaps that may even help them to retire to enjoy the millions of dollars they looted from the state coffers.  However there is no guarantee that the next government will not call on them to account with possible confiscation of the illegally gotten gains.

It is this very point, the fear of accountability that may be driving president Kiir and his group crazy.  Why does Kiir feel the need to have a private army masquerading as SPLA when the SPLA does not recognise and acknowledge it?  There is only one answer and this has to do possibly with his wish to cling to power at all cost to protect his personal gains and to advance Jienganisation.  In the event that president Kiir either loses leadership of the party or he loses the vote in the coming general election he may then resort to force.

There can be no other reason for president Kiir to build a private army other than to impose himself on the people of South Sudan by force.  This force which reportedly numbers eight to ten thousand and stationed at Luri, a Bari village south west of Juba is quite enough to take control of Juba, the seat of government of South Sudan to allow president Kiir to proclaim himself as a legitimate leader of the country should he loose power legally.  If the people have not yet grasped the seriousness of this development, then they are sleep-walking into the Somalianisation of South Sudan with huge consequences for regional peace.

What is the risk of president Kiir’s introduction of private army?  To answer this question it is necessary first to identify the objective of this private army.  As argued earlier Kiir feels insecure and he wants to secure his leadership and the long term objective of Jienganisation of South Sudan.   This aim can not be assured without substantial possession of hard power.  Thus Kiir’s action is to maintain Jieng hegemony over the other tribes in South Sudan.  A short sighted view which is self defeating in this modern world.  Unfortunately this destructive plan of Kiir will have catastrophic impact on all the people of South Sudan and the neighbouring countries in terms of regional destabilisation, refugee problems and humanitarian problems of huge proportions.

South Sudan has a complex ethnic makeup because it shares tribes with the following bordering countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Congo and the Central African Republic. This is a fact that can not be disputed.  The names of these countries bare very little resonance to the local people because it is an imposition of European colonialism.  Simply put, there are Nuer, Anyuak, Suri, Kachipo in Ethiopia and South Sudan.  There are Turkana in Kenya and South Sudan, especially in the Elemi triangle, the strip of land administered by Kenya on behalf of South Sudan.  There are Langi, Acholi, Madi, Kakwa and Lugbwara in Uganda and South Sudan.  There are Kakwa, Logo, Kaliko, Avokaya, Mundu, Pojulu, Zande in Congo and South Sudan.  There are Zande and Bongo in Central African Republic and South Sudan.

These tribes are separated by colonial borders created by the consequence of the Berlin Conference of 1884/5.  There is a strong bond between the people separated by these colonial borders – prior to the separation they were under the same tribal leadership.

The unwise plans of Kiir which comes from greed and irrationalism if not strictly checked may lead into a serious conflict drawing in the entire East African region and parts of central Africa risking a wider African conflict due to ethnic affinities of the people and the abundance of resources in South Sudan.  So the problem in South Sudan if viewed from this angle becomes an African problem with implication for global security.  In short, what now looks like a tiny problem of Kiir’s madness has the potential to become a thorny international problem.

Now that we know that there are such risks what are the solutions?  From the foregoing argument, it is necessary to conclude that the number one threat to national security in South Sudan is tribalism, especially as it is currently practised by leaders of the Jieng community and their use of state power.  Jieng tribalism is more of a threat to the state of South Sudan and regional stability than the “Arabs” of the Sudan and their president.

To stave off this threat to the security of South Sudan a number of things need to be done:

  • The neighbouring countries should review their foreign policy in relation to South Sudan taking into consideration the introduction of private tribal armies by the current president of South Sudan.
  • The Africa Union (AU) should also pressurise the government of South Sudan to adopt a practical and honest democracy.  The government in South Sudan need to be seen to practice democracy as opposed to only paying it lip service.
  • If the USA is a supposed ally of “the people of South Sudan”, they too need to exert heavy pressure on Juba to ensure that the private tribal army of president Kiir and others if any must be dismantled quick before other groups follow suit.  Should president Kiir resist as he may, the USA as an influential member of the Security Council need to push for a tough resolution empowering UNMISS with direct powers of intervention like “Resolution 2098 (2013) Entebbe ‘offense’ Combat Force to ‘Neutralise and Disarm’ Rebels, Foreign Armed Groups” which has brought calm to Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.  The motive in South Sudan should be for UNMISS to work with the chief of the military of South Sudan to disarm Kiir’s tribal militia and any other groups identified as non state actors.  The mandate should even extend to practically reforming the current army of South Sudan by trimming it to the right size and launching a campaign of recruitment across the country for a proportional representation of all the ethnic groups of South Sudan in it to create stability.  The USA should do this to honour their pledge to the people of South Sudan given by former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in December 2011 during the International Engagement Conference to South Sudan in Washington where she said, “South Sudan survived by being born, but it does need intensive care.  And it needs intensive care from all of us”.  The time to provide this intensive care has come.

I would like to reiterate a point I made in the article: ‘Benign intervention is the way forward for Republic of South Sudan’ I argued that there should be a soft intervention in South Sudan for the sake of peace.  It seems as though the panellists in the Al Jazeera programme South2North now agree with the point that intervention is better than cure.  Please see ‘What is ethical leadership’

President Kiir and his kith and kin are drunk with power and they have drifted into a mode of deep self destructive denial as a defence mechanism against their predatory behaviour and abuse of state power.  The introduction of the formation of a tribal militia is a very dangerous thing for the country and the security of the region.  This is now a reality that has got to be factored in when dealing with issues of the country and the region.  There is no doubt that president Kiir’s freshly bold action to chop down the structures of their dysfunctional party the SPLM is a result of confidence drawn from the arming of the Jieng.  If this madness is not halted now the consequence will be costly to South Sudan and the region.  

[The truth hurts but it is also liberating]

The author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected]

Note for the reader:

It is recommended that you access the Al Jazeera URL re South2North programme provided to benefit from the highly educative, informative and inspiring video of the discussion of the elders.  The issues discussed cover all the problems South Sudan is facing ranging from poor leadership to girl child marriages.

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