SPLM On The Brink

By Deng Vanang

‘’If we dwell on discussing presence and the past, we shall find that in between we have lost the future, said the British former war time Prime Minister Winston Churchill.’’

December 13, 2013 (SSNA) — The stages are set on conspicuously high podia with booming sounds of microphones roaring forth and back between the bickering SPLM’s factions. Each faction has its own identity tag emanating from the duration upon which it articulates its political point of view. Machar’s group is lamenting on the presence as mismanaged by Kiir’s group while the latter echoes the divisive past of 1991. And all have lost sight on the future as the alternative that could bail the party from its current challenges of the failed governance.

It all began on the afternoon of 6th December when Machar’s group addressed the press in the SPLM house’s compound. At the conference, the group issued their press statement containing a litany of Kiir group’s unforgivable political transgressions. Among them on which to enlighten the public are the issues crippling the party internal operations as well as those that are hampering government service delivery to the long suffering people of South Sudan.

Machar group’s issues of discord

The SPLM outsider faction accused Kiir’s group of sidelining them by surrendering the governance to the ethno – regional lobbies and close business associates who have over run the party affairs in deciding in particular who to be shown the door or allowed to cruise through to the cabinet home and dry. Decried the involvement of the intruders from other South Sudan politically parties perhaps without consulting them, a strategy to dominate cabinet with people who would only pass decisions favorable to him. Much hue and cry from the group is Kiir’s wanton destruction of economy with oil and tax revenues tucked into the thieving fingers of Kiir’s closest lieutenants, especially the Bahr El Ghazal power barons and business mandarins, regionally and ethnically inclined policies that see Dinka ethnic group of below 25% of the country total population always scooping more than sixty percent of the total positions while the rest remain scrambling over less than forty percent. His selling out of the party big time to the foreign agents and former colonial power, the ruling National Congress Party in the north from which several political returnees they regarded as opportunists have clawed back to the SPLM and dangerously rocked the boat from within on the unsafe high seas.

The likely veiled foreign agents may be Sudan and neighboring East African countries that have so far been seen by observers of having a dirty hand in South Sudan internal affairs by taking the advantage of the country’s inefficiency to craft sound economic policies of self – reliance. Not to miss out on the complain list of Machar’s angry and hungry group is the confirmation of the army in the party or party in the army South Sudanese public have all along been complaining about mixing wheat and maize or literally mixing politics and the army when the group found fault with kiir in demobilizing those they regarded as seasoned SPLA Commanders thrown into wilderness of redundancy so as to erase the historical legacy of SPLM and form his personal army under the guise of presidential guards, which in SPLM politics in relation with other political parties such private army is normally referred to as hostile militia group organized to overthrow the democratically elected SPLM government.

Besides appointing second or third tier SPLM leaders/cadres to head two houses of the National legislature as well as to the cabinet when he Kiir had a problem with first tier SPLM leaders/cadres, the historically chest thumping and acclaimed card carrying owners of the party who narrowly survived the horrors of the 23 years old bush war. To break the last straw on the camel’s back is what they publicly riled as Kiir unconstitutional and selective ouster of the elected State Governors namely Chol Tong Mayai of Lakes and Taban Deng Gai of Unity because of politically differing with him with Kuol Manyang Juuk being removed and relocated to the key Ministry of Defense on his consent despite presiding on the ruins of Somalia type State of Jonglei. That is beside his arbitrary suspension of party Secretary – General, Pagan Amum on unconvincing reasons and dissolution of key party’s organs such as the executive wing – the Political Bureau he of late refused to convene its meetings, legislative wing – the National Liberation Council and State Secretariats in whose place he instructed the sitting State Governors, all SPLM members allied to him, to hand pick delegates to the National Liberation Council meeting at which the controversial clauses prone to manipulation and intimidation like voting by a show of hands, the Chairman having to nominate 5% of the total delegates more loyal to him to create an edge over competitors, desirous to appoint leaders of all party organs in the SPLM basic rules and refusal to consider term limit in the party that could be in turn enshrined in the national constitution can be passed without facing any opposition. Which to them, Kiir did such unpatriotic move with an intent to form his own party closely linked to the NCP embraced in the warmth of newly found marriage of convenience over oil flow and Abyei with SPLM and distantly delinked from historic struggle of the people of South Sudan.

The group bemoaned Kiir defamatory statements that suggested having dismissed them from the government due to corruption and failure to deliver services ironically during the dry spell of nearly two years old biting austerity measures as a strong arm tactic means to divert public attention from deceptive methods of servicing none existing 4 billion USD debt the government never bothered informing the public about when borrowing it in addition to infamous Dura saga, shoddy roads construction contracts and defamation letter to 75 SPLM historical leaders/cadres whose identity he is not willing to disclose. And with all the above mentioned arbitrary policies Kiir group has put the party in particular and the country in general on the fatal brink of chaos and disorder, concluded Machar’s group. Or alternatively to avoid this brinkmanship, the SPLM Chairman should call for the PB meeting in order to set the agenda for the NLC as per current party constitution so as to correct the deviation from the SPLM vision and direction, address the present challenges within the SPLM in order to revitalize and resort the SPLM to the driving seat so that the liberation party could rediscover the roots it has lost to hold the steering wheel of two historical processes of both nation and state – buildings.

Kiir group

With kiir group rubbishing most of the accusations as outrageous and equally divisive lies coming from people who have lost grips of power in the party and government while hitting back hard on Machar group’s stone throwing from glass house suggesting it has shared in the administrative anomalies of which they have accused their group. More notably the lost of SPLM vision as well articulated by the party’s founder, the late Dr. John Garang De Mabior whose widow Madam Rebecca and son Mabior are the staunch members of the opposite group and run away corruption that has eaten deeply into the SPLM soul and flesh. The group went on offensive to defend the verbally bartered allies – NCP refugees and poached members from other political parties – dismissed by Machar group as opportunists heel-bent on hijacking the ruling party. Since the chief {Machar} of the renegades, according to them, was in fact a founding member of NCP back in the era of Khartoum Peace or surrender Agreement he himself signed with NIF turned NCP against the SPLM/A he is today preventing other former members of rejoining. And for them the group is just complaining of being outside power after mass dismissal from the cabinet on the 23rd July far from the party mismanagement and subsequent loss of vision as decried reasons of their multiple discontentments. Kiir group sounded a clear warning to some in Machar’s group to watch out over shoulders on their graft charges with suspended Secretary-General, Pagan Amum requested to be humble enough so as to honorably accept his failure in running the party as its chief executive officer, a repeated allegation the embattled suspended Secretary – General has been rubbishing as untrue since the party administration has been virtually taken over from him many years ago by Kiir’s closest cronies with his backing. Kiir group concluded by asking Machar group to desist from introducing strange vocabularies of divisions and culture of indiscipline via media war into the SPLM, stop inciting the armed forces of South Sudan against the President of the Republic and also the Commander-in-chief and threatening creation of instability, chaos and disorder in South Sudan coupled with alerting the SPLM members and the entire citizens of the Republic of South Sudan to be watchful of the disgruntled group who are nothing but selfish perpetrators with no place in nation and state building.

National Liberation Council

The December 15th seems to be the final date to convene NLC meeting that gets postponed severally and currently overshadowed by the first public rally of Machar’s group slated to take place on the same date, probably to assure the public on their resolve to slug it out with Kiir’s group over the party leadership come rain come shine. In that meeting, members of the NLC of about 150 and some of whom are not longer part of the SPLM – South while the rest have succumbed to the grim reaper/death or defected to other political parties courtesy of bickering and subsequent confusion that has characterized the operations of the ruling party since 2008 Second National Convention, will attend the volatile meeting. The extra – ordinary meeting shall take place again to fine tone what will be backlogs or contentious issues of the ongoing NLC’s meeting before the Third National Convention to take place between March and April next year, 2014.

Between theses exchanges of barbs, the public and the press seemed to have a soft spot on Machar group they regarded as diplomatic in expressing their own political point of view as opposed to Kiir group’s no – holds – barred attack on personalities in Machar camp rather than eloquently deliberating on pertinent issues of discord. Kiir group whose members except Dr. Riek Gai Kok seem to be falling short of oratory skills before the public gallery compared to more eloquent members of Machar camp, is also proving what Machar group laments as their dictatorial stand because of its many futile attempts to place a lid on party politics which is the free market place of progressive ideas, especially in trying to prevent the group from exercising their civil liberties such as freedom of expression, movement and association which are the core elements of participatory democracy. Machar group has not come out of this verbal war unscathed either. One, in its ranks and files are individuals publicly accused of lining pockets with petro-dollars, effectively depriving them of high moral ground to preach ethics of good governance. Two, the fact that they were dismissed and not voluntarily resigned from the government made them accomplices in the politico-economic crimes they accused Kiir and co. of perpetrating against people of South Sudan. Their cry from outside the fence can likely be viewed by the public as a groan of a jilted wife over the opportunities she has unwittingly lost.

Deng Vanang is a journalist and Executive member of South Sudan’s leading opposition party, the SPLM-DC.

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