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.
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]