Editorial: The message behind President Kiir’s press briefing

By Elhag Paul

September 27, 2015 (SSNA) — 15th September 2015 was a day of anticipation for the war battered people of South Sudan.   The country was earlier prepared through the media to expect a special speech from the President of the republic, Salva Kiir.  Radio Tamazuj like other media outlets informed the country a day earlier about the intended President’s address through an article under the heading ‘President Kiir to address the nation on economic hardship’ https://radiotamazuj.org/en/article/president-kiir-address-nation-economic-hardship  Eventually when President Kiir delivered the speech, it turns out to be a squelch of a man being dragged screaming and kicking to the implementation phase of the Compromise Peace Agreement he wholeheartedly detests. file:///C:/Users/Rosemary/Downloads/STATEMENT%20OF%20H.%20E.%20PRESIDENTSALVA%20KIIR%20MAYARDIT.pdf

The heroics he attempted to display in Addis Ababa on 17th August 2015 by refusing to sign the agreement ended with his tail between his legs.  In less than a week, President Kiir begged IGAD to bring the agreement to him in Juba to sign.

Since then the president has been whingeing like an insecure toddler.  Being in that state, President Kiir disingenuously claims in his speech that “the purpose of his press briefing is mainly to share ideas with you (the public) in order to find the best strategies to restore lasting peace in our country.”  Really?

If this press briefing was for finding the best strategies, how would it be operationalised and achieved?  Crucially, the president has not explained the mechanism for achieving such strategies. This supposed purpose for the press briefing ends in the introductory part of the briefing and it does not cascade into the body and the conclusion.  It stands out alone, disconnected from the other issues the president raised and emphasised.

As is the case with any written work, the public receive it and interpret it according to their understanding based on their own historical knowledge, values and beliefs.  Regardless of the types of lenses or tools used to make sense, President Kiir’s message conveys three points clearly.

First, is the capitulation of the regime to the regional body (IGAD).  The song of ‘reservations’ and explanations about violation of South Sudan’s sovereignty is an acknowledgement of a reality that he president Kiir has no power to stop the gathering clouds of peace.  Here, he is between the rock and the hard place.  Power is just slipping away gradually as the agreement gets implemented.  The absolute powers he gleefully wielded in the last decade issuing decrees left and right, threatening members of parliament with ‘roaming the streets’ and sacking elected governors have been drastically curtailed in the agreement he signed.  The act of signing away one’s own illegally obtained powers is the ultimate humiliation of the man and the Jieng Council of Elders.  It is the loss of this power and the status that goes with it which the agreement has brought that is making President Kiir shouts: ‘Help please! Help please! Our sovereignty is being violated!’  He and the JCE expect South Sudanese to be receptive to their cries and rally behind them.  No, Sirs.  Nobody is getting duped.  Nobody is buying his crocodile tears. 

True, South Sudan’s sovereignty is being tampered with but why should South Sudanese care since he (President Kiir) and the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) were the first to violate it.  The JCE is a body of Jieng elders composed of Jieng intellectuals and semi illiterate self styled military officers whose objective is to further the interest of the Jieng tribe at the expense of the whole country.  It is not far fetched to argue that it is the JCE that actually has been running the affairs of the country.  Unlike elders anywhere in the world, the JCE is violent and kleptocratic.  In contrast, the global elders composed of dignitaries such as Mr Martti Ahtisaari. Mr Kofi Anan, Mrs Ela Bhatt, Ms Gro Harlem Bruntland, Ms Hina Jilani, Mr Lakhdar Brahimi, Mr Fernando Cardoso, Mr Jimmy Carter, Mr Nelson Mandela, Arcbishop Desmond Tutu etc devote their invaluable time to promoting peace and harmony among the people of the world.  They work tirelessly for world peace and they handle issues with care and prudence.  This is what is expected from real elders and not the violence of the JCE.

Back to the issue of sovereignty, President Kiir and the JCE have hijacked the sovereignty of South Sudan and they freely use it to advance Jieng interest in detriment to the whole country.  The Compromise Peace Agreement is actually a product of abuse of sovereignty of South Sudan by this same group.  Right after IGAD took over the mediation of the talks, President Kiir with the advice of JCE consistently denied the other stakeholders in the country to partake in finding a solution to the conflict.  For example, the denial and violation of the right of travel of people like Mr Peter Sule, Dr Lam Akol and others from going to attend the talks in Addis Ababa.  The question now is: why is President Kiir and the JCE seeking support from those they trashed and abused?  The centuries old adage – you reap what you sow applies here. 

The president and his Jieng short-sightedly antagonised the majority of South Sudanese.  They never thought there would be hard times.  Now, hard times are here, they want support of the very people they abused and deprived.  No, that support will not come.  In fact they first need to account for destroying the country.  As they have sowed killings, hatred, mega theft of public resource, ethnic cleansing, expansionists policies etc they now must reap “rebooting” of governance in the country with thorough accountability.  Thus as South Sudan is being rebooted South Sudanese really do not give a damn about a ‘hijacked sovereignty’ serving the interest of a single tribe: Jieng.

The second message President Kiir is passing to South Sudanese is that SPLM/A has ceased to be what it was.  This is most welcome news because this Jieng machine (SPLM/A) is the real cause of all the sufferings of South Sudanese people.  There is no need to talk about its evil because it is obvious.  Time and again South Sudanese have been warned that the SPLM/A will destroy them, but this message keeps falling on deaf ears.  Its leaders in the person of Pagan Amum and his group are now on the run for their dear lives from it.  For those who do not know much about the SPLM/A they should check the World Wide Web for the plethora of information about this criminal organisation.

President Kiir declared, ‘It must be stated clearly that the reality of political difference within the SPLM which has been cemented in the peace agreement, and accepted cheerfully by our colleagues in the opposition; requires us all to organise ourselves on new basis.  This simply means “The SPLM will never be one again as long as we follow the implementation of this Compromise Peace Agreement.”’ 

While this notification comes as a massive relief to majority of South Sudanese, President Kiir must be held to account for the role he played in destroying their beloved machine of terror.  The whole calamity that hit South Sudan ignited by the SPLM meeting of 5th March 2013 is a direct result of his gross negligence, poor leadership, and refusal to accept to be guided by party rules.  His obsession to remain “the flag bearer” without following the party rules landed the country into the current chaos.

President Kiir can not just now use the bitter pill of the Compromise Peace Agreement administered to them to place the blame of SPLM/A break up on Pagan Amum and Riek Machar.  He laments, “This IGAD prescribed peace document on the resolution of the conflict in the Republic of South Sudan is the most divisive and unprecedented peace deal ever seen in the history of our country and the African continent at large.”

This may well be the case but President Kiir should look himself in the mirror on the issue of division.  This ‘scarcely literate’ President forgets that he has been one of the most divisive figures in the country.  Since he came to power in 2005, Kiir has presided over the division of various ethnic groups in the whole country to promote Jieng expansionist policies.  For instance, in Upper Nile, he blatantly decreed Chollo land of Pigi county to the Jieng of Padang.  In Nimule, Eastern Equatoria, he promoted through violent means resettlements of Jieng of Bor and so on.  On the area of law and order he has allowed the Jieng to kill members of other ethnicities without accountability.  Tragically, in December 2013, President Kiir displayed his hateful traits by ethnically cleansing the Nuer in Juba.  Not only that but he imprisoned the survivors in the UN Protection camps to date.

So what division is President Kiir talking about?  The Compromise Peace Agreement actually unites all the people of South Sudan if anything.  Cynically, President Kiir attempts to convey a false picture to the world that South Sudanese before the Compromise Peace Agreement were united.  He and his JCE are the architect of divisions in the country with their vicious practice of violent tribalism.

As the SPLM/A is now heading towards a break up, the members of this dysfunctional organisation from the other ethnic groups should seize on this opportunity to free themselves completely by severing ties and joining other political groups.  This will ensure that the state powers the Jieng capitalised on under the SPLM/A becomes something of the past.  Let the JCE remain with their “SPLM “ and let the people see how they will gain votes from other ethnicities to accede to power again in a genuine election.

The third point subtly delivered is a threat or rather a declaration to obstruct the whole process of the transitional period.  President Kiir is a well known hypocrite.  He is fond of doing the opposite of what he promises or says.  During the celebration of South Sudan independence on 9th July 2011 he emphatically promised South Sudanese peace.  Before his words could be forgotten, he embarked on disarming all the other ethnicities and re-arming the Jieng.  The Nuer being the majority in the army by then also did the same.

Within five months after independence the country was thrown into a tribal war between an alliance of Jieng and Nuer against the Murle.  President Kiir and his Vice Riek did nothing as if nothing seriously damaging the credibility of the state had happened re its duty to protect.  Neglectfully neither of the two called or instituted an enquiry.  That was the first sign of failure in leadership of both President Kiir and Riek and the failure of state to protect its citizen.   Fresh from this debacle, President Kiir unnecessarily went into a wild adventure of invading the Sudan and eventually retreating to remain in the disputed Panthou.  He crowed to Mr Ban Ki Moon that he would never withdraw.  Within a day he pulled out.  Please see, ‘Panthou war: the reflections of unnecessary war’ http://www.southsudannewsagency.com/opinion/articles/panthou-war-the-reflections-of-unnecessary-war

In 2012 President Kiir promised to address the problem of rampant corruption.  He even produced a list of 75 alleged thieves.  What has he done?  Nothing!  Then in 2013 he recruits a private militia popularly known as Dootku Beny/Mathiang Anyoor/Gelweng.  It is this militia that became responsible for the cleansing of the Nuer in Juba sparking the current vicious war that has consumed tenth of thousands of lives and displaced over two million people.

It is clear from these few examples that President Kiir is definitely a hypocrite. 

Now read this excerpt from the Lord of Darkness’ briefing.  “Having made our reservations and expressed our disappointment on the provision of the Agreement, I (President Kiir) finally signed the Peace Document with reservations to return our country back to peace and development.  With that signature, I had fully committed the government to faithful implementation of the Agreement on the Resolution of conflict in the Republic of South Sudan.  All institutions of government in the country shall be bound by this Agreement and shall be expected to carry out the functions stipulated for them therein.  I believe you are aware of that National Council ministers has already endorsed and adopted the Agreement and that the National Legislature has ratified it as well.  In my capacity as Commander-In-Chief of the SPLA, I have already issued a cease fire order for SPLA troops to stop any military offensive in the conflict zones unless on self defence.”

Anybody who is a close observer of the president will be worried by what he has outlined.  His weasel words signify troubles.  President Kiir as a hypocrite may not be promising peace.  He may be declaring obstruction to the implementation of the peace agreement.  It is not a surprise therefore to see his troops aided by Uganda People Defence Forces using helicopter gunships to decimate the Chollo villages in Upper Nile and Unity states to clear land for resettlement of the Jieng.  This is a serious violation of the peace agreement.  Equally, he has unleashed his dogs of war on Equatoria while deceptively preaching peace as in his press briefing.  Equatoria now must face the reality of its predicament resulting from non active political engagement in the country.

The three points in the message sums up a declaration for a protracted obstruction to derail the Compromise Peace agreement.  In effect SPLM-IG and the evil forces running it have wedged themselves on the road to peace in South Sudan. The implementation of the peace agreement is not going to be an easy one. The road ahead will be bumpy with unexpected dangers along the way. 

Will Dr Riek Machar manage travelling on this road?  There is a big question mark.   Riek does not appear to grasp the dynamics emanating from the new reality created by the agreement.  In some state of lullaby dreaming of becoming a president, this pretender without any skills and knowledge of leadership is a disaster waiting to happen.  Instead of taking serious note of the violations by Juba so far denting the agreement and making it questionable, he is nowhere to be heard or seen.  Riek should by now vigorously be engaging the IGAD, South Sudanese people and the international community by delivering relevant national statements and holding conferences to highlight the numerous violations of the peace agreement with recommendations of what should be done. 

Unfortunately, he is nowhere to be heard or seen.  Sadly, he leaves this vital job to his spokesman.

Riek now jubilantly goes around with wide smiles deluding himself that he has achieved a victory.  Anybody who followed Riek’s behaviour after he signed the Khartoum Peace Agreement in 1997 can not fail to see the same naive behaviour surfacing again in him.  Back then he carried himself as if he wielded real power in Khartoum.  His tribalistic actions were everywhere to be seen with posts dished out to close family members and some favoured Nuer.  That experience in short ended bitterly as he had to run to Dr Garang in 2002 with his tail coiled.   South Sudanese are about to be administered a dose of similar behaviour in a very fluid and dangerous circumstances whereby the oppressors of the people are geared to fighting to the death.

If Riek wants to win this battle in order to realise peace for a democratic transformation in the county, he must be pro-active, constantly alert, highly communicative and actively engaging the stakeholders, drafters and guarantors of the deal to breath fire on the regime in Juba.  Otherwise his credibility and limited support will be a foregone conclusion.

In conclusion, President Kiir’s press briefing is a serious message of a wounded bull whose future has been blown by the IGAD document.  It is a declaration of a fight to the death.  Therefore, South Sudanese, the drafters of the agreement and the international community must take note and be prepared for the worst.

[Truth hurts but it is also liberating]

The author lives in the Republic of South Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected].

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