Dr Riek Machar: Please Stop Insulting the People of South Sudan

By Elhag Paul

December 10, 2013 (SSNA) — The widely advertised press conference of Riek Machar and group and the National Liberation Council meeting of General Wani Igga have all turned out to be utter disappointment.  Let us begin with Riek.  He raised the hopes of the people and yet again he failed pathetically to deliver.  This brings us to the routinely asked question: Is Riek a person with a pedigree of a leader?  It is vital that this question is objectively answered if only to ensure that South Sudan does not once more find itself in a grip of another incompetent leader(s).

Riek’s press conference was neither convincing nor offering any hope to the crashed people of South Sudan.  Almost 5 months since his sacking from government, it appears he has not really sat down to cogitate seriously about the problems of the country and those they collectively created including president Kiir as the leadership of the SPLM.  The reasons Riek and his group offered against president Kiir is to say the least laughable.  These accusations are not new and actually South Sudanese upto village level are well versed with it.

The current schism in SPLM mirrors the one in 2004 with Kiir then in opposition against Dr John Garang.  At the time, Kiir as the deputy of Garang was discontented with Garang’s management of the organisation.  He shed tears that he was being sidelined, not considered and hunted by SPLA security.  He lambasted Garang with numerous examples of poor management of the movement.  For example he asserted in the Rumbek meeting that “The chairman seems to have taken the movement as his own property.”

SPLM at that particular time was about to self-destruct but the prospects of the peace agreement with Khartoum and the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement played a very important role in bringing the protagonists together.  With everybody tired of war and in anticipation of a government in Juba funded by share of the oil money Kiir and Garang reconciled.

The minutes of Rumbek meeting of 2004 shows the deliberation was honest.  The meeting identified two thirds of the problems afflicting the organisation.  Here are some quotes that give a glimpse of the chaos in SPLM:

“If we are National leaders, which I don’t believe we are because we have no cohesion with our leadership structure, let us be sincere with ourselves.  After meetings are conducted, we run to foreign countries.  There is no code of conduct to guide the movement.” (Kiir)

“Corruption as a result of the lack of structures, has created a lack of accountability which has reached a proportion that will be difficult to eradicate.” (Kiir)

“I also want to say that the movement is in the hands of few and many are alienated.  National resources must be shared by all, no matter how small it is.  The structures are controlled by a few minority group and this must be sorted out in Rumbek.  This minority group is the problem, hand picking people must stop now because it is creating problems.” (Garang Mabil)

“On structures the only way to resolve it is through the national convention which should be convened as soon as possible” (John Garang)

“At the moment some members of the movement have formed private companies, bought houses and have huge bank accounts in foreign countries.  I wonder what kind of a system are we going to establish in South Sudan considering ourselves indulged in this respect.” (Kiir)

“The Chairman has been everything ever since the movement started. I call upon the Chairman to work with people and not alone. The Chairman should know that he has been wrong because some of the members have not been telling him the truth. Some leaders should be blamed for not doing their part, for many have not been doing things properly. I repeat what Cdr. Salva said that Dr. John does not forget and forgive. So I want to say that those without guns are vulnerable. The Cdrs. Are secure because they have guns to protect themselves from the Chairman, but I ask, who is going to protect those of us without guns.” (Justin Yac)

From these quotes Kiir asserts that they are not leaders (he has proven it), that the movement has no systems and that the organisation is ridden with corruption.  Mabil emphasises the problematic practice of group within a group and Dr Garang acknowledges the lack of structures.   Justic Yac highlights the brutal nature of the organisation.  In effect SPLM internally has always been a chaotic organisation and this is what they imported into the government of South Sudan.  However, externally they projected a false picture of a formidable well managed organisation.  This falsity is falling apart now because as Hannah Arendt in her book ‘On Revolution’ tells us that a king remains respected and obeyed so long as he is clothed.  Once part of his body is exposed by lifting the cloth he loses all respect and with it power.

Therefore, a quick glance at the minutes of Rumbek meeting shows the problems of the SPLM since its inception under its two leaders: late Dr John Garand and now president Kiir.  These problems are not new at all.  They are in fact historically rooted.  What Riek et al did in their press conference was to amplify them for their benefit.  In doing that they shot themselves in the foot.

SPLM being what it is, a tribally dominated joint refused to learn from its weaknesses.  When they came into government soon after the Rumbek meeting they were lucky to be gifted with a government appropriately funded by oil money. Had they been foresighted they would have straight away organised the SPLM introducing membership fees to fund the activities of the organisation and to address the weaknesses identified in Rumbek.  Swimming in petro-dollars the leadership forgot about addressing these serious issues.  Predictably what happened was a continuation of a culture everyone of the leadership decried: corruption, lack of structures, tribalism, abuse of power etc.  They opted to use state funds to manage and promote the SPLM in blatant abuse of power in order to weaken every opposition party in the country as they have done.  Please see my previous article ‘The Corruption Saga – the SPLM big Five Big Guns or the Quintet Squirrels’ http://allafrica.com/stories/201202271279.html 

So they continued with their ways promoting all the ills they identified.  No wonder, it was a matter of time before cracks began to appear in SPLM as it did and indeed it has widened.

What was expected from Riek was first for him and his group to come clean on their contribution in the SPLM to the mess they have done to the country.  This is called taking responsibility and it is a measure of maturity and a sign that they have reflected and come to terms with their weaknesses.  This would at least make the people to have a sympathetic look on them.  But as it is, this group seems not to have learnt anything and they are not better than president Kiir and his assortment of colourful allies.  It highlights the saying that the leopard can not change its spots.

Secondly, it was expected that the groups’ challenge would be grounded on the president Kiir’s violations of the parties governing document with clear references to the violated clauses.

Thirdly, it was expected that Riek would unveil a clear programme of action to get the country out of the mess they created.  

Fourthly and vitally Riek needed to provide extensive explanation on what an administration under his leadership would do to address the pernicious issues of corruption, tribalism, killings etc which they have been part of.  Sadly enough, Riek incompetently did not even bother to delve into these core issues.  The inference inevitably must be this group is not ready to move away from their set behaviours and culture of abuse.  They are only unhappy because they are not in the gravy train of president Kiir.

This group was happy being in president Kiir’s ‘rotten to the core’ government without any inkling.  Majority of them did not speak out against any of the issues they are now accusing president Kiir of.  In fairness, Pagan and Majak tried to do something but they stopped short.  Please see ‘my article ‘The Cogs of the Oyee Machine Desert President Kiir’ http://allafrica.com/stories/201205290096.html

If this group really meant what is in their press statement they should have resigned from the government when abuses were going on under their watch.  For example, Gen. Oyayi Deng Ajak was the minister for security when Isaiah Abraham was murdered.  What did he do to ensure that the murderers were brought to justice?  Why has he been quiet all along?  John Luke was the minister of Justice, what did he do to address the issues of investigation into the murder of Isaiah Abraham, the slaughter of Banyjoth Matoat Tap, the murder of police officers in Yambio, the rampant corruption etc?  Was it not John Luke who vowed not to see any prosecution of people accused of corruption?  Again, was it not John Luke and Michael Makuie with Wani Igga who imposed the shoddy interim constitution on the South Sudanese people?  What about Michael Makuie’s recent bravado with the media fraternity?  What have the members of this group done to exonerate themselves from the accusation of corruption and poor governance?

Riek’s press statement is deficient in elucidating his claim to have a ‘vision and direction’ for the country.  Since March 2013 when he declared his intention to topple president Kiir in the SPLM at the SPLM Politburo meeting, Riek has not made any attempt to explain clearly what his vision and direction for the country is.  He just kept singing these words without providing any flesh to it.  When the opportunity presented itself for him to clarify his position to the people on 6th December 2013 he ended up saying nothing.  This is a proof that Riek has no agenda at all for the country but ambition to accede to power at the expense of the people and whoever is thinking of voting for him and his group should review that position in light of this evidence.

What the people expected to hear was what type of South Sudan this group envisions?  What methods would they apply to bring about their vision?  How would it be measured and how would the man on the street benefit?  How would they deliver basic services (health, housing, employment, education) to the people?  These are just few of the questions.  In terms of ‘direction’: what ideology will guide their actions if they succeed in deposing president Kiir from the leadership of SPLM and by implication from the government?  

Riek having failed in selling his case, the people of South Sudan should not waste their time on him and his group.  They are essentially clowns of the Oyee machine and system. There are not good for South Sudan and South Sudan does not need them.  Ciao!

There are more capable leaders who the people need to start interacting and focusing on.  SPLM-DC has the potential to provide leadership but its main weakness lies in its name.  Being an off shoot of the Oyee and carrying part of the Oyee identity in its name tarnishes its image.  Presently, brand SPLM in the mind of the average person in the country evokes nightmare.  It stands for corruption, lawlessness, disorder, chaos etc.  Unfortunately by association of the name only, SPLM-DC may not be taken seriously by the electorate.  For its leadership to be noticed and taken seriously it will need to jettison the acronym SPLM to enable it to sell its vision to the country. 

Looking widely there are potential leaders who have so far remained silent.  These should be encouraged and supported to take the mantle of leadership to rescue our country.  In my article, ‘Vice President Gen. James Wani Igga’s Folly’ http://allafrica.com/stories/201309240445.html  I briefly drew the attention of the readers to behaviour of two persons: Justice Peter Sule and honourable Richard K. Mulla.  The duo is just an example of capable leaders out there.  The selfless and patriotic stand they took with the issue of the interim constitution prior to independence reveals the calibre of leadership that might just save the country.  In fighting for a democratic interim constitution, it can safely be inferred that these are people who seem to believe in fairness and justice for all the people of South Sudan unlike those (Riek et al) who imposed an oppressive document on the people and created a dictator in the person of president Kiir.  Had the people and especially the rubber stamp parliament heeded Sule and Mulla’s words of wisdom the current chaos would not have visited the country because president Kiir would not have had the powers to exercise dictatorship.  Their values obviously may have been influenced by their legal training and that should be highly welcome.

Turning to vice president Wani Igga’s several arranged National Liberation Council meetings for 22nd October 2013, 23rd November 2013 and 9th December 2013; none of which materialised.  Every time Igga announces a meeting he insists it will happen only for the meeting to be cancelled at the last moment without any explanation.  He constantly inconveniences people and arrogantly moves on without any apology.  Is this behaviour of a sane person?  It smacks of someone who has lost touch with reality.   It appears that both the vice president and the president are operating in a world of their own.  They are so immersed in their world of delusion to the extent that they can not see that they are alienating the people.  More and more it appears that the reason for the constant postponements of these NLC meeting is nothing but manifestation of fear of the unknown.  They must be terrified of what might come their way should they hold it.

As the fight, in conclusion, is an internal SPLM thing and the two groups have disappointed and continue to disappoint, the people of South Sudan need to connect with the silent leaders.  These silent leaders living among them experience the daily pain and therefore understand their sufferings and rights.  It is abundantly clear the Oyeeites are people who truly are out of touch with reality in South Sudan.  They have no clue of the damage they inflicted on the country, hence Riek’s insulting press statement.

[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]

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

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