President Kiir’s Machiavellian tricks: Machar be forwarned!

By Elhag Paul

October 13, 2015 (SSNA) — Riek!  Wake up.  Get your act together.  Leadership is about uniting people to achieve greater goals than an individual own ambition.  As it is experienced by South Sudanese it can be argued that you missed key opportunities for decisive leadership time and again throughout the 1990s and 2000s. without any recognisable achievement, be it in personal development in the art of management or in the protection of the South Sudanese people in stabilising our new country.

It is indisputable that the organisations led by you so far starting with SPLM United in 1991 to the current SPLM-IO are riddled with divisions and implosions due to internal management problems.

The compromise peace agreement which you rightly signed has brought a new political reality in South Sudan.  This reality albeit it suppose to bring peace, it can also be a deadly trap for all sorts of unforeseen games.  Thus it is imperative that vigilance must be prioritised.

President Salva Kiir and the Jieng Council of Elders (JCE) initially misread the determination of international community to change the rules of the game with this agreement and they blundered big time.  President Kiir’s refusal to sign this agreement on 17th August 2015 exposed the regime as a war monger.  President Kiir laid bare their nasty political character damaging their credibility.  This agreement if I am not mistaken will prove to be the watershed in the demise of President Kiir’s influence and power in our new country. 

Although the regime of President Kiir and its supporters now obsessively sing peace in the hope of regaining their lost image and international support, no one is actually listening to them.  The damage is done.  Brand SPLM/A is tainted beyond repair, especially SPLM in government because it is abundantly clear that it intends to be a spoiler of the signed compromise peace agreement.

The spiralling of multiple centres of violence in the country, such as in Unity, Upper Nile and Equatoria States evidences beyond doubt what is to be expected.  This peace agreement may not hold unless President Barack Obama puts his foot down to silence the guns once and for all and IGAD-Plus ceases its duplicity in favour of President Kiir’s government.   IGAD-Plus and its dishonesty in handling the mediation has been consistent.  It raises serious questions as to whether this body is really serious about bringing peace to South Sudan.

The first agreement IGAD struck with the warring parties was the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement of 23rd January 2014.  Juba failed to honour it and it continued to violate it with support from Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF).  IGAD did nothing to restrain its member (Uganda).  Then on 9th May 2014, it struck its second agreement which mandated participation of all stakeholders in the country.  Yet, even before the ink could dry, IGAD violated its own agreement by reducing the talks to President Kiir and Riek Macher thereby tribalising the talks between the Jieng and the Nuer in exclusion of the other over sixty tribes.  To understand this point you need only to look at the composition of the negotiators on both sides.

This skulduggery of IGAD continued up to the Compromise Peace Agreement of 17th August 2015.  IGAD-Plus itself now is in violation of its own latest agreement.  According to the agreement all foreign troops and non state actors must vacate South Sudan within 45 days.  10th October 2015 was the deadline for such fighters to leave South Sudan.  So far Uganda has not honoured the agreement and its troops are staying put.  What does this mean?  On the other hand President Kiir has unleashed his dogs on war on Equatoria. 

Now yet again President Yoweri Kagutu Museveni of Uganda and President Kiir are violating this agreement left and right and nothing tangible is being done to hold them to account.  The pattern clearly indicates that IGAD-Plus is sympathetic to the regime in Juba and it does not care about the people of South Sudan.  Else, why are President Museveni and President Kiir openly allowed to get away all the time with murder? 

Whether President Obama will prevail over president Kiir and IGAD-Plus, especially the criminal JCE that decides the former’s policy, Riek must think ahead and begin to deal with the issues of unity among the Nuer and the entire South Sudanese.

The purpose of this piece is to suggest what Riek may do to cripple President Kiir, by putting the home of the Nuer in order to minimise any fallout from the expected rapid decline of SPLM’s grip on South Sudan.  President Kiir and the JCE are deeply unhappy.  The evidence can be gleaned from the two letters of the JCE circulated widely before the culmination of the compromise peace agreement.  Please take time and read:  ‘JCE Response to the Latest IGAD Proposal on Power Sharing’  file:///C:/Users/Rosemary/Downloads/JCE%20-%20Response%20to%20IGAD%20Proposal%20on%20Power%20Sharing%20(1).pdf and ‘Position of the JCE on the IGAD-Plus Proposal Compromise Agreement‘ file:///C:/Users/Rosemary/Downloads/JCE%20-%20Position%20on%20Proposed%20Compromise%20Agreement%20(1).pdf

An important event to bear in mind is when the President signed the CPA on 26th August 2015.  Prior to the signing, the unity of the ruling clique fractured with the chief of the army General Paul Malong Awan, the minister of Information Michael Makuie Lueth, and others bitterly expressing rejection of the agreement.  Makuie even went as far as to call the agreement a “sell out”.  This was the first time senior members of the government behaved disrespectfully to the president.

Soon after the JCE hurriedly met and the whole atmosphere abruptly changed.  Makuie and the rest converted from refuseniks to peaceniks.  This switch obviously is not for nothing; President Kiir and the JCE want to improve their shaky image.  But interestingly this change in behaviour is accompanied by more violence throughout the country except Bahr El Ghazal.  In a sense the regime drivers (the Jieng) have re-united under a new strategy of “playing the peace supporter” while at the same time spreading violence to undermine the peace deal.

It is arguable that since the peace was signed in the last week of August 2015, South Sudan has witnessed more violence with loss of innocent people than at any other time in the entire period of the conflict.  The objective of the regime is clear.  It wants to destroy the Compromise Peace Agreement so that the regime continues in power in a state of chaos as always.  For it is only in a state of chaos that the coffers of the state can be looted and the people terrorised with impunity. This is one consequence of the intention of President Kiir and the JCE to destroy the CPA.

Another ploy of the system to destroy the peace is the weeding out of the regime supporters who belong to other ethnicities from positions of power and influence.  For instance, the dismissal of the two governors of Central Equatoria and Western Equatoria, the former being replaced by a Jieng from Yirol masquerading as a local boy.  A person whose background is as dubious as most of the lot running the system.  The removal of these governors was done to strengthen the regime’s grip on areas they want to destabilise as vehicles for tearing the peace to shreds.

Although the previous governors were not completely with the people, their local support and their outspokenness was seen as an obstacle for the regime to execute its evil plan.  Those two would not condone the destruction of their homes without protest and exposure of the duplicity of President Kiir as exemplified by speeches they made in Mundri and Juba a few months ago.

A further trick of the regime for promoting destruction of the peace is the declaration that the government is broke and it cannot implement the agreement unless the international community pays for it.  For example, Vice President James Wani Igga and minister in the office of the president Riak Awan Gol last week in New York begged the Americans for cash for construction of military barracks outside the 25 mile radius of Juba stipulated in the agreement.  Surely, if President Kiir is serious about peace and the welfare of the South Sudanese people, the regime should not be going round begging for money.  It can boldly ask for loans for the purposes of the implementation of the CPA, as it does for securing the loans for buying the military equipment they use to kill the people.

One may ask why is the government not doing that?  It is because they want to destroy the peace.  Why is President Kiir determined to destroy the peace agreement?  The answer is straight forward.

It has nothing to do with the interest of the Jieng tribe.  This may sound strange but it is the reality.  The whole destruction taking place in the country to derail the peace has a single purpose of saving the president, the JCE, and the Jieng Generals from facing accountability for the mass atrocities they committed against the Nuer and the South Sudanese people.  Implementation of the agreement means arraignment of the architects of this evil project which indirectly amounts to questioning the JCE’s long held foolish ideology of ‘Born to rule’.

Therefore, President Kiir and the JCE have all the reasons and motivations to want to derail the peace agreement.  What is going on now is not about the interest of the wider Jieng but self preservation of the members of the clique in power.  The Jieng people in this situation are being used as a tool of those fighting for their survival. 

Given this, Riek who unfortunately is not a leader in the true sense of the word appears oblivious to this fact.  The Compromise Peace Agreement needs a transformational leader.  Riek is not.  He is a crooked leader set in his ways.  He has no insight into his own leadership style which constantly generates divisions and splits.  He has had chances to learn and improve but he squanders it always by sticking to familial politics mixed with national issues.  No doubt his poor leadership will show up soon whether the agreement collapses or holds.  If the agreement collapses it will be because his complacency and lack of effective diplomatic charm to engage with the powers that matter.  If it holds it will be solely if the Americans do decide to say enough is enough with the regime in Juba and give President Kiir and the JCE the red card.

President Kiir naively now thinks he has got the Americans where he wants them by bringing in the Russians as Juba’s protectors against sanctions.  This invitation of new international players beyond the regional powers is likely to worsen the situation in South Sudan. The country could become a political football of the big powers with it being left uncared for in the foreseeable future, unless the people of South Sudan seriously play their role patriotically.  Please see, ‘South Sudan lauds diplomatic efforts to block UN sanctions.’

The opportunity has once again availed itself to Riek to play constructive politics.  I suggest that the most potent weapon to end President Kiir’s rule is the unity of the people of South Sudan, especially with the help of the Compromise Peace Agreement.  President Kiir’s deadly weapon against Riek and the whole Nuer people is his Machiavellian tricks of divide and rule involving a formidable section of the Nuer to fight the Jieng war.  It is a Nuer killing a Nuer with supervision of the master.  Please see, ‘They burned it all.’

This is what the Arabs say “Adrab al abid bel abid” meaning hit the slave with a slave.  During the war of liberation, Khartoum exploited this strategy effectively by deploying the Nuba, Darfuri and Ingessana against South Sudan and it worked.  President Kiir and the JCE have adopted this strategy to destroy the Nuer.  With this plan there is no need for the Jieng to be involved in the dirty business of open ethnic cleansing as the job gets done by the victims themselves.

The Nuer are slowly but surely getting rid of themselves and those who will survive will then be cleared by the regime.  Do you see how clever President Kiir and the JCE are being?  Like Dr Garang used to say in Arabic: ‘Souf zol da awanta kief?’ meaning, look at how tricky this guy is.

As said President Kiir already plays Machiavellian tricks by promoting the Nuer Weu (Weu is said to mean mercenary – lovers of jobs and cash) to constantly prise them away from their kith and kin to decimate them.  For instance after President Kiir signed the agreement he promoted Nuer Generals to deepen the rift among the Nuer for the JCE’s benefit.  Please see, ‘Kiir promotes SPLA generals.’  

If Kiir really cared about the Nuer he would not have cleansed them in Juba in December 2013.  Unlike President Kiir, Riek misses the point in the game of promotions.  What he did was to appoint more Generals without a beneficial strategy.  Please see, ‘Armed opposition SPLM/A (IO) promotes its senior generals.’

If Riek wants to show some leadership, he should now step in firmly and pay a price for rebuilding cohesion among the Nuer, by making the Nuer allies of President Kiir to be the men to promote the compromise peace agreement.  It is in such a project that Riek can begin to build the future of the Nuer and by default that of South Sudan

The Nuer allies of President Kiir, derogatively referred to as Nuer Weu are apparently motivated by jobs and cash.  Now as the peace agreement awards governorship of Unity and Upper Nile States to SPLM-IO, Riek should exercise real magnanimity to his adversaries.  He should allow governor Monytuil to continue in his current position in Bentiu to achieve a long term strategic objective of saving the Nuer.  I do not have to talk about Malakal because it is obvious to who it should go.  What is important to realise is that these arrangements are only useful psychologically at this early stage of development of the state of South Sudan.  In future people will be appointed on merits, qualification and ideological orientation regardless of ethnicity, religion, sex etc.

In the short term it may be seen as a weakness but in practical terms it may instantly unite the Nuer and this will stop the constant fratricide.  At the same time it will avail the Nuer an edge in their confrontation with the Jieng.  So Riek needs to talk to Monytuil now, give him what he wants and make him to be the peace maker and builder among the Nuer.  The present poor and destructive relationship among the Nuer demands realpolitik.

This is a doable project and if Riek takes it seriously the benefits are enormous.  First and foremost Nuer fratricide comes to an end and Nuer land will be in peace.  Secondly, one of President Kiir’s strategies to derail the Compromise Peace Agreement involves the Nuer Weu as essential cogs of the killing machine; with it taken away the regime will be thoroughly deprived and weakened.  Thirdly, all the strategic battle fields in Unity and Upper Nile States will change hands without exchange of bullets.  Fourthly, the Nuer people will be the ones credited with bringing peace to South Sudan.  Fifthly, President Kiir will have to decide whether to genuinely accept peace or face being booted out of J1.

President Kiir’s and JCE’s power is bolstered by Nuer Weu.  So long as the Nuer remains divided the mayhem in Nuer land will not stop and peace in South Sudan will remain a mirage.  The telling thing is that the JCE practice unity to remain strong and in power while they promote divisions among the Nuer and others to “defeat” and subjugate them.  Ambassador Telar Deng emphasised this point by saying, “Our (Jieng) internal front should remain united.  This is the only way to defeat our enemies.”  There you are.  Monytuil!  Buay!  Puljang! Beliu! Are you listening?  Are you thinking about the future and welfare of your people?  The ball is in your court.

What is suggested here is not without precedent.  The one example that comes straight to mind is the talks between Apartheid South Africa and the African National Congress led by late Nelson Mandela in early 1990s.  That negotiation was tortuous and when the deal was struck there were powerful forces in the Apartheid government determined to derail it as is the case now with President Kiir and the JCE in South Sudan with the Compromise Peace Agreement.  Very important African persons were targeted to create chaos and derail the agreement.  Depressingly, Chris Hani, a luminous ANC leader was assassinated by a hired polish immigrant.  Fortunately, this evil deed did not bring on the effect desired by enemies of change.  Then the system continued to use Mangasuthu Buthelezi, the Zulu leader of Inkatha against the ANC.  Inkatha like the Nuer Weu indulged in killing black people with impunity.  The implementation of that agreement was at a knife edge.  It was the brilliant leadership of Mandela that saved the situation. 

Against the wishes of his own party, he extended a hand of friendship to Buthelezi and offered him the post of minister of home affairs in the transition government.  By entrusting security to Buthelezi, Inkatha was defanged and it had to behave and obey the law.   With the agent of Apartheid feted, satisfied and well accommodated, South Africa was pulled from the brink of catastrophe. 

Riek needs to do something with the Nuer Weu like what Mandela did with Buthelezi.  He also needs to bring in all those others, Changson, Duchand and so on for the sake of a lasting peace in the country.  He can not sit there while the Nuer are deliberately being divided by the JCE to decimate themselves to extinction and call himself a leader.  What type of a leader is Riek who can not think outside the box to save his people?

The Bantustan federalism President Kiir introduced with his so called “Establishment Order number 36/2015 AD” fortunately enough is uniting South Sudanese and mobilising the international community against the tribal regime in Juba.  Even his Nuer allies are not happy.  This offers the best opportunity for Riek to boldly open up channels of communication to unite the people against the regime in Juba.  For ultimately should this CPA flop, the scene will have been prepared for a show down between the forces of democracy versus the forces of Dinkocracy.

For quarter of a century Riek has rightly or wrongly been fighting for changes in the SPLM/A.  This battle can not be won with a deeply divided Nuer people and a disarmed and abused 62 ethnicities.  Remember, President Kiir and the JCE have hijacked the sovereignty of South Sudan and its resources (material, human and financial).  This has given them an advantage in the struggle and this must be countered with unity of the people.

To complete the struggle for changes or preferably the dissolution of the SPLM/A Riek must embark on uniting the people.  If he does not, let him be warned.  Saint Just, Antoine Louis Lfox De, The French revolutionist said during the decade long French Revolution, “Those who make half-way revolutions only dig their own grave.”

[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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