The root causes of current conflict in South Sudan

By Khorhok Gal

January 17, 2014 (SSNA) — In March this year, SPLM higher political office, the Political Bureau met to discuss issues pertaining party documents among them are Basic Rule, Code of Conduct, Manifesto and the Constitution.  In the meeting, disagreement emerges among top leadership.

The disagreement was based on argument that whether the voting in party election should be by show of hands, or secret ballot.

Prior to this disagreement, Dr. Machar the Deputy Chairman and SPLM Secretary General Mr. Pagan Amum declared their intention to contest for Chairmanship of the party.  This has infuriated Mr. Salva Kiir and his inner circle, and the result was a delay of Political Bureau meetings.

However, by July after the President realized that he does not have much support from top leadership of the party he and his group decided to reshuffle the entire cabinet leaving only five of them among twenty –seven national ministers not mentioned assistant ministers.  The grand-reshuffle, made some of the party heavy weight to wonder whether Salva Kiir has sideline them from decision-making within ruling SPLM party.

Nonetheless, before reshuffle, the President also suspended the Ministers of Finance and Cabinet Affairs due to their involvement in corruption scandal that involves more than $7.9 million USD.  The suspension of two ministers was criticizes by SPLM Secretary General as tribally motivated by the president and that can instigate tribalism in the country.  In response, the president suspended the Secretary General by putting him under house arrest in addition stopped him from talking to media.

These events were follows by December 6th 2013 Press Statement by discontents group led by Machar and Rebecca Nyadeng the widow of late Dr. John Garang the founding father of SPLM.

Instead, for president to find amicable solution to ongoing crisis within the ruling party, he proceeded ahead with meeting of National Liberation Council refusing to heed the call from members of Political Bureau of setting up an agenda before National Liberation Council meeting. Subsequently, during National Liberation Council, all basic documents were pass and the SPLM Secretary General was dismiss.

All above-mentioned issues are root cause of the current crisis.  The situation was follow with rumors, allegations and incendiary suggestions from both sides ahead of National Liberation Council meeting. During National Liberation Council meeting which was held on December 14, 2013, in his speech the president blasted Dr. Riek and group as traitors that cannot be trusted.  The meeting continues for 3 days. However, Dr. Machar and some of his supporters did not attend Sunday’s session.

On the same Sunday night, the Presidential Guards Commander decided to disarm all his forces by order from the President. All weapons were taken to storage facility.  Then around 10:00pm local time, the Presidential Guards commander decided again to rearms Dinka folks leaving their Nuer comrades unarmed.  After disagreement over who to be armed who should not within presidential guards, then fights breakout between Nuer and Dinka Guards.  These soldiers were station in two military barracks.

In the morning, president Kiir convinced a news conference dress in military uniform and declared the incident as a failed coup attempt by soldiers’ loyal to former vice president and his group. The president assured the general public that the army are in control and declared that curfew from 6:00pm to 6:00am be observed.

On that night which is December 16th, the Presidential Guards Tiger Battalion were in charge of security of the city. However, before sunset the president ordered arrest of most of formers ministers accusing them of plotting to overthrow his government. 

While everyone was expecting that, the president will deal with his political rivals without affecting ordinary people. His presidential Guards the Tiger Battalion went to house-to-house searches in residential areas that are populates by Nuer ethnic group, and then young men were roundup and killed in cold blood.  According to eyewitness more than one thousands (1000) ethnic Nuer were massacre by Presidential Guards for period of three (3) days.

After Nuer soldiers that are servicing in army learned that their families and relatives were slaughter by government in Juba, most of them decided to fights the government that killed their families and the fighting spread all over the country, from Jonglei State Capital Bor, to Unity State Capital Bentiu. One week later fighting is also reports from Akobo, Malakal s and other towns around the country.

What started as internal party power struggle took ethnic dimension; people were targeted base on their ethnicity by armed militants from both sides of the conflict. It is important for International Community to know that there are three components in this conflict, namely SPLA matters, SPLM party, and ethnic dimension. These matters need to be address separately.

Recommendations to IGAD Mediators:

There is doubt, regional leaders and international community is struggling to come up with formula on how to arrest the current political crisis in South Sudan. However, I believe the following suggestions can bring a lasting peace and stability to the Republic of South Sudan.

1. Immediate release of all political detainees from detention,
2. Immediate withdrawal of Ugandans Army from South Sudan,
3. International monitored ceasefire, both sides should withdraw their forces from civilians areas, cities and allow civilian administration to be in charge of cities for livelihood of people to return back to normal,
4. Immediate provisions of humanitarian reliefs for areas that are affected by violent,
5. Political dialogue should be convince immediately after ceasefire observed, and countries that are taking sides in this conflict should not be allowed to play a role in negotiation,
6. United Nations (UN) should establish an independence commission to investigate atrocities committed during this political crisis and bring those committed crimes into justice,
7. South Sudan security sectors need a reform.  The reforms should start with SPLA, by recruiting young people into all organized forces, comprehensive disarmament of all tribal militias including illegal possession of firearms by former SPLA soldiers that are no longer in active duty.  In addition, National Security personnel should be mixed and reflect country’s diverse communities.
8. Decentralization, most people in South Sudan wants more decentralized system of governance.
Majority wants South Sudan to be divided into twenty-four 24 States in order for government to be closer to people. Therefore it should be divided into following States:-
i) Jonglei state, should divided into four (4) States, namely, Pibor, Akobo, Fangak, and Bor States respectively.
ii) Upper Nile, should be divided into three (3) states, namely, Nasir, Pachoda and Renk States,
iii) Unity State, should divided into two (2) States, namely, Adok and Liech States.
iv) Central Equatoria, should be divided into two (2) States, namely, Mangala and Yei States,
v) Eastern Equatoria should be divided into two (2) States, namely, Torit, and Kapota states,
vi) Western Equatoria, should be divided into two (2) states, namely, Yambi and Tombora states,
vii) Lake State, should be divided into two (2) states, Rumbek and Yirol,
viii) Western Bahr El ghazal should be divided into two (2) states, namely Wau and Raga states,
ix) Warrap, should be divided into two (2) states, namely Tony and Gongrial states,
x) Northern Bahr Al Ghazel into two (2) namely, Aweil North and Aweil South,
xi) Abyei should be number 24 of South Sudan states.
9. Juba should remain a National Capital,
10. Constitutional Review Commission should be fully funded by the national government in order for them to speed up their work on time, follow by nationwide Referendum,
11. Oil Revenue should be Monitor by international community chaired by World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) plus representatives from following Countries, Norway, United Kingdoms and United States to avoid another mismanagement of oil money by authority,
12. Oil producing states should get at least ten per cent (10%) of oil revenue,
13. Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be establish,

The above-mentioned points are crucial for negotiating team to look at and add them to whatever suggestions they proposed for long-term stability of the country.

Khorhok Gal Gar, can be reach at [email protected]

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