Riek Machar and the Issue of Self-determination for South Sudan

By Kuir ë Garang

August 9, 2014 (SSNA) — There’s a big difference between proposing something and making it actually happen. Someone who proposes a given phenomenon and another one who actually makes it happen can both be credited; however, it would be wrong to confuse the correct contribution of each one of them.

Self-determination was first proposed by South Sudanese participants of Juba conference in 1947. Anyone who pretends to be the one, who initiated it, if he or she wasn’t present during that conference, is just abusing history.

Besides, Federal System for South Sudan was first proposed by leaders ofthe Liberal Party in 1953/54 and emphasized by leaders of Southern Federal Party in 1957, a year before the first general election in 1958. In that case, anyone claiming credit now is abusing History!

Dr. Riek Machar has to be very careful or else he’d be seen as taking South Sudanese for fools. We are informed and we know who did what and when!

We have to know that neither Dr. John Garang nor Dr. Riek Machar initiated the idea of Self-determination. It was first initiated when they were either little boys or not born.

Since SPLA doctrinal core was for the total liberation of South Sudan, any talk of Self-determination between 1983 and 1991 landed one in hot water. Those who wanted independence of South Sudan, such as Akuot Atem de Mayen, Abdalla Chuol and Gai Tut, were vilified by Garang and his core supporters. These three men were seen as anti-revolutionary and were vilified in ‘revolutionary songs’ even if they took up arms before John Garang: twice! Independence of the South was their core objective; something John Garang didn’t see as the primary goal of the Southern cause.

Remember, Garang wasn’t actually against South’s independence. He just didn’t think it was the right way to go about things. So self-determination wasn’t first among Garang’s ideological fronts. However, it would become one of the alternative solutions to the Sudanese problem in his famous Vend-Diagrams.

However, it has to be remembered too that Riek’s and Lam’s rebellion brought Self-Determination back into the spotlight and the mainstream political discussion all over Sudan. The duo first proposed it to Khartoumers in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1992 and later forced it through the throats of SPLA-Torit (Mainstream) in Abuja I in 1992.

Dr. John had to instruct his delegation in Abuja to accept Self-Determination to the surprise of not only the Nasir Duo but also, Garang’s allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

While Riek can be credited as having participated in bringing back Self-Determination into the Southern mainstream politics, it wasn’t Riek Machar who made it possible. Riek’s attempts failed with the failure of Nasir programs and his subsequent return to Khartoum where his only success was shameful exit and eventual return to SPLM/A under Dr. John.

Riek signed Khartoum Peace Agreement in 1997 with Beshir but that agreement was dishonored and there was no Self-Determination given to South Sudanese. Dr. Riek could have been right had Khartoum Peace Agreement brought about Self-Determination and Independence of South Sudan.

While Garang didn’t bring back the idea of Self-Determination, he was the one who made Self-Determination possible. Riek initiated the idea however; he had neither means nor political strength to bring it about. We all know Self-Determination came under the leadership of Dr. John Garang not Dr. Riek.

No one, at least conscientious ones, would deny Riek’s contribution to bringing back the idea of Self-Determination; however, it’s completely erroneous and deceptive of Dr. Riek Machar to say that he’s the one who brought Self-Determination and Independence of South Sudan. Riek is wise enough to know where credit is due. He contributed, yes, but he failed in the path he’d chosen to bring Independence of South Sudan.

While many SPLM leaders contributed to the attainment of independence of South Sudan, it was Dr. John Garang who championed Self-Determination in the CPA and ultimately opened way for South Sudan Independence.

While President Kiir has now failed, he, together with Dr. Riek, was the one who saw that South Sudan became independent.

Riek and Lam reintroduced Self-Determination into the SPLM; Garang embraced it and championed it in the CPA; and then President Kiir made sure what Garang prepared was supervised to its logical end.

Let’s give credit where it’s due!

Kuir ë Garang is the author of ‘South Sudan Ideologically’. For contact, visit www.kuirthiy.info

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