Museveni and Kiir: Will These Two Dictators Ignite Regional Confrontation in East Africa?

By Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak

March 22, 2014 (SSNA) — In the history of the world, we have learned that, wars are caused by multiple factors. Some of these factors may include the competition over national resources, territorial integrities, religious idealism; power struggle between leaders or competitive groups, and intricate system of alliances, where individuals can secretly portent a deal aiming to promote an agenda known only to them. This is an autocratic treaty Museveni and Kiir had concealed. For long period of time, East Africa has been engulfed with innumerable magnitude of problems. Decade after decade, thousands of people are regularly slaughtered from a number of conflicts and civil wars. One perpetrator who help fuel these conflicts in East Africa is Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. For twenty-nine years, Museveni has involved in a systematical destabilization of the number of African countries, which include herein: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Central African Republic, Sudan, Somalia and now South Sudan. His involvement in all of these countries have resulted in a horrific human suffering.

African nations whom he destabilized view him as a Great War Criminal (GWC), who should be indicted to international criminal court. If Charles Taylor had to be indicted for involving in Sierra Leone, how come Museveni can’t be held accountable for interfering in these African countries’ affairs, particularly South Sudan, where he had used poisonous cluster bombs. The same indictment would be issued to his counterpart criminal Salva Kiir Mayardit, who ordered the killing of innocent Nuer civilians last year in Juba. Henceforth, the discourse of this article is to explore and highlight some perilous mischiefs caused by Museveni and his ally Salva Kiir in South Sudan to fight one ethnic group, “the Nuer”.  How does these two dictators conjugal? Needless to say, readers will find their answer subsequently as they are reading along.

Before elaborating, one would first like to praise the United Nation Security Council (UNSC) for its immediate action of increasing the size of UN peace keeping forces to help protect civilians in South Sudan during the outbreak of the unrest. In the same extent, another commendable action is the perseverance of the United Nations’ staffs on the ground, who are always being harassed by South Sudan government leaders and military personnel. Immediate examples are the harsh words used by Salva Kiir himself to the United Nation’s special representative of the secretary general Hilde Johnson, the head of the UNMISS and Michael Makuei Lueth confrontation to UN peace keepers in Bor town. Amounted with current accusations that “United Nations is supplying SPLM/A-in opposition with ammunition,” which caused mass-protest in Juba and elsewhere last week and Kiir explicitly evoked the world-wide organization to leave South Sudan. These actions entail Salva Kiir’s regime discretionary and pity judgments. UNMISS present in South Sudan is not to afflict pain; it is there to consolidate peace and security mechanism, aiming at helping poor institutions in the country to establish viable conditions for development. The presence of the organization should not be termed as a “parallel government” rather than a mutual gesture or symbolic of extracting South Sudan from decadence, misery, and poverty. Had the United Nation been absent from South Sudan and (UNSC) delayed taking necessary actions such as  increasing the size of its  peace keeping force, the death toll in Juba and elsewhere would not stand in the current written arithmetical figure; it surely would have been worse than it has been recorded.

Precisely, the outbreak of fighting in Juba on December 15, 2013, came as a sudden wallop or dejavu to both well-wisher friends of South Sudan, and South Sudanese ordinary citizens—given the fact that the country has just emerged from a long running civil war that claimed the lives of two and a half million people. Apparently, nobody in their right-mind would project that South Sudan could have plunged into a dangerous civil disorder as early as two years. The deadly turmoil ignited by Salva Kiir had eventually escalated into a full scale civil war across the country few weeks after an insurrection, even though seven out of the ten states in the country seem to be slightly affected at the moment. Yet, clashes occur instantaneously inside these seven less affected states. Besides dwelling much thoughts on how the incident occurred, one would like to dive down into the question that remain lingering in many people’s mind: what caused Yoweri Museveni involve in South Sudan internecine? In answering this question, it would be unnecessary to escape pinpointing the relation between Uganda and Sudan before South Sudan secession.

Initially, in the first Sudanese civil war, many South Sudanese refugees escaped to seek shelter in Uganda. While viewing the agony of the refugees, the neighboring State (Uganda), whose populace masses share the same ethnicity with South Sudanese, regards the war as pitting African Sudanese against Arabs.  That sensibility made them sympathetic with Southern Sudanese’ desire for secession. Thus, between the periods of 1983 to 2005, the two countries played tit for tat games. Each adversary decided to support each another’s rebel groups. As time kept ticking, South Sudan’s unique relation with Uganda was later solidified by John Garang, who is “said to be a school mate” with Museveni back in the days in Tanzania. After untimely passing of John Garang, Salva Kiir inherited such a relation and further solidified it with the use of South Sudan oil money. As a leader who does not have a vision on his own, Salva started to look up on Museveni for anything, just anything! He took all kinds of advice from him—including how to drag his feet in cementing dictatorial autocracy in the young country and leave his presidential advisors in limbo, liability in the sense.  One immediate example as far as the specification of how Kiir copy from Museveni is concerned is about a trip he paid to Uganda in 2011, few months after south Sudan earned her independence. While in Uganda, Museveni took him to his range and showed him all the livestock he owned there. At the end of the adventure, Kiir became so hustler and wanted to go back to south Sudan and immediately mimic the remarkable range Museveni had just shown him. It is an excellent structured range which Mr. Museveni endowed for years on power with Ugandan money. 

Upon arriving South Sudan, Kiir withdrew lump sum of money and ordered some sycophant Dinka compatriot to buy him cattle to establish a range for him outside Juba, which is called “Luri”. Museveni on his part, copied the big cowboy hat imitating his newly baptized dictator. However, Museveni hat is white and Kiir hat is black. Previously during the war, Kiir wore  a brown hat, and two of black hats he frequently wore recently were given to him by Americans—one by George W. Bush in 2006 and another one by John Kerry in 2008 after they have learned that the man liked wearing big cowboy hats. Ironically, it became very hard to see him without those hats in public. Even one of his political opponent asserted onetime that “the president got nothing in his mind only that big black hat on him.”  These political opponent’s words may currently find room after many people realize Kiir has failed south Sudan!

Due to Salva Kiir’s incompetency, the jubilation that accompanied South Sudan’s independence almost three years ago has vanished with no trace. The country’s first year as a nation has been a disaster. Many civilians have lost their lives in wrongful deaths that would have been prevented. Some of those wrongful deaths are the killing of civilians in Waw by military personnel after they rejected the idea of capital reallocation. Second, the vis-à-vis endless retaliatory killings pitting Dinka-Bor and Murle, then Murle and Lou-Nuer, mostly during the interim period. Third, the harassment of journalists which culminated into the death of Isaiah Abraham and the detention of Ngor Garang, Nhial Bol and political commentator James Kook among others. Last but not least, the reckless plan of oil shutdown that resulted into a sustained full-blown war with Sudan. If it was not because the United Nations has threatened of issuing a sanction, prolong military aggression along the border with Sudan would have escalated and that would have resulted into the death of thousands of civilians. Furthermore, the country’s economy is nothing to be proud off, given the fact that during the oil shutdown, the country’s only source of revenue, economy was almost near collapse, adding to already absent of services such as public health, lack of paved roads and clean drinking water. The new country has highly suffered from a deep-rooted corruption, which makes the growth unlikely and worsen the matters for the countries’ citizens. Majority of people live under mercy of God and had not tasted any fruit of nationhood. The nation’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few individuals, who should not get hungry again, even if they choose to stop working to earn money in their future life. These are the necessity Salva Kiir as a leader would spend enough time on changing rather than advocating for worse disaster and start the dreadful genocide of Nuer civilians.

What happened? And, was it a coup?

Many people since the outbreak of the crisis in Juba have been wondering whether a coup was indeed planned. As the matter of fact, no! There was nothing called coup. What happened on December 15, 2013, was not a coup or any sort. And the whole world has entirely come to consensus and denounced Salva Kiir’s claim that “coup detat was actually been planned against him”. In order to illustrate on what happens, one must have to admit that, there is nobody who should give between better explanation beside the mother of South Sudan Rebecca Nyandeng De, Mabior and Dr. Adwork Nyamba. These two insider leaders had given explicit explication objectively without hesitation. To them, it was a lie. There was nothing called coup that has been planned. Salva is the one who via to plunge the nation into the war. The genesis of this pandemonium took shape when members of the SPLM political bureau, which is the highest organ of the party met on March 5, 2013 in Juba. The organization’s higher body convened that meeting eager to prepare for the next awaited third SPLM national convention which had been scheduled to take place in May 2013. In that meeting-chaired by the chairperson Salva Kiir himself, in present of all senior members of the party, the deputy chairperson Dr. Riek Machar reveal his intention to run for the chairpersonship of the party. Likewise, party secretary general Pagan Amum and Madam Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior reveal their intention as well, wanting to run for the party’s top seat. In accordance with the party constitution, it has been stipulated, “every five years term, leadership of the party had to expire and the party must have to convene a national convention to either reinstall its current leaders or elect new leadership.” That statement gave room to whoever wish to contest for the top job. However, the fact that Salva Kiir did not wants democracy to take root in the country, revelation of the contest became a crime. It cannot be seen anywhere in the world of democracy, except totalitarian or authoritarian countries like Salva Authoritarian South Sudan. Instead of finding ways and openly address issues raised by his colleagues, Kiir became extremely hostile looking for ways to destroy either Machar or Pagan solely for their intention to challenge him for party leadership.  

First, Kiir rejected convening the convention. Second, he began shopping around for support once the disagreement turn ugly. This gone on until when he indubitably was fed by Museveni who offer him the idea of dissolving the entire government rather than narrowing his emotion to the above mentioned names. Pagan, Ann, and others persuade him to agree with the conduct of the convention, all messages felt on deaf ears. Instead, he was planning for the danger. Some of the good reasons why he plan for the including the following. 1, Salva train 15,000 troops from his clan, not all Dinka, but his own particular clan. This means, he has divided the nation and doesn’t trust the country national army. 2, He had decided to layoff all army generals and install only his confidence, fearing that, majority of these generals would not stood with him had he ignite the war. 3, He had paid South Sudanese oil money to UPDF, JEM and SPLM-N and command them to remain vigilant until the outbreak of the war. 4, He’s plan regional conventions aspiring of dividing the nation regionally and ethnically. All of these plans are the indications that he was indeed longing and preparing for worse to happen.

If Salva did not prepare for war, how come he dress in military uniform on December 15, 2013 and didn’t condemn the massacre of Nuer civilians in Juba afterward? As somebody who do not have clear judgment, he and his lickspittles had only employed denial tactics, telling lies to the whole world in Juba that only rebel has committed atrocities in Jonglie, Unity, and Upper-Nile States.  Even just last month following international observers’ visit to Bor town, some of his flatterers inform the locals to cut plastic-sheets and scatter them everywhere around the town, symbolizing them as the remains of the dead bodies, while deep down, they are covering up Juba massacre, where large trucks were loaded for three days full with Nuer dead bodies. Some of whom were taken to grave sites dug will bulldozers, and others had been dumped in the Nile River. Intentionally, they are working on blindfolding the whole world that atrocities were never committed in Juba. One of his flatterer Marial Benjamin is now touring the world handing money to key power holders as bribery in order for them to secure support. They have failed to realize that, outside world is not corrupt as they are in Juba, and they should be indicted for misusing South Sudanese money. An immediate example is the hiring of a Washington-based public relation firm to work on improving their diplomatic ties with the United States.  

The leadership of the country is working against its own citizens. One is wondering how those whose children, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, best friends are killed, coping to continue working with the leader who order their killings.  Sugarcoating the atrocity has gotten no room in today’s world. We are not living in 1989 world, when student protesters in China were brutally massacred at Tiananmen Square in Beijing and the Chinese government had able to cover it up; or 1985 when Salva and his fellows massacred thousands of Gaatjaak, the movement and Derg-regim in Ethiopia cover it up and get away with it. The world have learned from those dangerous past mistakes. Now the ball is rolling in front of the world’s powerful nations, to determine South Sudan way forward. We really mean it! If the holocaust or Jews massacre by Nazi of Hitler, Cambodia genocide by Pol Pot, Bosnian massacre by Serbian, Tutsi genocide by Hutu, Darfur genocide by Janjaweed militia, Kenya 2007 election aftermath, and so on and so forth, should be punished and perpetrators should face karmas, how come international community remain reluctance from charging Salva Kiir for the death of innocence Nuer civilians in Juba? We hope in the meantime, he will face justice. They will not get away with it, although they are doing everything possible to resist voices calling for him to step aside. The government other tactical claim right now is that, “Salva Kiir is an elected president” that itself is insane. In fact, 2010 election was not about Salva Kiir. South Sudanese were emotionally voted for the next awaited referendum and Salva happens to support their secession agenda over Dr. Lam Akol who seem to support unity of the country. There is no way Salva would win the election with that large margin 93% over Lam Akol who is more educated and democratic minded than him.

Could South Sudan internal conflict ignite regional warfare?

Definitely, yes! The skirmishes would ignite regional confrontation. Uganda in particular, could be the main cause. There are many reasons why Yoweri Museveni can be singled out. For instance, just few days after the unrest has started, Museveni issued a threatening to Riek Machar to face military action if the later could not come to negotiation table with Kiir. He issued the warning while Ugandan defense force combat planes were already on the move arriving Juba responding to the deal both dictators has secretly signed in Kampala. As soon as they start bombing rebels and the rebel leader Dr. Riek accused Uganda for its involvement, Museveni right away deny the charges and later admitted that Ugandan troops are indeed engaging in combat operations within South Sudan. He has only two justifications. Once, South Sudan destabilization threaten his country security and two, he has a unique interest in the region. If that the case, other neighboring countries would have similar interest as well.

For example, Sudan in which South Sudan break from, derives a large share of its government income from fees levied on the crude oil transported from South Sudan oilfields through the only existing pipeline in the region to oil terminals on the coast of the Red Sea. Then, Kenya and Ethiopia play vital interest roles as well. What are their interests? Well, we all know, immediately after the oil shutdown, South Sudan opted to channel its oil production to Ethiopia heading to Djibouti and the other one going to be heading to Lamu Kenya which mean, oil in Upper-Nile State must be exported through Ethiopia all the way to port of Djibouti and the oil in the Bentiu must be shifted through Kenya to Lamu on Somalia border. These two deals would similarly drag Kenya and Ethiopia to engage in South Sudan internal confrontation. Each country would like to support any side they think would move the country in the right direction that will successfully accomplish these demanded projects, which could benefit them at last. Eritrea on its part is running successful hotels in Juba, helping its economy back home. All of these deals and benefits can drag the above mentioned countries to play role in South Sudan. At this juncture, Uganda must know and has to understand that others have their share values. Additionally, Uganda is acting in promoting China’s economic interest in South Sudan. It is one of the main reason behind Museveni defiance of demands by the IGAD, Norway, British, US and many countries to withdraw his troops out of South Sudan. Sources are revealing that, Uganda will not withdraw soon from South Sudan; they are eager to stay on until after the election in 2015 when they know for sure, Salva has been reinstalled back to presidency, which majority of South Sudanese do not want to happen; that’s when they will withdraw.

The road to peace:

Following the outbreak of violence in Juba, IGAD, the East African regional organization, embark on bringing both parties to the conflict on negotiating table.  While making consultations with the parties, Salva instantly voiced, he agree to precondition peace talks. However, Dr. Riek demand withdrawal of foreign troops out of the country, particularly Uganda combat forces, and the release of the political detainees. Both IGAD and the International community vowed the young country should be saved from major escalation of the violence, aiming that, there is a window of opportunity to halt South Sudan from sliding into war and State failure. They think, the conflict would be stopped within days or weeks. Their wish was that they require the leaders of the new country to rise above narrow, tribalistic or empty failing politics and develop a national program that would help restored harmony. Regrettable, one would like to state that, IGAD and the international community’s wishes will not come true quickly enough. President Salva Kiir and other members of the country’s political elites in government, close their mind, with the hope that, Uganda clustering bombs will crash the rebel to submission as quickly as possible. That hope made them drag their feet, while African and the international community mediators are in a race against time to seal the wound. In that regard, Ethiopia and Kenya took the torch calling for the release of 11 detainees and for the cease-fire to be signed. They also began calling for withdrawal of Ugandan forces out of South Sudan.

As the result, out of the IGAD facilitation and the international community pressure, on January 23, 2014 the government and the opposition forces, signed a cessation of hostilities agreement in Addis Ababa Ethiopia; following weeks of intense negotiation-talks.  Rebel demands were adopted and agreed upon that foreign troops must indeed be evacuated and 11 allegedly detained politicians be released.  As soon as the message reach Salva Kiir’s desk, he throw those demands away and only agree to release 7 out of the 11 detainees. Yoweri Museveni as well refuse to withdraw his troops. He even rejected the call of the international community mainly the United Nations, Norway, British and Ethiopian government among others. As the second round of talks was convened, rebels asserted that, the first two demands hasn’t been implemented. If IGAD and the international community are indeed mean peace, let them pressure Salva to free the remaining four detainees and let Uganda exit from South Sudan. That call as well reiterated by the group-seven. Former detainees who got released and later convinced by the international community and IGAD mediators to stay away from joining opposition who established themselves as a resistance force.  Yet, Yoweri Museveni continue to refuse any proposal suggested by any group. This force Ethiopian prime-minister to warn Museveni that, “all East African countries have the same interest in South Sudan like him. Museveni right away encountered and reply by insulting Hailemariam Desalegn, saying, he (Museveni) “is not a classroom leader” referring to Desalegn who was a professor before running for public office. These are harsh words a leader would avoid using to their counterpart before any serious diplomatic crisis.

After all these minglings, mediators were left in limbo. Later, they decided to make more consultations with Kiir, who still does not want to make ant concession.  As thing stood at the moment, there is no sign of easy deal. Salva went ahead for his own plans of charging the detainee in court for unfound coup allegations; calling false witnesses to testify. He and his lawyers, went as far as calling upon those detainees who already been released to return to Juba to face some charges. He is also evoking on the United Nations to exit the country. Lucky him, the African union and IGAD organizations, seem to support his agenda of having their troops deploy to the country in order to guard the oil fields, knowing that he could not survive on his own. Despite the fact that, majority of South Sudanese army are not with him anymore. Even those who are still in his control areas are silent opposition group supporters.

On Thursday March 13, 2014, IGAD countries held a summit chaired by Ethiopian prime-minister Hailemariam Desalegn and attended by presidents of Uganda. Kenya, Sudan, the Nuer Killer-South Sudan president, Djibouti and prime-minister of Somalia, strategize in finding ways prior to the resumption of peace talks between South Sudan’s rival parties scheduled to take place yesterday on March 20, 2014. The outcome of their summit was that, IGAD and AU forces will be deployed to South Sudan to either protect more deaths or guard oil fields. To this author, the summit has felt short to tackle major steps which should help normalize the crisis. Already, the United Nations’ peace keeping forces have been deployed to the ground to thwart more deaths from recurrence.  IGAD countries’ decision, is a fulfilment of Yoweri Museveni mission that please only the government in Juba. They need to stay away from adding fuel to already burning flame. To the best of my knowledge, IGAD is failing miserably. They fail to secure the release of four remaining political detainees who are now undergoing through preliminary court hearings and also fail to persuade Uganda, JEM and SPLM-N foreign troops to withdraw from South Sudan. Implementation of these demands, should be the prerequisite to a comprehensive detailing talks. It those demands are not going to be implemented, one is so afraid that the road to the durable peace will be very stiff and arduous, at lease IGAD and international partners channel their approaches. Salva and his private army did horrific harms, which will take long time to heal. One had never see any regime that demolish homes as quickly as they did. Even when we were at war with Sudan for 21 year, consecutive regimes in Khartoum had never attempt to demolish South Sudanese politicians’ homes.

What are the solutions?

1. Salva need to resign, the country will never be stable again with him as the leader.
2. A new constitution had to be drafted by all political parties in the country and involve religious leaders and civil societies.
3. The term limits for the presidency need to be fixed to only two terms four year per-term not five.
4. The scheduled 2015 election had to be conducted under the guiding supervision of IGAD, AU and the international community.
5. An independence electoral commission could be nominated and multiparty system should be embraced.

Finally, it is a known fact that, in any conflict, war is not the solution. It is a barbaric activity which only bring loss of life and property. It can never resolve and dispute. However, there is a limit. When the problem has long cross the limits—-you can’t do anything, there is no alternative at all. For example, September 11, 2001 attack in New York and Washington, was a crime beyond limit. That’s why the United States—-went to war with Afghanistan. Similarly, the killing of innocence Nuer-civilians in Juba on December 15, 2013, is a massacre which should not be condoned without retaliation. However, we are for peace, and if IGAD, AU and the whole international community mean peace, let them force Salva Kiir to resign, if not, war is the solution. Salva has misruled the country for nine year. The only good deed Salva has done, is the offering of amnesty to those who took up army. Otherwise the whole period is a mess. He lead the country through presidential decrees, whereby he appoint and remove governors, appoint and remove commissioners, appoint and remove all civil-servants including chancellors. This is not the country we were dreaming for. We were dreaming for a South Sudan where the president must only appoint and remove his or her cabinets.  Governors, members of the parliament, or commissioners, should be elected by the people and if the governor, member of the parliament or commissioner fail to execute their duties, a re-call election has to be issued so that people elect whoever is going to fill the vacuum. Or a governor should be impeached by the state legislature, commissioner by the county-council, and school chancellors should be appointed or remove by the school-board not for the so-called presidential decrees. This is the kind of South Sudan we are longing for. Authoritarian dictatorship has gotten no room and cannot take us anywhere. We reject it! We are all in it together. Many people are now educating the world that Nuer are fighting for power that is not true. They are only upset for the massacre inflicted on us by the president and rejecting the idea of authoritarianism. Our quest has always been for democracy—-a democratic State, which will respect human dignity, fulfils individual needs and withdraws from power thirties tendencies. If one man want to ruin it, let us deal with him!

Lul Gatkuoth Gatluak is a political commentator who have written several articles on South Sudan. He is a member of Minnesota South Sudanese Taskforce (MSST), an entity that was created in respond ideally in the country’s current crisis. He can be reached at [email protected].

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