By Hoth Giw Chan
March 9, 2018 (SSNA) — As an elder statesman in South Sudan, Prof. Adwok Nyaba, is known to speak his mind openly regardless of any consequences that might result from his statements. For that, many South Sudanese gave him respect as he always stood his ground regardless. He was among the first people who condemned Juba massacre of Nuer by the Salva Kiir, the regime in December 2013. When he got an opportunity to leave Juba, he went straight and joined the Opposition without reservations. He was tasked by the Opposition to write SPLM/A (IO) basic documents, etc. He remained a loyal supporter of the Movement to this day, despite his productive criticism. However, it is also my belief that once a community elder veered off a little bit, he has to be told that he was wrong, thus my response to his article.
Prof. Adwok, expressed his frustration over the Movement (SPLM/A-IO)’s objection not to sign the document put together by the newly created South Sudan Opposition Alliance. That document proposed by the Opposition Alliances opposing Juba regime would bring all the groups under one umbrella and cooperates to topple the regime. However, the document itself proposed by the Alliances has some provisions that the SPLM/A-IO, as a dominant Opposition Movement, ought to scrutinize within its leadership as opposed to jumping on a running wagon without a clear destination. The Press Release issued by the SPLM/A-IO’s Committee Chairperson for Information and Public Relations on 05/03/2018 put it in a perspective by stating that “The reality is that there are outstanding issues regarding structures in general and not specifically leadership, and the process of unity is still underway. The SPLM/SPLA (IO) would like to assure members of the movement, and the South Sudanese civil population at large, that the SPLM/SPLA (IO) is fully committed to the idea of a united opposition and this is reflected in the very history of the movement” adding that “The SPLM/SPLA (IO) has a draft proposal, which we shall continue to discuss with those opposition groups ready to continue with the process of unity”.
Nevertheless, Prof. Adwok, stated clearly that he did not agree with his Chairman “I did not agree with the Chairman response”, for taking a decision to have more discussion on the document rather than rushing into signing the documents. To me, I think it’s vital for a decision of such a magnitude to be addressed first within the leadership circle of the Movement of which Prof. Adwok, is a member of (Political Bureau) as opposed to airing one’s own decision on the media. It would have been better for Prof. Adwok, to exhaust his frustration within the leadership parameters, where members are free to criticize the decision of the Chairman openly. Like any other Political Organization, SPLM/A-IO has rules and policies guiding its members when it comes to making a dissenting viewpoint.
Prof. Adwok, has the following statements against his Deputy Chairman of the Movement “I thought it was out of order for the deputy chairman to tell the leaders of the other opposition groups that he did not have direct authority to make ultimate decision and so had to share the content of the draft, although that really goes without saying. It makes him more of a puppet rather than SPLM/A-IO deputy Chairman”. To me, such type of statements should not have come out on the air from a respected senior member of the Movement who is a member of its highest leadership organ (Political Bureau). These are the types of issues you address within the leadership meetings and leave them there as any Organization (Political Organization or not) faces such types of issues. A Deputy Chairman who would not take a decision like that abruptly because he has to wait for a consensus of his colleagues during their meeting should be considered a true democrat. Is it not what you are preaching? Discussing such types of issues by the Political Body (Political Bureau) of the Movement tasked to address such type of issues in order to avoid one-man rule.
Yes, Prof. Adwok, you raised two important points in your article (the question of building an alliance with another opposition group, and the issue of internal democracy in the SPLMA-IO), that I think is vital for the survival of a political organization like ours. In my humble opinion, these are the type of issues suited for discussion in a convention—or some type of a large Party gathering. But, if these issues you raised were not properly discussed, it might be because of timing, or they will be addressed at the next round of your Political Bureau meeting. Also, remember the situation we are in. After the July incidence in Juba, SPLM/A-IO members have gone underground as the neighboring countries have been hostile to them as you very well know the kidnapping of some its members in Kenya, and the fact that the Chairman is still under detention in South Africa. That had made it difficult for the Movement to operate, except in its territories in South Sudan. I suggest that you should not be discouraged as you have been a veteran for the most part of your life and know very well that things do not go the way you perceive them to be. I also advise you that SPLM/A-IO, has existed for almost five years on its own, which shows the determination of its supporters, but we all wish that oppositions should unite to pursue common objectives and not be driven behind the scene by other forces with ill intentions. These are the things people like you should ask before joining any new organization that offers to lay golden eggs.
Prof. Adwok, also stated the following when challenging SPLM/A-IO as a Political Organization “the SPLM/A-IO has failed to capture the political situation on account of the absence of clear political objectives. Whether it was regime change or reform that dominated the debate in the SPLM/A-IO since its inception in 2014; however, the reform agenda driven by Taban’s personal ambition to capture the petroleum portfolio in the TGoNU won the day”. I think that is your way of looking at the situation as you are entitled to your own facts, but, not how some of us are looking at the things. For once, Taban and company’s reform agenda that they abandoned the Movement to pursue did not win the day. This is clearly shown by the fact that they have now turned around to fight the Real SPLM/A-IO as their faction end up in bed with the enemy. Their goal and ambition from the beginning were to loot the resources in order to enrich themselves using State resources. That is why the situation in the country has gotten worse around them. They don’t care whether millions are going hungry as the UN is predicting the “looming hunger” while Lol Gatkuoth, was talking about “booming economy”, forgetting that it may be his pocket that is booming and not the ordinary citizens. For another, SPLM/A-IO had not failed politically and this is indicated by the fact that the Movement is still the dominant Movement, with supporters in all corners of South Sudan. Quite the contrary, it has emerged as the strongest Movement after the departure of Taban, and his group. The Movement had survived various internal defections beginning with General Gatdet, General Gathoth, Samson Lew Chang, and the conspiracy of Taban and Salva Kiir, to assassinate the Chairman. All of these were planned and financed by the Salva Kiir, to destroy the people’s Movement, but the response from the people was the opposite.
Prof. Adwok, had asked two vital questions regarding the Chairman of the SPLM/A-IO, Dr. Riek Machar when he asked that “Do we in the SPLM/A (IO) believe others do not see this political/leadership weakness? And why would they follow a person who does not listen or treats his colleagues like pawns”? Now, these are crucial questions from somebody who a member of that organization had been—indeed in its highest organ (Political Bureau). In trying to piece some answers for the above two questions together, it crucial to point out here that I am not here to depend on the Chairman from criticism. The Chairman of any other public person is not immune from criticism, quite the contrary, people have rights to criticize their leaders when a leader does not perform what is expected of him/her. The question of Prof. Adwok, I suppose, was directed to other members of the Movement when he asked that “Do we in the SPLM/A (IO) believe others do not see this political/leadership weakness”? My short answer to that question is it depends on each member of the Movement you ask. Certainly, we cannot make our decision as a Movement based on what other perceived or what others would like our Movement to be. It would be a mistake for any Political Organization like SPLM/A-IO to go where the win goes and not on what its members want. Every Organization has a weakness, but you don’t leave the Organization because of its weaknesses. You address your weaknesses and turn them into your strength. This could be a good question for somebody who a member of the highest body of the Organization is not where decisions are made. A member of the Political Bureau could have addressed those questions to his comrades in their meetings and not to open up the organization in such a way. From the inception of SPLM/A-IO in Nasir to the time of Juba assassination attempt on the life of the Chairman, it has always been a decision reached in consensus to pursue what was best for the Movement at a given time. It was an agreement of all in Nasir to nominated Dr. Riek, to be the Chairman of the Movement, deputized by Lado Gore, as they were the most senior members by then. It was in the same line of thinking when their leadership was confirmed in Pagak 1 Conference. It was also a decision of all to accept the outcome of the Peace Agreement with all its terms, though it was not favorable to the SPLM/A-IO. Even the decision to go to Juba, for peace implementation was made by all as you are well aware of that. So, all members who were in the leadership of the Movement should be accountable for any weakness in the decision they made, including yourself.
On the second quest of “why would they follow a person who does not listen or treats his colleagues like pawns”? I suppose, Prof. Adwok, was talking about the supporters of the Movement who are standing behind the Chairman to lead the SPLM/A-IO. I believe the decision to join any political Organization is a personal choice, such as when you decided after you got a chance to scape Juba house arrest, to head for bush for the second time to serves your people by joining SPLM/A-IO. Other people could have asked you the same question then and now as to why you are a member of such Political Organization. Others had no options but to resist the annihilations of their tribesmen by an ethnically based genocidal regime who massacred people based on their ethnicity.
On the question of “how would Dr. Riek win military victory without organizing and sourcing a combat-capable army but preferring to rely on the Nuer White army who do not subscribe to the laws of war or to the political objective of war”? I believe five years resistance should be a measure of the capabilities of the army who opposed the genocidal regime. These volunteer army who are now resisting the aggression of the genocidal regime are organized and you know that very well. Remember, it was the SPLA that splinted into various groups (SPLA-IO, SPLA-IG), and other various groups roaming around in South Sudan. The SPLA-IG recruited and transformed those Mathiang-Anyor into conventional soldiers much as SPLA-IO, transformed White Army and Agwelek, into conventional resistance army. The same in other regions such as Equatoria and Bahr el Ghazal, where SPLM-IO have a huge presence with well-trained forces resisting the government advances there.
On the question of “what next after refusing to sign the charter on account of differences with the other political groups”? That is a good question for leadership to debate on and your task a member of the Political Bureau of the SPLM-IO. My take in that is for SPLM/A-IO to study that new marriage carefully because there seem to be too many grooms for the same girl. South Sudanese are known to make agreements and used the same agreements for their own personal benefits. SPLM/A-IO operated all these years without a partner and could continue if that pre-arranged marriage is fishy. Not many Opposition members who sign up have forces that are fighting the government currently. On the contrary, some of their forces attached SPLM/A-IO a few months back and you wonder why fighting the Opposition forces instead of the government. In short, the confident building should be a priority between these Opposition groups before taking any other decision. It’s crucial to study what is behind that arrangement before jumping on board. Everyone/Organization has interest in the unity of the Oppositions but should be done in a way that also takes consideration of the reality on the ground.
As for your comments that “it is not true that the US administration sanctioned us because of the decision in the Political Bureau to pursue armed struggle. The US administration sanctioned us because we acted nuerly (announcing publicity our intention to war)”. That is not true. The US administration sanctioned individuals on the basis of their participation in the genocide as well as using public funds for their private gain—thereby using the war as a pretext for self-enrichment while their people are dying, giving international community hard time to support South Sudanese people. As for the “Nuerly” part of announcing publicly our intention to war, that is also not true. If you mean to criticize how Nuer as an ethnic group announce their presence when waging war against their opponents, you might be right because Nuer as an ethnic group does not believe in cold blood killings. They are sure of their strengths and braveries to the point that they don’t make it a secret to their enemy when confronting a potential enemy. That is their culture and way of doing things, I suppose, but not the subject of this debate.
Prof. Adwok, you ended your article by stating that “the very idea of publicly circulating classified SPLM/A-IO documents is not only naïve but also a security risk, and that no political party operates with its doors and windows opened to the public and expects to win genuine and actual political victories; perhaps maybe only imaginary victories triggered by wishful thinking”. I couldn’t agree with you more on this. This is the point of this response to your article precisely because all these issues you aired out should have been discussed in a closed-door meeting of Political Bureau members as some of them are confidential. Why would you air all these statements and your frustration on how the SPLM/A-IO does its things when you very well know that the proper venue could have been at the Political Bureau meeting due to the sensitivity of some of these statements?
The author can be reached at [email protected].