Analysis of SPLM Rivalry Press Statements: Tough Choices Between History and Future

By James Okuk, PhD

We are not leading this country; instead we have been managing crises. My Husband is dead and I am not enjoying now. But Salva Kiir does not call me to ask why I am not happy. I opened Dr. John Garang Private School in Juba to take care of myself and my children. Ministers are given titles in Juba but no resources for work. What the SPLM leadership is doing in South Sudan is not what we fought for – Rebecca Nyandeng Garang in Bakhita Radio, 10 Dec., 2013.

1 – The Setting of the Press Statements:

December 10, 2013 (SSNA) — On 6th and 8th December 2013 in the newly inaugurated SPLM House in Juba, subsequent press conferences were conducted by two groups of the SPLM leaders.  The statements were read by the deputies of the Chairman of the SPLM, Dr. Riek Machar and Mr. Wani Igga. Coincidently or by design, Mr. Suspended SPLM Secretary-General Pagan Amum and Acting SPLM Secretary-General Ann Itto were the masters of ceremony respectively.

Heavy weights SPLM leaders were seen attending either or both of the press conferences. The Group 6th December was dominated by Greater Upper Nile SPLM heavy wrights while Group 8th December was overwhelmingly packed by Greater Bahr El Ghazal and Greater Equatoria SPLM heavy weights.

The first Group of 6th December called themselves the Political Burea (PB), the National Liberation Council (NLC), and Leaders of the SPLM: Their press statement was on a plain paper without heading, without reference number and without signature. They addressed their audience as Revolutionary Comrades, Members of SPLM, People of South Sudan, and Members of the Press.

The Second Group of 8th December called themselves also as Political Bureau (PB) and National Liberation Council (NLC) Committee United under Chairman Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit. Their press statement was on a headed paper of SPLM General Headquarters, Office of Deputy Chairman, but without a reference number though signed by Gen. Wani Igga on behalf of PB/NLC Committee. They addressed their audience as SPLM Members, Citizens of South Sudan, Members of the Press, and Ladies and Gentlemen.

2 – The Objectives of the Press Statements:

The Objective of Group of 6th December was to enlighten the people of South Sudan on internal crisis that has engulfed the SPLM leadership and paralyzed its functions in the Government and in South Sudanese Society. They also wanted the public to know that the crisis started immediately after the tragic death of the SPLM "historical and eternal leader Dr. John Garang", leading to targeting of his loyalists revered to as “Garang Orphans/Boys.” Not only these, but also they wanted to inform the public about the true state of affairs in the SPLM and how Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit is driving the Republic of South Sudan into chaos and disorder. Further, they wanted to bring to the attention of the masses of the people of South Sudan that Gen. Salva Kiir has surrendered the SPLM power to “Opportunists” and to “Foreign Agents.”

The objective of Group 8th December was to clarify few critical matters that will help throw light on the real situation and the intention of the disgruntled Group 6th December who lost power in the SPLM and in the government. Also they wanted to inform the public about the discredited and distorted facts about the SPLM leadership fabricated by some disgruntled elements within the SPLM. Lastly, they wanted to remind the Group 6th December that they were in government for over eight years and the result of their leadership led to public outcry against corruption, rampant insecurity, failure to deliver services and demand by the people for change, which the President of the Republic responded to by reshuffling the government and making it lean.

3 – The Hypotheses of the Press Statements:

a) Group 6th December:

The first hypothesis of Group 6th December is that the Anti-Garang elements – both inside and outside the SPLM – encircled Comrade Salva Kiir’s leadership of the SPLM and of the Government of Southern Sudan, and as a result of this the SPLM position against the NCP in the CPA implementation got weakened, especially under the internal targeting and quarrels with the "Garang Orphans/Boys".

The second hypothesis is that the decision-making process (especially appointment of ministers) was shifted from SPLM National Organs to Regional and Ethnic Lobbyists, to Close Business Associates and to One-Person Dictatorship of President Salva Kiir, hence, making the revolutionaries’ participation in the struggle irrelevant and also making the SPLM not to be a ruling party because:

a) He appointed SSDF leader as head of the SPLM government in the Cabinet.
b) He appointed infiltrators/converts from the NCP to be the speakers of the two 
Houses of the National Legislature.
c) He did not care to appoint 2nd or 3rd tier SPLM leaders/cadres to 
head the two houses of the National Legislature and also the Cabinet when he had a problem with 1st tier SPLM leaders/cadres.
d) He demobilized the seasoned SPLA Commanders and made them 
redundant so as to erase historical legacy of SPLM and 
form his personal army in disguise of Presidential Guards.
e) He unconstitutionally dissolved the key SPLM organs (PB, NLC 
and State Secretariats) and instructed the governors to appoint 
their preferred delegates to the SPLM 3rd National Convention.
f) He intends to form his own political party closely linked to the NCP and 
 distantly de-linked from historic struggle of the people of South Sudan.

The third hypothesis is that efforts to transform and re-organize the SPLM from militarized guerrilla movement to a democratically civilized political party have totally been frustrated by the SPLM Chairman Salva Kiir Mayardit based on  his personal volitions and on false grounds:

a) He has ignored  grassroots views and demands between July and August 2012.
b) He could not call a meeting of PB to translate its resolutions into plans of actions of government, both in the executive and legislative branches.
c) He ignored collective leadership of SPLM and jettisoned all democratic pretensions to decision-making.
d) He paralyzed the SPLM General-Secretariat and completely immobilized the party.
e) He cut formal communication between the party organs at the National, States, County, Payam and Boma levels.
f) He made the government to drive the SPLM by using executive powers and relying on his Presidential Advisor even on party’s matters.
g) He withdrew by decree the delegated powers to Vice 
President and 1st Deputy Chairman of SPLM Dr. Riek Machar.
h) He unconstitutionally dismissed the governors of Lakes and Unity States.
i) He dissolved the whole National Cabinet without consulting other SPLM leaders.
j) He suspended the SPLM Secretary General unjustifiably.
k) He aims to sideline and prevent SPLM historical leaders and cadres from participation in the SPLM 3rd Convention as he has categorized them to be "Potential Competitors" on SPLM top leadership.

The fourth hypothesis is that the government of South Sudan is misleading the public that it is servicing the 4.5 billion USD debt, while this is corruption (in addition to dura sage, shoddy roads construction contracts and defamation letter to 75 SPLM historical leaders/cadres), because it is not known where the loans were taken from and what was it spent on when the country has been in austerity measures.

b) Group 8th December:

The first hypothesis of Group of 8th December is that no one person or clique should claim more grip or ownership of the movement’s vision that was embodied and eloquently articulated by late SPLM leader Dr. John Garang.

The second hypothesis is that there is no crisis within the SPLM ranks and files except attempts of rebellion by the disgruntled clique who lost grips of power in the party and government and is now classifying SPLM members into caste tiers in order to scare and divide them ill-intentionally.

The third hypothesis is that Dr. Riek Machar was a founding member of the NCP in February 1989 while in Khartoum, yet upon his return the SPLM gave him the chance to rise within its ranks up to the position of Deputy Chairman, particularly after Cde Wani Igga sacrificed humbly to step down for him.

The fourth hypothesis is that Ministers are proposed by the Party’s Leadership, approved by the SPLM Parliamentary Caucus and vetted by the SPLM controlled parliament.

The fifth hypothesis is that the suspended SPLM SG should become humble enough to apologize for having failed the party, rather than raising the dust that adds more destructive problems to his charge sheet.

The sixth hypothesis is that the upcoming NLC meeting was called by the PB with a single agenda of passing the party’s basic documents.

The seventh hypothesis is that the disgruntled clique lacks moral ground to talk about corruption and deter the authorities from proceeding with the criminal cases at their disposal, and they are adopting indiscipline and public confrontations full of self-praises and character defamation of H.E. Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, the President of the Republic and Chairman of the SPLM.

4 – The Conclusions of the Press Statements:

Group 6th December concluded that the unconstitutional actions of Cde Salva Kiir Mayardit undermine the hard won independence and sovereignty of the Republic of South Sudan as he has become a presiding leader of the NCP in South Sudan. They warned that the dictatorial tendencies of Salva Kiir and the dysfunctional SPLM structures are likely to create instability in the party and in the country and flung them into the abyss. They demanded from the SPLM Chairman to call for the meeting of the PB so that it can set the agenda for the NLC in order to:

a) Correct the deviations from the SPLM vision and direction.
b) Address the present challenges within the SPLM in order to revitalize and resort the SPLM to the driving seat.
c) Take the SPLM back to the roots to hold the steering wheel of two historical processes of nation-building and state-building.

Group 8th December concluded that Group 6th December is introducing strange vocabularies of divisions and culture indiscipline via media war into the SPLM. They seriously cautioned Group 6th December to desist inciting the Armed Forces of South Sudan against the President of the Republic (who is their Commander-In-Chief), and threatening creation of instability, chaos and disorder in South Sudan. They alerted the SPLM members and the entire citizens of the Republic of South Sudan to watch out against the disgruntled Group 6th December who are nothing but “selfish perpetrators” with no place in nation and state building.

5 – My take on the Press Statements:

In the first place, calling for rivalry press conferences that offer nothing but mud-slinging shots and dirty underwear-washing in public is not going to achieve a sustainable solution to the issues at hands within the SPLM party and in the entire Republic of South Sudan.  The two press statements by the SPLM rivaling Groups contain nothing significant apart from blames and reactionary complaints on personalities. One Group tried to present itself as Mr. Clean because its members remained in the government while the other Group was portrayed as Mr. Dirty because its members were reshuffled out. But both of them didn’t intelligently articulate pertinent issues for South Sudan.

Spilling the milk on dry sand and telling your leader to cry over it does not show sincerity and maturity in political statesmanship. The end result of such irresponsible culture and erratic behavior will be bitter divisions and ungrateful departures on toxic politics of lies, denials, fear, rage, retribution and malice.

The two press releases have confirmed some of our reservations that the SPLM is suffering from identity crisis and vision confusion. Who are the SPLM and What is the measurement of participation in the SPLM revolutionary struggle? Who owns the SPLM? If Cde Salva Kiir is not considered by the 8th December Group as SPLM leader in its historical form but a NCP in a disguised shape, then who is really the SPLM?

The Group 6th December defined the SPLM as an organization for the historical revolutionaries (called first tier) who should never be removed from top leadership of the party and government whatsoever the case. Who could risk to join such a caste party?

The Group 8th December defined the SPLM as the party of everybody who can be appointed by the President of the Republic to a government position regardless of the time (i.e., history) he/she joined or declared allegiance to the leadership of the party.

Grouping is a preliminary stage for forming a political party. What is happening now is a clear sign of times that the current SPLM is going to split officially into opposition and government camps before the advent of the upcoming 2015 elections. This is healthy and good for germination of seeds of liberal democracy in South Sudan. It is also good news to genuine nation-building. What is needed is to convince the two SPLM camps to do this in a civilized and peaceful manner. So there is no need to get scared of this phenomenon!

It has been observed and tested in a none-falsifiable manner that the SPLITS within the SPLM usually bring some good changes for fruitful future. The SPLIT of 1983 brought the SPLM Manifesto of Socialist United (New) Sudan. The SPLIT of 1991 brought the right to self-determination to the people of South Sudan through SPLM. The SPLIT of 2004 led to the SPLM signing finally all the protocols of the CPA. The SPLIT of 2009 brought to the SPLM the credit of successful declaration of independence of South Sudan. Wouldn’t the SPLM possible SPLIT of 2013 bring genuine building of nation and the state in a democratic manner based on consensus of different spectra of South Sudan?

The SPLM is known for guerrilla tactics of fighting fiercely first and dialoguing amicably later. Also the SPLM leaders have been known for washing their dirty linens in public as a step in the direction of the split. No surprise at all! Thus, whoever thinks that things will go back to normal does not know the mentality of the SPLM leaders. They can reconcile but they don’t forget and forgive each others honestly. See in the above quotation how Rebecca Nyandeng continues to be emotionally bitter with President Salva Kiir!

The SPLM/A reality is a collection of different realities: the revolutionaries, the rebellious, the frustrated, the disgruntled, the conscribed and the defected elements. Can you expect a sustainable harmony in such a house with a heavy burning roof?

Though we know that it is not reasonable for a government existing in the world to declare bankruptcy, yet it would have been honoring for the government of the Republic of South Sudan to be clear and sincere to its citizens on answers to the “who” the “when” and the “why” questions on the debts. If South Sudanese government ministers carry no resources except titles, who used the monies paid by the government of the Sudan to the SPLM in Juba between 2005 – 2011, paid by the donors in Oslo and other conferences and paid by friends and partners of the SPLM? If the list of 75 looters of over 4 billion USD is not real then what is reality of the few SPLM leaders who have become super rich in a short time possible? What made them tycoons if not stolen money?

The solution is to give each rivaling Group of the SPLM a big mirror so that they can reflect on themselves from top to toe. Do they desire the common good of South Sudan or they love only power and wealth for themselves? Can somebody who loves his country wish it a bad luck of chaos, disorder, instability and abyss? Is the Group 6th December waging media war so that its members could force President Salva Kiir to have dialogue for reconciliation with them? Will they accept to abandon their declaration of competing with Chairman Salva Kiir over the top leadership of the SPLM? If not then how will the reconciliation make sense unless President Kiir accepts to step down from SPLM leadership as well as from headership of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan.

Up to now President Kiir is still a transitional President of the Republic of South Sudan. Why should he not be given one chance to contest the first elections in the new independence state and then serve a one-term as a full non-transitional President?

The 2015 general elections shall be the first elections in the independent South Sudan and it will be a good chance for Gen. Salva Kiir to contest and evaluate how popular he is among the independent people of South Sudan before he steps down, and perhaps, seek for fame similar to that of the worldly beloved late Madiba Nelson Mandela.

The SPLM leaders and supporters are in tough cross-roads to choose between being imprisoned into the past of SPLM historical legacy or being liberated to embrace the best future for the people of the Republic of South Sudan. It is high time for the SPLM to change its name so that it can match with the current reality of the Republic of South Sudan. The registration in the Political Parties Affairs Council will be a good opportunity for the SPLM to come into terms of this demand for name change.

What is happening now within the SPLM is not out of blue but evaporations of early elections campaigns. However, what would be desirable is for the rivaling SPLM groups to focus on issues rather than personalities. Fierce attacks on personalities are not going to create conducive atmosphere for free and fair elections. Who can be comfortable when feeling insulted, especially when he is an incumbent President in a Third World, running for an election in a tribally and regionally charged politicized environment?

For those who want to compete with the SPLM Chairman Salva Kiir, it is advisable for them to know that if they failed or are failed to pass the post within the SPLM official organs they will not be allowed to contest in the general government elections on the SPLM tickets. They will not be allowed to become Honorable Ministers or Members of Parliaments in South Sudan. But if they continue to think that they want to compete for the driving seat of the SPLM more than what Gen. Salva Kiir is doing, they would better think twice and call it quits earlier before it is too late. They will be considered in a sarcastic manner as lost goats (an insult in some cultures) to be enticed back to the SPLM cheaply. Time for the SPLM is gone. It is the moment for South Sudan!


Dr. James Okuk lives in Juba and is reachable at [email protected].

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