February 5, 2014 (SSNA) — Many of my friends and colleagues have been contacting me about my position that the reformists are not linked by any evidence to Riek Machar’s rebellion and they asked me how I came to such a conclusion. Several other questions have been asked. Let me try to answer them in this narrative.
Who told me they are not linked: all the information that is out there in the public does not indicate any link to the rebellion. There is a link to the reforming of the party as presented on December 6. If anyone has any evidence linking them with Riek’s rebellion and not the numerous assumption drawn (something substantial), please, share.
Why Mobilization of the white army in big numbers in a short time: The white army was already organized and things such as the killings of Nuer people in Juba and the political tension in the country could have been mobilizing factors. YES, I think that Dr. Riek might had established contact and had asked the white army to stay ready for any action or to take part in his rebellion which came after the facts of the “alleged coup” in Juba.
Who gave the reformists the name? Well, on December 6, they were talking about reforms. In the prison, they have told the world that they are not part of Dr. Riek’s rebellion and they have denounced violence and even went further to urge the signing of the cessation of hostilities agreement and not to use their case as a reason to delay a ceasefire.
What are/were the reformists reforming? It is not the government but the SPLM party processes. The documents of the SPLM have not been transformed since 1994 and some of the processes need reform to make the rules of the game fair for everyone vying for the leadership of the party. This conflict was caused by the SPLM chairman’s dictatorial tendencies aimed at blocking key challengers and securing the post at all costs (including the loss of innocent lives as we have witnessed in Juba, Bor, Akobo, Bentiu and Malakal). The issue here is not about the reformists backgrounds.
Those in the government share the same backgrounds as the reformists. Therefore, this notion of presenting the reformists as bad guys is baseless. The issue is that within the SPLM party, some called for reforms and others did not like those reforms. The two sides needed to sit down as one party; debate the issues and vote to allow democratic way of doing things to decide the fate of those reforms.
Let South Sudanese not be fooled; both Kiir and Riek were preparing themselves and were doing parallel planning. If you closely look at President Kiir actions from recruiting and training of tigers (private army), to reducing of Dr. Riek’s powers, to firing of the whole cabinet, to dissolution of the PB and establishment of military relationship with Uganda, you cannot doubt that something was going on.
On the other hand, Riek was planning as well. He established a network of forces within the army as we have witnessed during this crisis. He clearly was planning something that will involve military conflict. This was his one-man’s plan that only his close aides might have known about. This is where Gatdet, James Koang and the other military commanders in Malakal come in and his close aides like Taban and the likes.
His second plan which he gave priority seems to have been political ally. That is where he sided with the other politicians who were detained on the agenda of reforming the party electoral processes. Nyandeeng and Pagan were also candidates as we know; so, the argument that the group was supporting Dr. Riek on December 6 is baseless.
The three candidates and the rest of the SPLM members who were pro-reforms within the party (not government) agreed that they will need to use nonviolent ways to push for party reforms. Is this wrong? That is when the December 6 conference was born. The rally idea was in the air but under condition that if the Chairman of the party does not listen to their call for dialogues. Kiir refused all that.
What we have seen, given the evidence known to the public so far, is the preemptive action by President Kiir to strike first (disarmament of the Nuer members of the presidential guards, rushing to the T.V to call the incident among the guards a coup attempt, killing of Nuers in Juba and accusing Dr. Riek and everybody else who was calling for reforms within the party) before Dr. Riek strikes. Note: I am convinced that if Kiir did not initiate the disarmament, there would have been no violence on December 15 and hopefully, now.
Dr. Riek, even though I am convinced that he had a plan, still had some political leverage to use by December 15 and who knows, may be his plan would have not ripen, had the right processes been followed or if it ripe, it would not have drawn significant support from the Nuer community, resulting in less effects compared to what we have seen.
Kiir had two options regarding the reform call; to do what he did or to open up for dialogues and solve the problems through peaceful means. He refused and instigated the violence. The killings of Nuer people in Juba made things worse and honestly, speaking; it became the strongest recruiting factor for Dr. Riek. Most killings in other areas were retaliatory killings even though they outnumbered the Juba killings; they were done with a retaliatory spirits by the Nuers. I condemn all killings by any side and more must be done to avoid future re-occurrence.
Dr. Riek followed the same route by activating his forces and rebelling against the government of President, Salva Kiir. He made wrong calls; stepping down of president Kiir and the likes. He, too, had options; take refuge somewhere and denounce violence or rebel and don’t attack and only defend himself when attacked; leave the civilians out of the conflict and call for talks to end the conflict. However, his rebellion came after the facts of the “alleged coup.” Moreover, whether provoked or not, it is not acceptable. The two leaders are the ones who have caused our country so many pains. Each of them knew what he was secretly doing. The thing is, none of them is saint and they all have the bloods of innocent people in their hands.
The reformists get their names from their platform; it is simply, English. What is clear, my fellow citizens, many of us know the truth but we simply refuse to admit it and that causes me to question our seriousness to build a nation together.
I say that both kiir and Riek are wrong and should be urged to end this violence immediately. The notion of cheering up the government and only condemning Riek is a very irresponsible position and history will judge that. This rebellion has involved, both, Riek and Nuer community in a unique way that needs a great caution to address it, even though it is denied.
What clearly is not the case is Kiir supporters are not mainly Dinkas but this is because people say, Kiir is an elected leader which is true but being an elected leader does not give the leader a ticket to act irresponsibly to cause harm to his or her citizens. Supporting him does not mean he cannot be told the truth. I support him because he is an elected leader. I would never want an elected leader removed the way Riek Machar is trying to go about. An elected leader can be removed through the act of an impeachment by the people’s government (in our case, the parliament). If kiir was a president in the West, he would have been impeached long time ago. However, I still tell President Kiir that he is wrong and that he caused the violence and he needs to do more to stop it.
A good solution that is in the nation best interest is the one that ends the conflict through nonviolent way and does it immediately so that the social fabric of the country is rebuilt back quickly. There is no military solution by either side. Delaying of a solution only polarizes and widens the effects of the conflict. If Kiir and Riek have a case or political boxing contest, they should do it another time and not this time to save our nation from a serious cleavage. This is what has been my concern.
Many tragedies have happened and all of us are touched by them in a unique ways. However, we don’t want that to be the order of things in South Sudan and particularly, in Upper Nile, all the times from now on.
Abraham Deng Lueth is a Community Support Specialist at Truman Behavioral health Emergency Department in Kansas City, Missouri, United States; he is the President of Greater Bor Community-USA. He previously worked as a critical care laboratory technician and conducted an independent undergraduate biomedical research project which was published in the Plant Science Journal in 2007.