Juba elites using 1991 propaganda to blackmail political leaders

By James Gatdet Dak

January 11, 2015 (SSNA) — Judgmental people not only love to recall things that occurred in the past and attributed to people they dislike, but also many of them sometimes choose to live in the bondage of the past.

While it is not a bad idea to excavate and understand the past in order to enrich and shape the present, it is however harmful when the intention is to selectively choose to live in the negative past and become unappreciative of the positive side of that past.

It is even worse when the past is being unfairly used as an instrument of propaganda and to blackmail individuals, leaders or a specific group for reasons only known to propagandists and blackmailers.

Blackmailing is the act of putting pressure on a person or a group to do something they do not want to do, for example by making threats of exposure in order to feel guilty and succumb to the blackmailer’s demand of doing or not doing something.

Therefore political blackmailing is the threat of exposing, or the actual exposure of an element of truth, but more often invented stories with the aim of causing damage to a political opponent(s). This is by slandering him or her, trying to deprive him of the possibility of engaging in political activity or making it difficult for him.

Political blackmailing is applied by an individual or elite group of individuals, who have connived after identifying themselves based on either political power interest, tribal or racial grouping. They put into operation slanderous methods in a protective paranoia against a perceived threat to their interests.

These unscrupulous power hungry individuals would always seek to neutralize that threat, using some classic methods of misrepresenting their opponents in public gatherings, media and other formal or informal platforms as a weapon of political struggle and revenge.

This misrepresentation of the past in order to maliciously distort the present and pollute the future is much prevalent in South Sudan. A good example is the song of recalling the 1991 incident and continuing to remind some leaders about the event.

This song although losing its impact has been an attempt by the interest-group to blackmail certain political leaders so that they may feel guilty and frustrate their conscience on initiating further political changes or reforms.

In the case of the ruling Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement (SPLM) it also aims at trying to abort a genuine call for federal system of governance and democratization of politics. It is a witch-hunt against those who demand for freedoms and rights in the country. The regime has been using various means to misrepresent the genesis of the political crisis, notably using the state media at its disposal.

Manipulation Using the Media

The elite leaders in Juba are exclusively monopolizing the state media in spreading their propaganda and trying to blackmail opposition leaders and deny other political opinions from being relayed to the public. At the same time they suppress freedom of speech and expression in public and social gatherings and subject independent media to undemocratic and unlawful censorship.

The regime uses a propagandizing form of communication in distorting facts of the political situation and trying to influence the attitude of a community by presenting a tribally motivated one-sided argument.

Such tactics include the use of logical fallacies techniques in order to suppress information or points of view by crowding them out, inducing groups of people to dismiss other political points of view and divert their attention elsewhere.

This dictatorial method by SPLM-In-Government aims at silencing and at the same time discrediting opposing arguments by appealing to fictitious nationalistic feeling or memory of their past accomplishments and contrast negative incidents allegedly attributed to an individual leader and specific community. This is a falsifying method of distraction by nationalism.

The propaganda machinery, lacking a viable program for the nation, has resorted to creating a connection between a past horrific incident with the current distinct political situation. The group appeals to a fictional consensus in trying to create the perception that their opinion is the only opinion, so that alternative ideas are dismissed from public consideration. The dictatorial elite also use intimidation to inflict fears into the wider audience in the outer ring of their community strong base in order to influence the opinions and actions of others towards some specific end.

The feared incident is therefore exaggerated and the pattern of fear mongering is usually one of repetition in order to continuously remind the bombarded audience of the past 1991 incident. This is to reinforce the intended effects of this tactic to frighten citizens and influence their political views. This strategy can however backfire if the fabricated events are derided as an attempted distraction from the true national issues at hand.

Such people unnecessarily imprison themselves in the bondage of the seemingly benefiting past, gnashing their teeth as they scan their brains searching for things that went wrong 30 years ago. They are bound to bias and lack of fairness in which they look for small dots which they can use negatively to try to justify and condemn a present situation.

This reminds me of utterances by none other than the president of the Republic at the Nyakuron Culture Center in Juba on Saturday, 14 December, a day before the 15 December violence when he warned SPLM political reformists against repeating 1991.

You cannot seek and achieve independence brought about by self-determination and yet contradictorily despise the leader(s) who enormously contributed to this great achievement. It is a sinful contradiction. However, it is understandable given the desire to blackmail.

It is however harmful and unhelpful to refer to the past partially without fairly examining its pros and cons. It is equally politically incorrect to pursue blackmailing as a political tactic in order to abort leadership succession and reforms. 

Of course people unnecessarily died because our leaders in 1980s could not agree on the main objective for the movement, which later on became the self-determination. They also unfortunately die today because someone entrusted to lead the nation has not learnt from the past and decided to violently resist various positive reforms in the country. This has resulted to the imposed war on the people.

Nevertheless, a leader or person would not want to see his people die unnecessarily. He or she would first of all suggest and pursue peaceful options to achieve the set objectives. Our reformist leaders have never thought that the country would be plunged into this deep violent crisis by a dictator and force them to stage an armed resistance.

There are however situations when the unnecessary becomes necessary by way of imposition or alternative option. There are also times when a certain unintended situation becomes unavoidable. We are all humans and therefore not with a 100% perfection.

Logical people with positive outlook concentrate on the big picture which is the intended positive part of a situation. Concentrating on untended negative side is too judgmental and unappreciative.

We are now faced with the situation in which there is need to change the status quo in South Sudan. We have a new oppressor. An oppressor has no colour or name, because even your brother can attempt to strip you of your many rights, including the right to life, which you are entitled to resist by all means available.

We may recall that South Sudanese leaders who led political resistance and eventually took up armed resistance movements, not once but three times, against successive Khartoum regimes since 1955 did not do it out of warmongering. The situation was imposed on them. It was not possible to restrict their struggle to a peaceful dialogue and achieve freedom.

The interest group in Juba has declared war on the people of South Sudan who are simply aspiring for freedom, equality, justice and prosperity through reforms. The elite leaders in Juba have been fighting this war with the assistance of foreign agents. It is high time we rendered their propaganda and blackmailing tactics useless. Let us come together as a united people in supporting these reformist leaders for the betterment of all.

The author is a Spokesperson in the Office of the Chairman, SPLM/SPLA. He can be reached at [email protected]

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