Major Causes of the Current Conflict in South Sudan

“A family walks down a deserted street in the South Sudan town of Malakal, Upper Nile State” Photo: AFP/Lomodong/Getty Images

By Daniel Wuor Joak

February 20, 2014 (SSNA) — Since the formation of the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) in September 2005, following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005, by both the SPLM and the Government of Sudan (GOS), in Nairobi, Kenya, President Salva Kiir had never taken his newly appointed Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny seriously at any rate. He kept on reminding him of 1991 splits, which occurred within the SPLM/A ranks between Dr. Riek Machar & Dr. John Garang. The death of Dr. John Garang had indeed played crucial roles in these on-going messes in South Sudan. Such scornful humilations against Dr. Riek Machar would have not arised if he (Garang) were to be alive today because he fully knew the past mistakes, which orchestrated the two splits under his leadership in 1983 and again in1991 respectively. The death tools in these two rebellions were enormous indeed as well as the displacement of civilians and destruction of their properties.

The backgrounds of the two splits which were staged at different times by Anya-Nya II in 1983, led by Col. Samuel Gai Tut and SPLA – Nasir Faction headed by Dr. Riek Machar in 1991, were the objectives of SPLM/A Movement on how to prosecute the war in relations to the people of South Sudan’s aspiration. Whereas Dr. Garang’s objectives were to fight the war for a united democratic New Sudan, which was countrary to the vision of the people of South Sudan who were yearning since 1955, only for an independent of South Sudan which later became everybody’s business including Garang and his supporters like current President Salva Kiir, following the attainments of the CPA in 2005 and later the result of referendum that gave South Sudan the right to succeed from Sudan on 9th July 2011.


Since 2005 upwards, both the GOSS and RSS have been receiving not less than 18 billions USD in oil revenues without implementing any major developmental projects like roads networks linking different States in South Sudan, conducive learning schools from basics to universities levels, referral medical facilities or even PHCCs and PHCUs centres at counties levels, clean drinking water in remote areas throughout the country, setting up vibrant and credible institutions which can adhere to rules of law. All these things have not been implemented due to poor system of governance under leadership of Salva Kiir Mayardit. Most of the counties have no roads linking them with their State capitols leave schools, health centres, clean drinking water etc. South Sudanese population in the rural areas throughout the country are still living in the same conditions as they were under Khartoum´s rule in terms of scarcity of development.

Tribalism and nepotism is well-entrenched in Mayardit’s system where his close circles and henchmen are the ones syphoning the resources of the country by using the mischevious words like “This is our turn to eat” just to qualify their egos. Corruption and exploitation are so rampants and the President Salva Kiir have been using rhetoric empty slogans all the time like “Zero Tolerance” against suspected corrupt officials who have been involved in laundering public money in millions of dollars into foreign banks abroad. The oil producing states like Upper Nile and Unity are getting only 2% each of the oil revenues and the rest of 96% is being retained by the central government in Juba where the monthly remittances of oil money that amount to over 500 millions is being kept in foreign banks accounts in East Africa countries by the President Salva and his close friends. Both the Minister of finance and the governor of Central Bank of South Sudan (BOSS) are also figureheads who have no many roles in managing and accountability over the resources. The President has been denying people of South Sudan all along developmental opportunities by appeasing his friends in East Africa with their expenses.  He has already killed the SPLM Party deliverately simply because, President Kiir fears collective leadership that is why he dissolved the Political Bureau, National Liberation Council, sacking of his long-time Vice President Dr. Riek Machar, Secretary General of SPLM Pagan Amum, the entire committed SPLM in the cabinets, some critical governors and replaced them with newcomers who have nothing much to contribute in the SPLM leadership. President Salva Kiir has proved himself as one of the worst African dictators in line with Idi Amin Dada & Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Jeans Bedel Bokasa of CAR, Mauamar Gadhafi of Libya, Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia, and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe etc.


The fighting at Tiger military barrack in Juba, which happened on 15th December 2013, at 9.00 PM, was specifically caused by President Salva Kiir himself when he briefly ordered his trustful General Marial Cinuony, the commanding officer of Presidential Protection Unit to unconditionally disarm some Nuer members within the army on suspicion that they might resist the arrest of Dr. Riek Machar and other SPLM political leaders which was suppose to happen the same night. When the Nuer soldiers discovered the ploy they immediately resisted the disarmament and that triggered the fighting when one of their officers was shot and instantly killed by their Dinka colleague. The Nuer soldiers bravely overrun the military barrack and occupied it the whole night until they were over-powered and dislodged in the following day by Presidential Guards who were brought from Luri Mountains which President Salva has established as a military base for his Dinka soldiers whom he trained specifically to protect him in case of any uprising in the country. Their number is estimated to be around 15 thousands and were drawn up mainly from Warrap and Northern Bahr El Gazal Sates whereas the rest of Dinka soldiers from other states were not involved in these selective recruitments.

This look very fishy and the Chief of General Staff of SPLA 1st Lt. General James Hoth Mai and the former Minister of Defence Lt. General John Kong Nyuon had voiced a lot of concerns about the recruitments of such private army which operates independently outside the SPLA regular forces. They categorically refused to pay them salaries as well as denying them military hardware when requested by the President. Instead the President went ahead and brought for them military hardware from Uganda and provided them with salaries independently outside the SPLA system. Following the dislodgements of the mutiny soldiers from Tiger headquarters on 16th December, the Presidential Guards who were only Dinka went on rampage and started collecting Nuer all over Juba searching house to house and massacred them indiscriminately for a period of three days up to 19th December 2013. The most gruesome killings had occurred in Gudelle Police Station between 16 – 19 December, where overcrowded Nuer civilians collected from Gudelle neighbourhood, of more than 300 people in total, were congregated in one room and the government police and soldiers started shooting at them indiscriminately. This story was sadly related by one of the victims who pretended to have died of gunshot wound and recovered when the bodies of the dead including him were thrown to forest. Government soldiers up to now are still protecting this killing site at Gudelle Police Station where they do not want any person including journalists to enter there.

This indicate that the government under President Kiir has greatly involved in Nuer’s massacres if such premises like police station can be used as a killing site while the government still denied any roles in the killings of Nuer in Juba town as it was recently alleged by South Sudan foreign minister Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin in an interview over the BBC Television in London that the government had not ordered the killings of Nuer civilians in Juba and at the same time admitting that about 100 Dinka soldiers are now in custody in Juba awaiting trial for the killings of Nuer civilians. The President himself has admitted this week in the article written by Sudan Turbine – a website media outlet that he indeed recruited soldiers to protect his government in case uprising arises in the country.


The involvements of foreign troops hired by President Kiir to come and fight on his behalf is the most unfortunate thing a leader could do to his country when the war is only an internal one. Uganda can come in only if there is an external aggression against the country but not with the “White Army” who are untrained civilians who angrily mobilized themselves as results of the killings of their relatives and friends in Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei States by government (SPLA) forces.  Now that the government in Juba have acknowledged the threats being posed the rebels by admitting that 70% of the organised forces have indeed defected to the SPLM-In Opposition. This alone that the government is no longer popular and therefore President Salva Kiir has become an unwanted symptom in the Republic of South Sudan and that is why he relies on foreign mercenaries from Uganda and opposition forces from North Sudan to temporarily keep him in power.


The present of Ugandan troops and Sudanese opposition forces in South Sudan will definitely aggravated the current conflict between the government and the SPLM – IN Opposition to find a lasting peace in the country. To make the matter worst, Ugandan troops have been using cluster bombs, a type of explosive weapon, which scatters sub-munitions (bomblets) over a wider area. It is a weapon of mass destruction banned all over the world. It was adopted in Dublin, Ireland in 2008, and was opened for signature in December 2008, in Oslo, Norway. About 108 countries among them Uganda have signed the treaty and 84 other countries have also ratified or acceded it. UPDF and SPLA use of deadly weapons of mass destruction banned all over the world is unforgivable crimes against the Nuer civilians (White Army) and the SPLM – In Opposition rebels. Once America and Soviet Union used such type of weapons in Vietnam, Kampuchea and Laos during the Vietnam wars and it was also by Soviet Union during the Afghans war 1980s which several million human lives were lost in these countries. Countries that ratified the convention were obliged never under any circumstances to:

a) Use of cluster munitions
b) Develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone directly or indirectly
c) Assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this convention.

However, the Ugandan and Sudanese opposition mercenaries hired by President Kiir to kill Nuer in South Sudan have been carried out wanton and ethnically motivated massacres in Great Upper Nile States of Jonglei, Upper Nile and Unity. This is completely violation of the sovereignty of the Republic of South Sudan and violation of international law and UN charter, which does not encourage interference by member states in the other state affairs. The UN and international community must condemn the Ugandan government in strongest possible terms with their involvement in South Sudan internal affairs and the use of cluster bombs, which they stockpiled and used against the LRA era in 1980s & 1990s.


It was in everybody wishes that the government in Juba without any precondition should immediately release the eleven political detainees, who were apparently arrested during the aftermath of fighting in Juba. Since there was no coup and no substantial evidences to implicate them, there was no reason for them to remain behind bars. Unfortunately, all these leaders have proved beyond reasonable doubt that they are indeed political opportunists who have nothing much to offer in this conflict except succumbing to any group later in order to gain political positions. They have actually sold out Dr. Riek Machar in a broad daylight to Salva Kiir and IGAD mediators. Dr. Riek Machar fought for their unconditional release from the lion’s den and certainly abandoned him in freezing snow.


As long as Ugandan forces and Sudanese opposition mercenaries SPLM-N & JEM are still active in the battlefields on the side of President Salva, I doubt any tangible result to come out from IGAD mediators. President Museveni of Uganda is always undermining all the IGAD leaders including that of Kenya, Sudan and Ethiopia. He believes in war of aggressions as he previously did in Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Somalia and now in South Sudan. Museveni always believes in militarism’s doctrine. He had killed millions of human beings in these countries neither Human Rights nor ICC had ever questioned his sinister role. That is why he insisted to continue with his warmonger in South Sudan against the Nuer people who should be regarded by UN as a minority under their “Minority Rights” to be protected from elimination. The only solution to end this war is for President Kiir to step down and allow the people of South Sudan to choose their person of choice to lead them during the interim period until elections convene in the future. Otherwise, the chance of attaining peace under current President Kiir’s leadership is very gloomy. Most of the communities, which he had butchered during his eight years of tyranny, will never accept him to continue ruling them. Therefore, the international community including IGAD countries should pressurise President Kiir to step down in favour of a neutral person who should be accepted by all South Sudanese masses as the only way to end the present ordeals in the country.

Daniel Wuor Joak is a former MP in South Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) and Minister of Education, Science & Technology in Upper Nile State. He is the Director of African Centre for Human Advocacy (ACHA), which advocates for Democracy & Development, Rule of Law, Good Governance, Accountability, Human Rights, and Advocacy throughout African Continent. He can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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