South Sudan Conflict: Where and When it All Began

By Deng Vanang

‘’No smoke without fire, quipped the aged old adage.’’

January 3, 2014 (SSNA) — The ongoing conflict is the backlog of unfinished business between two largest tribes, generational foes over several goodies they share like the division of an old cow and its infant calf and among others. These blood brothers more genetically, culturally and socially identical are fathered by a patriarch named Raan Hoa, continues the Nuer – Dinka mythology. These Nuer and Dinka brothers are at it again, embroiling in a mortal struggle for power that symbolizes authority and wealth beneath the bewildering eyes of other minority ethnic groups conspicuously reduced to spectators on the sidelines of country public affairs.  This current war is, in part, marked the third phase of the two tribal giants’ protracted power struggle at play in South Sudan modern, but fragile state.

The second phase, following that of a cow and its calf, was fought during stoned age. That is to say long before South Sudan showed signs of metamorphosing into a state society. This struggle was waged over and above insatiable quest to amass more territories and large herds of cattle. With the modernity, territorial conquest and cattle rustling have been replaced with an ever increasing competition over the control of the organized modern economy, political supremacy and history pre-eminence.

Such immediate and above mentioned unholy trinity began and manifested themselves ugly following the formation of the British sponsored Liberal Party under the Chairmanship of Honorable Both Diu, a Nuer. It was meant to be the only political block for Southern Sudanese in promotion and defense of their common interests in the run up to pre-independence elections of 1953. However, such a common agenda was betrayed by Santino Deng Teng and Bullen Alier due to ethnic rivalry when the Dinka duo chose to contest under the banner of the oppressor, the Arabs dominated National Unionist Party, NUP under Ibrahim Al-azhari.

The next port of discrepancy became the integration of former Anya-Nya one fighters into Sudan regular army when the Nuer who started Anya-Nya one war with Equatorians claimed to have been robbed of the benefits of war they started by the Dinka. Dinka domination was ripe when first ever President of High Executive Council of Southern region, Abel Alier packed key institutions of an autonomous government with largely illiterate Dinkas. This sparked off popular call for a re- division famously known as’’ Kokora’’ of the autonomous Southern Sudan into three Greater regions of Equatoria, Bahr El Ghazal under the Dinka and Upper Nile under the Nuer in early 1983.

SPLM/A formed

The same year South Sudanese nationalists in their thousands opposed to the re-division of the region dashed for the Ethiopian eastern borders in protest of what they termed as weakening of Southern Sudan unity by Arabs in shrewd divide and rule policy. However, the so called unity they wanted among themselves never came to the fore. They found themselves haunted by their crude past they left behind in the Sudan. That is fight over the leadership of a newly formed powerful rebel movement immensely supported by Ethiopian military regime, the derg and communist bloc of the East spearheaded by former Soviet Union and Cuba. The power struggle for leadership pitted the eventually vanquished Anya-Nya Two Nuer dominated forces under Samuel Gai Tut against victorious Dinka dominated SPLM/A forces led by Dr. John Garang De Mabior. The Any-Nya Two laid claim to an objective that aimed at establishing a separate independent state in South Sudan while SPLM/A clamored for a multi-racial united socialist democratic Sudan irrespective of culture and religion.

With the war becoming increasingly unwinnable and casualties in manpower and materials reaching unprecedented proportion then came a renewed call for a sizable territory South Sudanese could afford to slice off from the Arabs and declare a sovereign homeland of their own. Such a burning quest became the genesis of 1991 foiled coup as staged by Commander Dr. Riek Machar against the Chairman and Commander –in-Chief of SPLM/A Dr. John Garang De Mabior. The eight years’ devastating inter-ethnic and factional fighting pitted the Machar’s Nuer against Garang’s Dinka. Only to end through the Nairobi brokered pact of January 2002 between the two powerful tribal chiefs.

Kiir era

Death of Garang in a plane crash on 30th July 2005 six months after the signing of comprehensive Peace Agreement that brought to an end 21 years South-North conflict brought to power his little known deputy in the SPLM/A, Salva Kiir Mayardit as Vice President in the self-governing Southern Sudan and First Vice President of Federal Republic of Sudan in six years interim period. Such period was to culminate later in a referendum slated for only Southern Sudanese to freely determine whether to remain part of a united Sudan or become separate independent entity. Garang left a new beginning untouched with Kiir to start by forming government of Southern Sudan as well as sending members of SPLM as the political organization to represent the South and other marginalized regions that fought alongside Southern Sudanese against Arabs dominated successive governments in Khartoum.

Kiir began establishing a state in Southern Sudan with ethnic extremist mentality akin to that of his tribesmen, Abel Alier in 1970s and John Garang in 1983 to 2005. Dinka who number less than 25% percent of the total population in South Sudan choose to grab more than 65% percent of the country’s political and economic power. Real estate businesses and educational opportunities, top military brass, public and foreign services positions have become synonymous with the extremely powerful Dinka chauvinists while the rest of over 85% of the population which is 61 ethnic groups are condemned to scramble over limited means of survival far below 40%.

It is the aforementioned mentioned opportunities Kiir wanted to consolidate in the hands of a few Dinka elite. That is through crafting of draconian Marxist-communist style dictatorial party and state constitutional provisions respectively via rubber stamp SPLM Liberation Council and National Constitutional Review Commission that savagely disregard presidential term limit so that he not only remains in power till kingdom come but can also grant him the right to handpick his own dimwit successor to completely raise to the ground what is left of his current wanton destruction if the inevitable grim reaper comes knocking on his door.

Amicable solution

Solution to both current and future problems in South Sudan is one and not two or more. That is Kiir stepping aside and flying to his impoverished home state of Warrap on a one way ticket on a winningly long donkey ride provided he will be forgiven for the human right abuses perpetrated as the result of his own fabricated coup. For he can in no way still claim to be democratically elected president if he violated the sanctity of democratic principles that brought him to power under controversial circumstances of 201o rigged elections. Too, eight years are enough for any leader to rule and leave a mark so glorious behind as required by a country that takes pride in being a democracy. And therefore, should not make people to compensate for the years he chose to waste looting for a few and destroying all vestiges of South Sudan’s traditional democracy. In his position a renowned academic or university don takes charge. This person must come from one of the Southern Sudan’s minority tribes and under whose interim government of national unity comprising of all political forces and Machar for 18 months a people centered – liberally progressive federal constitution reflective of all ethnic, religious and under privileged groups’ interests can be written. The purposed constitution shall include a nationwide reconciliation and forgiveness crusade, disband endemically corrupt and more alienating SPLM/SPLA whose ownership is being contested as well as detribalize all state institutions including the military under watchful eyes of independent Legislative Assemblies, Judiciary and Anti-corruption Commission before the elections in which the appointed interim President will not participate. In those elections, Machar and Kiir’s allies shall take part through differently registered political parties like any other stakeholders. End of the crisis!

Deng Vanang is a journalist and executive member of South Sudan leading opposition, SPLM-DC, E-mail:[email protected]

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