January 4, 2014 (SSNA) — On November 22, 2013, I made a daring case that president Salva Kiir has dared us and therefore he should be given a second chance as the chairman of the ruling Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) party in South Sudan, so as to avert an impending all out civil war (see the post on “Why Dr. Riek, Momma Nyandeng and Pagan are Reasonable to Remain Calm!” below). I made the argument primarily in response to an article entitled “South Sudan Needs Intensive Care,” written by Elhag Paul. What follows is how some fellow South Sudanese compatriots handled that piece and my defense as a response, which I think sheds some light on the current violent escalation in South Sudan:
“I disagree with your argument that Kiir should be given another chance to remain in office for more years beyond 2015. The regime of Kiir has failed to run the country despite the oil resources at his disposal because of corruption and rest of ills his government embarked upon. You are right, the opponent of Kiir shouldn’t rush to incite violence to remove him from office because this would give him an excuse to launch a war whose consequence we do’don’t want but Kiir shouldn’t be allowed to continue in office because he has militia. The man has already destroyed the country and the fabric of people of South Sudan more than any leader in the History of South Sudan. So he should go.”
“Our president Kiir has ruined our new born nation for almost ten years. The country and its people are suffering a lot during Kiir’s Government rules. There are no programs of development in the country for ten years. South Sudan is going down to hell if you people of South Sudan will keep Kiir in power after 2015. Mr. president has done nothing about border demarcation for ten years. He also gave away to the enemy some areas like 14 Miles in Aweil region, not to mention El Higliege or Panthoug in Unity State. Therefore I don’t see any good achievement of the current government of South Sudan to cling to power. We must do something to save the country.”
“I am sure in the country where you are hiding, any slight incompetence in the government, the people will make noise, the parliament will impeach the President. etc, etc. It takes less than 3 months to clear up the government of the day!!! Why should those aspiring for leadership against Kiir continue to bury their heads while Kiir has totally destroyed the country? Buying time for Kiir syndrome to continue raining havoc is unacceptable. It is political miscarriage that will result into eventual political infertility. I consider your advice as TOTAL HISTORIC MISTAKE that will continue to judge our consciousness in generations to come.”
“You are just too soft towards this failed president. This failed president has done more harm than good to the people of South Sudan. People like you with weak thoughts can drag this country to more sufferings with your prepared vote for this failed president. He does not by any means deserve a second chance no way! What a president that threatens lives of citizens with illegal militia? Preparing this country for another Somalia, so be it; or Libya’s incident so be it. Oppressed people are sick and tired of him. What a country with no border with the North? kiir should have tirelessly worked on issues of National interest especially issues at the border with Sudan but he is burying himself to creating serious tensions between his own people out of greed. What a president? He may rig 2015 elections but he must not be given that chance. The opportunists may vote for him but not the minority suffering ordinary/common citizen. Mr. Tongun, do not ask every citizen to give kiir another chance because that is not proper, that is your own opinion any way. It appears to me you don’t really share your thoughts and dreams with the suffering common man. Are you on another planet?”
Calling me “soft,” “with weak thoughts” and being from “another planet” is tantamount to hitting me below the belt, particularly when these words come from the lips of a “soft-sex” and a sister. Not trying to perpetuate gender discrimination here but what happened to our women being exemplars of compassion, loving kindness and custodians of peace ideals in our societies? Have we forgotten that women are peacemakers in our societies? All the same. I appreciate your comment and understand your frustration and the frustration of the oppressed. My appeal for peaceful settlement of political differences is to precisely prevent a deja vu of further suffering of our oppressed people by being dragged to yet again another protracted war, innocent killings, displacements and humanitarian crisis. We have suffered enough. And besides, we are yet to exhaust all peaceful means to address current political predicament in the land.
All I am saying is that we should give peace and democracy a chance. Time is on our side, we are only just over two years old as an independent country proper. That is what all communities of nations see. They don’t see the ten years of the CPA. If violence must be inevitable to resolve current political issues at least we want the international community and good willing members of the human family to be on the side of the oppressed. Certainly this will not happen if Riek and the others decide to pick up arms, but will instead play handsomely into the hands of Kiir.
If violence erupts Kiir will be justified and have legitimacy to declare nation-wide state of emergency, suspend the constitution, and postpone any democratic elections until peace and stability is restored as he deems it. That might take decades, and by which time he may have cemented his place as a dictator in the manner of Egypt and Sudan and other countries in the region. Not only that but he will receive the backing of the international community, since in their eyes he’s still the legitimate, democratically elected president of South Sudan. But if we give him a second chance not as a president but as a chair of the SPLM.
Obviously the decision to give a second chance in the office of the presidency rests with South Sudanese during the upcoming elections. This way, at least South Sudanese will have the chance to vote him out if they so choose. As for his opponents, they can run as independent candidates or may be even form a coalition and rally behind one opposition candidate. The process will be under the full supervision and close scrutiny by the international community, and may the best candidate win.
Mind you this will be done with the experience of the 2010 elections and five years of Kiir’s performance in the first office in mind. All I am saying is let the people decide. And should the elections be rigged or one of the candidates decides to use force to claim the first office, at least the ICC will be even closer a la Ivory Coast!
“Not all women as you said are exemplars of compassion, loving kindness and custodians of peace ideals in our societies and peacemakers. There are women in this modern world that are terrorists, an example is the white widow Samantha Lethwith. You very well defended yourself here, but in your piece you did sing to the citizens to give kiir a second chance, something that at least 95% of the marginalized and oppressed people in RSS are discontented by his leadership. Of course this moment isn’t right to confront kiir with his militia, but the atmosphere during that process of voting and post election atmosphere will give the signal. I strongly disagree with you, I don’t think Elhag is saying Dr Riek,Mama Nyandeng and Amum should pick up arms now to confront kiir, but I think he doesn’t like the idea of silence in them, may be he is anticipating a verbal cold war to challenge the president with his recent actions. Do not misinterpret Elhag, Mr.Tongun.”
“Why did the French have their revolution! You remember the Night of the Long Knives? Why was Hitler tackled by Allies? Why did Garang form the SPLA? Why was there Mau mau in Kenya? Why did the ANC fight the Boers? Why did Castro fight Batista. Why did Giap in Vietnam fight the French and the Americans? etc. There comes a time when human patience can no longer hold in the face of existential threat as Kiir is now posing to the people of the South. Who owns the oil money now? Is it the people of the South or Kiir and his militia? 600m USD spent without ceremony? How many of these kinds of financial terrorism are in the pipeline? Did you say he should have another 5-year term? You must be from Mars. The Southerners have reached the end of their tethers. If the political pretenders do not act, in a more controlled manner, then when the population erupts spontaneously and messily, you cannot count out… unspeakable things.”
I thought we were friends! All the same. I hope my response to our sister Daughter of Equatoria above partially answers some of your concerns. But let me add that I view politics as a game of chess where the winner is often the one who proactively anticipates the next move of her opponent, while secretly exploiting gaps and waiting for the ripe moment to corner the opponent and check mate or throw the technical knock out (TKO) righthand! What I mean by this is that those revolutions you talked about were carefully planned and masterminded. Can you say that since Kiir’s government overhaul in July that his opponents have had enough time to craft their next moves or trigger a popular revolution that is legitimate and will be embraced by the people of South Sudan from all walks of life, and will harness the backing of the international community?
Personally I doubt. In fact I believe Riek made a big mistake by declaring his intention to contest the first office that early. If I were him I would have kept my mouth shut and not start using the reconciliation process to begin to score political points even if I was the one who came up with idea. The result of those half-baked political moves made Kiir nervous and rightly so. Now the man will do whatever it takes to remain in the office, and if he goes down he will make sure he does not go down alone as his recent policies are indicating.
Therefore in my view what is needed is calm until the next elections rather than for Kiir’s opponents to embark on a premature “revolution.” Two wrongs do not make a right you know. Even if the army decides to launch a coup d’etat it will not receive the blessing of all stakeholders unless it is prompted by a popular uprising a la Egypt. Else it will be counter-productive, may initiate violent carnage, and instigate the cutting off of much needed aid by the donor community. It may also lead to further economic strangulation by those who hold the keys to our sources of economic lifelines, such as Khartoum and possibly the friends of the president down south, east or west of our borders! See there’s little option for those who want change but to bide their time, especially in the absence of vibrant civil society that could have mobilized the people to come to the street and call for regime change. Even assuming the civil society is able to mobilize the people, who is to guarantee that Koc Beny militia won’t shoot masses to kill? These are my calculations!
“In my home area, a lot sand grains shine golden. For the first time visitors, these look like gold. You shined like gold when we first met through your very well written articles. But this one, my brother, was a disaster. I can only speculate: either you are trying to play a devil’s advocate by pretending to sucking up to Kiir or you have taken your eyes off the ball, and blinked. If it was the former reason, you should have by now laughed off the attack on you. No, you are neither a devil advocate nor an agent provocateur. So, it leaves me with the latter. Why? May be Joana, below, is right. Have you been appointed by Wani Igga to take on El Hag Paul for three pieces of silver? If the Iggas and the Kiirs of this world have some feelings, they should by now be melting under the relentless attack (justified) from brother Paul. So, for us to remain friends, come clean, man. Leaders who change the history of their people must remain courageous, unrelenting and visionary. You have this quality, I hope. Retrace your steps and we all will know you are a strong human. Otherwise, you have blinked and the enemy is dancing.”
“There is nothing wrong with hitting spineless men below the belt. Disagreeing with El Hag is one thing and campaigning for the one-eyed man who is ruining the land of the blind is quite another. I do not believe what El Hag says can compel Kiir’s political opponents to take up arms unless they independently and consciously make the decision to. Academic studies of peace building have never brought peace on the table anywhere. During the Cold War era, peace was attained when the two super powers had equitable powers. Today Israel is holding the tramp card in the Middle East not from the position of weakness but from the position of power. Before we talk of peace we need to ask the question, does Kiir actually want peace in South Sudan? Clearly not. If he was interested in peace he wouldn’t be provoking fellow compatriots to this extent. This is no longer about political power struggle, it challenging the manhood of this guys. This is politics gone mad. I believe in Kiir’s cattle camp culture humility is taken to mean cowardice. Sooner or later, Kiir’s abuse of state powers will have to be halted. How it’s done is at this stage irrelevant. You cannot reward someone for wrong doings all the time.
“Did I hear that 4.5 billion was borrowed during the oil shut down and now has to be paid back at the expense of running cost of the government let alone development projects and service provisions? When and from which financial institutions did Kiir unilaterally borrow this money without the knowledge of the ministry of finance or the National Assembly? Is this why Kosti Monibe was sacked so that he cannot verify the truth or falsehood of this claim? If one man can bypass all the government and party constitutions, which constitution is Mr. Tongun talking about? Was any money borrowed at all? Or is Kiir trying to defraud the country in broad day light to build up an army come 2015? The International financial institutions such as the World Bank or the IMF must or even the African Development Bank must not protect a dangerous international criminal and must disclose in the interest of transparency, humanity and world peace, whether this claim is true or false. The claim that part of this money was borrowed from governments is simply a lie. Which credible democratic governments will loan a reckless government, huge some’s of money without following legitimate processes? I have no words to describe the terrible destruction which Kiir is doing to this country. Is he doing this just because he hates one man- Riek Machar or does Kiir have more sinister motives. I’m not interested in power or in lobbying for position so I find it difficult to defend Kiir. But my heart bleeds for my country. I wish I could see what the others can see then perhaps my soul could find some peace.”
By branding me “spineless” and deserving of being hit below the belt, you are head-butting me in a game the rule clearly defines as boxing. If I were Mike Tyson I would have probably bit a chunk of your ear off a la Hollifield (jokingly)! It is almost as if you have just broken an empty bottle of warragi on my head only to tend to the bleeding wound afterwards. That’s how I feel. In other words, I still love you!
Now turning to the article, I can only assume you have read it fully and well. If you only skimmed it, I urge you to take the time and read it in full. How on earth did this article end up being construed as “campaigning for Kiir,” or self-centeredly “lobbying for a position” at the expense of the suffering South Sudanese poor defeats me. Even Elhaj Paul will not arrive at such an ill-informed conclusion. Being intelligent and open-minded that he is, I am certain he sees the article for what it is, namely refreshing the debate, even as he will see the peace value and culture in common with what he (Paul) and the article seek to promote in South Sudan. That is what I intended in writing this piece.
The one line on Kiir being given a chance at the party level and not necessarily at the national presidential level was meant to serve the task of peaceful resolution of political differences as the only amicable way forward in the land. Now how did that become an egotistic crave for my piece of the pie in Kiir’s establishment, and why at the eleventh hour?
All the same. As I have clarified my position to sister daughter of Equatoria and brother Jas above, we need to play by the rules of the game even if violence becomes the only means to effect positive social change in South Sudan. It is only this way can we find popular support at home and in the global human family. I am not familiar with SPLM’s constitution, but I have heard that the book has now been opened to see if the dissolution of the party structures is lawful. If it turns out as many suspect that Kiir has turned to embark on a rampage violation of their sacred party constitution reminiscent of his forays with South Sudan’s transitional constitution, it is reported that the party book may well be thrown at him and he will be impeached at the party level. God forbid, if violence should erupt as a result of such an eventuality, at least chances of attracting sympathizers are greater. Depending on who has the stronger argument on what is lawful but many including key global policy and lawmakers will be persuaded into taking sides as opposed to have Kiir opponents resort to a knee-jerk venturing into seeking to wrestle power from Kiir by the use of force or rebellion a la Yau Yau and late Athor. That’s all there’s to my argument.
And by the way sister Joana, if you are still in doubt, Kiir has fallen from grace with the international community, which is why he’s now turned north to the Arabs. The international community too have complained bitterly about how their own members have fallen victims to the gross human rights violations in the land. But what is their response? “Cautious optimism.” And they will continue to maintain such a position until it becomes evident beyond any reasonable doubt that such a position is untenable to maintain. That’s simply how sovereignty and international relations work. We need to play by their rules if change were to succeed! Lest I be misunderstood, I use Dr. Riek here to symbolize all those who have fallen from grace for expressing their intention to run for the office of the president and those who for various reasons have found themselves on the receiving end of Kiir’s wrath and are left out in the cold following the government overhaul in July.
Tongun Lo Loyuong is reachable at [email protected]; and can be followed on twitter @TongunLoLoyuong. Numerous other food for thought and intellectual exercise on South Sudan’s issues can be found at: http://tloloyuong.wordpress.com/