April 8, 2014 (SSNA) — On the 9th July 2011 South Sudan declared itself independent from the old Sudan after decades of bitter and devastating armed struggle that caused so much loss of lives and destruction of property. South Sudan celebrated with fanfare the end of half century of utter subjugation by neocolonial system of governance in the old Sudan.
It is not within the scope of this article to go into the details of half century neocolonialism in South Sudan. Suffice to say that barely two years of independence the people South Sudan started to experience problems of governance. It seems yesterday’s mentality of liberation with undisciplined volunteers has not yet changed into the mentality of fostering socio-economic development through discipline.
In 2005 after a comprehensive peace agreement with the government of the old Sudan, South Sudan became a self-governing autonomous part. The ruling party was the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) with its military wing, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) which had prosecuted a 21-year old war for the freedom of the people of South Sudan. The vision of the SPLM was clear. It was to establish conditions contrary to conditions in the old Sudan.
Some aspects of the vision include establishment of democracy and good governance. On democracy the SPLM vision is the establishment of democratic path of development which empowers and encourages active participation of all citizens at all levels.
On governance the vision is the establishment of good governance where the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of the country’s affairs at all levels shall be people-based so that individuals and groups have an effective say in management and in decision that affect their lives.
The vision of the SPLM couldn’t have been clearer.
South Sudan Problem
South Sudan problem is in fact the problem of the SPLM as a political party which should not have been the problem of South Sudan in the first place. However, as the SPLM is the dominant ruling party in government, the problem has become a South Sudan problem because of the split of the SPLM and defections from the SPLA that has become of national concern.
The problem started when voices began to be heard of poor service delivery by the SPLM led government. Cases of rampant corruption were also heard loudly. According to an opinion poll in Sudanic Magazine of March/April 2008 Vol. 1 Issue 2, the Government of Southern Sudan was perceived as 90 per cent corrupt. Arguably the disappointment with the SPLM led government started to grow.
The problem came to a head when there was a crack in the SPLM leadership. This was partly due to contradictions in what the vision of SPLM was and what was actually happening in practice on the ground. The contradictions seem to have been too much that the SPLM leadership was categorically split right in the middle with one part as SPLM in Government and the other SPLM in opposition. The SPLA was also divided in loyalty. Some SPLA commanders and their men defected to the SPLM in Opposition with their equipment.
The split was no longer an SPLM problem but a South Sudan problem that had dragged in the United Nations (UN), African Union (UA) and the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) in the interest of peace and stability in the region and also to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in South Sudan.
Attempts for a solution
As highlighted above collective efforts to reconcile the differences between SPLM leaders that were supported by the countries of the region, international partners and the African Union did not succeed. By the end of November 2013 tensions between the SPLM in government and the SPLM in Opposition increased. The SPLM in Opposition accused the SPLM in Government of dictatorial tendencies and unilateral decision-making.
The split in the SPLM leadership produced a violent confrontation. In Juba on 15th December 2013 various elements of the presidential guard started fighting in their barracks. However, the SPLM in Government was quick to describe the fighting as an attempted coup d’état perpetrated by forces allied with the SPLM in Opposition. The SPLM in Opposition on its part denied any involvement in the alleged coup d’état.
A delegation of the IGAD Council of Ministers supported by the UN and AU travelled to Juba in an effort to persuade the parties to settle their differences peacefully. A second IGAD delegation led by the President of Kenya and Prime Minister of Ethiopia visited Juba for the same purpose as that of the first delegation.
The efforts made by the President of Kenya and Prime Minister of Ethiopia culminated in the convening in Nairobi of an extraordinary summit of IGAD member states where three special envoys to support the Government of South Sudan and the SPLM in Opposition were named. The aim was to enable the parties to reach in an inclusive manner, a resolution to the problem and to initiate a dialogue by 31 December 2013.
Events took a violent turn of intense fighting on 15 December 2013. However, people are now in April 2014 and it is now about 5 months since fighting started. The problem between the SPLM in Government and the SPLM in Opposition seems to be persisting. Now what do people think of the problem and its implication on the governance of the country?
The membership of SPLM is not the entire population of South Sudan and the SPLM is just one single party among many in South Sudan. Instead of relying on IGAD, the UN and the AU to resolve the split in the SPLM, it is also important for the people of South Sudan to look at themselves as a key factor in resolving the violent conflict that is tearing their country apart. South Sudanese need to be confident and self-reliant.
No solution should be imposed without an inclusive participation of all political parties for a consensus on the way forward in the best interest of South Sudan as a nation but not necessarily in the interest of an individual party. The international community should take note of this.
The split in the SPLM has caused much pain to people of South Sudan. However, it seems when South Sudanese are taking sides it aggravates the problem. There has to be a common ground to resolve the problem. The common ground should be a progressive provisional government. Blaming either side vehemently is not the way forward but seeking a common ground is in the interest of national unity.
South Sudanese indigenous solution
The SPLM in Government and the SPLM in Opposition seem to be too dogmatic and only appear to care much about their leadership’s survival and power in the country. They are like two boxers in a ring each one wants to win by all means. The two boxers do not see a win-win situation as an option but an all knock out of the opponent for a glory in the ring.
South Sudan is bleeding with the people enduring untold hardships instead of enjoying the fruit of their bitter struggle for independence from Arab Islamic bigotry and tyranny in the old Sudan. As it were, the people of South Sudan seem to have been thrown from the frying pan into the fire. Can the people of South Sudan truly put on a cap of extraordinary nationalism?
The SPLM in Government and the SPLM in Opposition should be made acutely aware that their belligerence is an absolute liability for all in South Sudan. People need a leadership full of confidence, to give and take, and decisive enough to bring the peace for which people are yearning.
A win-win situation for the SPLM in Government and the SPLM in Opposition is possible where a progressive provisional government is headed by technocrats of proven integrity but excluding either of the belligerents.
When the November 1958 military regime of Ibrahim Aboud was overthrown through a popular civil disobedience, Sir el Khatim el Khalifa, an Educationist, headed the provisional government. Also, when the May 1969 military regime of Jaafer el Numeiri was toppled Djouzili Daffalla, a Medical Doctor, headed the provisional government.
Why is it so scary to allow South Sudanese technocrats, who may include politicians of integrity, to head a provisional government as a compromise in the face of unnecessary devastation of the country?
The belligerence in Addis Ababa peace talks could be the fear in individuals who think they may face charges for crimes committed against humanity because of their perceived contribution to the carnage caused by the unfortunate split in the SPLM and the defections from the SPLA.
I am confident that the people of South Sudan will accept the offer of immunity for the anxious SPLM leaderships in return for them handing over power to technocrats to head a provisional government for the benefit of all. This can be through a negotiation with open minds and hearts.
This will be a typical South Sudanese own indigenous and genius solution to the violent conflict and the bitterness the conflict has generated. This is in order for security and stability to return to our beloved country with minimum delay for people to go about their daily business with peace of mind.
People of South Sudan are of one destiny. It is only unfortunate that they seem to be lacking a clear direction provided by a visionary leadership that is very caring for each and every ethnic group in the land. This is because people are frequently inclined to be instinctively tribalistic.
We in South Sudan need decisive leadership that is seen to protect each and every South Sudanese regardless of ethnicity or region. Upholding the rule of law to the letter is paramount so that none feels injustice in the Republic of South Sudan.
In conclusion, we all need to strive vigorously to make South Sudan progressively free of those who are inclined to be instinctively tribalistic for the national unity of South Sudan to flourish like flowers with some of the most beautiful colours on planet earth.
The author can be reached at [email protected].