August 7, 2014 (SSNA) — The layers of disguise worn by Dr Riek Machar from mid December 2013 are peeling off and the true Machar is gradually revealing his character through his own words. The saying that a leopard can not change its spots seems to be true in the case of Machar and the SPLM leaders.
Soon after escaping lynching by President Salva Kiir’s militia, Machar with others rightly set up a resistance to fight against the former’s regime of terror. Machar offered hope by embracing democracy and federalism. Until recently, Machar acted in line with his declarations and he has been greatly appreciated and commended.
However, Machar’s language has started to change after the IGAD meeting of 10th June 2014 which set out a time frame for achieving peace within 60 days. As of today, the clock as expected is ticking away and it is only remaining 3 days for the deadline. Time is running out fast, realism dictates this frame work is unworkable and failure is awaiting the incompetent IGAD.
Now that Machar is seeing the prospects for peace, he is beginning to play real politik by jostling to achieve maximum gain for himself only. Out goes the democracy he has been singing and in comes his dictatorial approaches to things as always. Intrinsically, there is nothing wrong for Machar to fight for his survival and his people, but he should have at least been honest to the other oppressed people of South Sudan. He should not have raised their hopes knowing very well that he has no intention to deliver.
Machar should never have presented himself as an alternative national leader who would care for all. It is here that anybody with good values and principles would have problems with his leadership. This already does not bode well for the Nuer and the people of South Sudan.
Some readers may ask as to why am I raising doubts about Machar now? Any person who claims leadership must be scrutinised and any pretensions exposed for the public to make informed decisions of whether to support or not. Machar is on record that he wants democracy and federalism in South Sudan. Again, Machar is on record the he wholeheartedly supports inclusivity in the Addis Ababa talks. So far so good.
Talking about democracy, federalism and inclusivity is one thing and acting pro actively in promoting the process to yield a democracy and federal system is another. Unless the former (expressed ideals) is seen to be driven by the latter, then the whole process is a sham. In my previous article, ‘President Kiir violates the May 2014 Addis Ababa agreement’, I referred to Noam Chomsky, the renowned American philosopher on the issue. Here is what Chomsky said back in the 1960s: “A new society arises out of the actions that are taken to form it, and the institutions and ideology it develops are not independent of those actions. In fact they are heavily coloured by them, they are shaped by them in many ways. And one can expect that actions that are cynical and vicious, whatever their intent, will inevitably condition and deface the quality of the ends that are achieved.” http://www.southsudannewsagency.com/opinion/articles/president-salvatore-kiir-violates-may-agreement
Machar’s actions in relation to democracy and inclusivity are cynical and vicious and this as highlighted by Chomsky are likely to “deface the quality” of any government led by him. Simply put, Machar will likely lead a government not different from the current one of President Kiir where tribalism and injustice rule supreme. Do not forget that Machar deputised President Kiir for 9 years in which he actually said nothing against the system and nothing in support of the people of South Sudan.
Let us face it and let us now look at why Machar’s actions are cynical and vicious. “Machar writes to UN Chief over stalled South Sudan peace process” reports Sudan Tribune on 25th June 2014. http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article51471 Please also see, ‘South Sudanese rebels express readiness for direct negotiations with government’ http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article51925
In this report, Machar openly undermines the role of the stakeholders and subtly rubbishes them as unimportant. His arrogance matches President Kiir’s. “It was unnecessary for the talks to adjourn. The two parties should have engaged in direct negotiations while the other stakeholders are reserved for consultation role. On our part we are ready for talks with the government to end the crisis.” James Dak, Machar’s spokesman asserted. So all along Machar was talking about inclusivity while in fact he has been working behind the scene for exclusive talks between his group and the government. What is shocking in this revelation is Machar’s honest perception of the stakeholders. He does not value them or even rate them as his equal. Machar only considers them as aides. People who can be consulted. “Stakeholders are reserved for consultation role” only.
This speaks volumes. When people talk of stakeholders and inclusivity, it is meant to address issues of marginalisation, disenfranchisement and equality. It is meant for the people to have a real say in what affects them so that they become owners of the end product. It has not been meant for stakeholders to be “reserved for consultation role.” This derogatory phrase demonstrates the contempt SPLM/A as a whole has about the people of South Sudan.
For the SPLM groups inclusivity means the people of South Sudan can only be consulted for advice which they are at liberty to take or discard. It is not about genuine participation, recognition and equality on the issues under discussion to solidify legitimacy of the whole peace process. From this it is clear why the trio: SPLM-IG, SPLM-IO and IGAD worked hard to keep the stakeholders out of the whole process. Their lip service on the issue is designed to squeeze the stakeholders out of the entire process so that it only remains an SPLM affair, the very party and people responsible for mass death, insecurity, refugee problems for the neighbouring countries and massive internal displacement of citizens.
As things stand, they have in fact succeeded because the stakeholders who matter and could voice the needs of the people are excluded. For example, Mr Peter Sule and UDF party who abusively have been prevented by President Kiir not to travel to Addis Ababa although he was officially invited by IGAD. Although SPLM-IO boycotted the peace talks on the issue, in reality they were fighting for their own satellite groups.
Now the stakeholders have been squeezed out with the fate of the country left in the hands of the very people who have destroyed it. What chance has South Sudan got? The question IGAD and the African Union must answer is: how can SPLM/A rescue what they have already decimated? The SPLM has no idea how to manage the country. They have not had any programme of action since 2005. Both President Kiir and Dr Machar so far have not even articulated any idea of bringing the people of South Sudan together. Then, how convincing is it for them to be the people tasked with security of South Sudan and the stabilisation of the country and the region.
The IGAD process is becoming a real joke. No wonder, the despair with the incompetence of IGAD and the dishonesty of the warring groups is alienating the masses. The result now is product like the recent call for action in Equatoria. Please see http://allafrica.com/stories/201403260279.html Unfortunately the current IGAD process has taken a negative turn with the people now convinced that in order for anybody to be heard they must wield some form of hard power rather than soft one. Instead of IGAD being a solution, it is now an added problem. If any hope is to be restored for peaceful solution, then the international community need to respond to the suggestion in, ‘Time for actual solutions for South Sudan – replace IGAD with eminent persons at once’ http://allafrica.com/stories/201406250587.html
Like a leopard can not change its spots, Machar can not change. He remains the same Machar that we have always known. He has once again squandered a golden opportunity for him to wash himself clean from his controversial past to emerge as a true leader in South Sudan.[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]
The author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected].