By Duop Chak Wuol
July 27, 2018 (SSNA) — Tyranny comes in many shapes and forms. It is social, regional, economic, political, and foreign. In South Sudan, Salva Kiir’s atrocious regime is being kept in power by Uganda, Egypt, Kenya, Eritrea, and Morocco, as well as arms dealers in Ukraine and Bulgaria, among others, regardless of the level of carnage he has committed. Kiir’s connection with these countries and international arms traffickers has turned South Sudan into a battleground for greedy nations, institutions, and people who lack conscionable judgment.
The military assistance provided to Kiir’s regime directly and indirectly by Uganda, Egypt, Eritrea, Kenya, and Morocco encourages Juba’s ruthless regime not to accept any peace deal that calls for reforms unless such a pact maintains his cruelty. For peace to return to the country, the international community must use its mandates under international treaties to punish Juba’s regime and its foreign backers.
Nations like Uganda, Kenya, and Egypt are Kiir’s main backers. They supply him with lethal arms and ammunition, and their main goal is to keep him in power, contrary to what the people of South Sudan demand. It is good to keep in mind that Uganda and Kenya are members of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and their leaders Yoweri Museveni and Uhuru Kenyatta are part of IGAD’s strategy to bring about lasting peace in the country. However, their dealings as Kiir’s regional weapons traffickers, money launderers, and key players in the peace process make it impossible for the East African regional bloc to find a peaceful solution to the conflict.
It is hard to comprehend how Ugandan President Museveni would accept a peace deal that strips power from his ally, Kiir. Those who believe that the Ugandan leader is working for peace are wrong. Museveni is working to keep his grip on South Sudan’s commerce, and the only way for him to keep his bloody hands in South Sudan’s economy is by keeping Kiir in power. The income Uganda generates from South Sudan and the undisclosed monthly payment Museveni receives from Kiir’s regime is enough to keep him pretending that he works for peace.
The Ugandan leader’s participation in the ongoing peace process cannot be trusted. The man has too much South Sudanese blood on his hands. Museveni also committed atrocities on behalf of Kiir. For instance, he dropped poisonous and banned cluster bombs on rebel troops in January 2014, a well-documented incident. In May 2014, the United Nations released a report detailing how cluster bombs were used against South Sudanese rebels, their destructive capacities, and why they were used. The report pointed a finger at the Ugandan air force.
Kenya is another important ally of South Sudan’s leader. Kenyatta’s government proved its loyalty to Kiir’s government by abducting rebel officials who lived in Nairobi and deporting them to Juba. The kidnappings of the armed opposition leaders by Kenyan police in November 2016 and January 2017 were a well-coordinated act. There are strong reasons to believe that South Sudan’s government bribed some of the Kenyan Members of Parliament (MPs). One of those bribed MPs was Weston Wanjohi Wahome, a figure cited in numerous reports by the United Nations (UN) and human rights organizations. The Nairobi-Juba collusion was evident when rebel officials were abducted from their homes by Kenyan authorities. After the kidnapping of the armed opposition officials, Weston publicly claimed that the abducted individuals were just going home to their country and that there was nothing to worry about. The South Sudanese were stunned to see the Kenyan government not say anything or voice any concerns about the actions of its own MP. The abducted people included former rebel political leadership spokesman James Gatdet Dak, former chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition’s (SPLM-IO) humanitarian affairs committee Aggrey Idri, and human rights lawyer Dong Samuel Luak, among others. James Gatdet is currently being incarcerated in Juba while Aggrey and Dong are nowhere to be found.
The level of foreign greed in South Sudan is unprecedented. Most South Sudanese are probably not aware of the fact that Kiir’s government spent at least $2.1 million on United States lobbying and public relations firms from early 2014 through the end of 2015, according to U.S. federal records. The money was meant to influence the administration of former American President Barack Obama through U.S. Congress members and other powerful individuals in American politics. Kiir’s main goals were to promote his government’s image, improve diplomatic relations with the United States, ensure former President Obama gave financial support to his leadership, and prevent the U.S. from imposing tough sanctions against his regime. The firms that benefited from these seemingly immoral dealings included R&R Partners, Podesta Group, KRL International LLC, and former Republican Representative J. C. Watts. Under U.S. laws, the actions of these lobbying firms were legal; however, there were serious moral and ethical questions that deserved answers from the representatives of these companies.
Is it rational to promote the image of a leader who killed his own people out of his own political madness? Do these firms know that they were promoting the image of a ruthless tyrant who massacred the mothers and fathers of tens of thousands of children from December 2013 to 2015? Where is the morality behind these public relations firms’ decisions to ignore the wishes of suffering South Sudanese over money? Did the U.S. lose its global moral obligation under Obama? Why was the United States, under Obama’s leadership, using threatening language toward South Sudanese rival leaders without taking any action? Was Obama’s administration influenced by liberal lobbying firms as alleged by most South Sudanese? Why was the U.S. only actively vocal about South Sudanese suffering three weeks after Obama’s presidency ended?
The United States’ foreign policy on South Sudan under former President Obama was seriously faulty — in fact, his foreign policy was seriously flawed. For instance, Obama continued to give financial assistance to Kiir’s regime even when South Sudan’s government was determined by the United States, humanitarian organizations, and the UN to be using child soldiers in its fight against the armed opposition. Obama’s refusal to deny Juba American security assistance caused widespread allegations among South Sudanese communities that some U.S. liberal corporations were doing business with Kiir’s regime, and that Obama was advised by the representatives of such agencies not to punish South Sudan, regardless of the appalling crimes Kiir committed. If the alleged accusation is true, then it will go down as one of the greatest moral blunders the U.S. ever committed in South Sudan. The Republic of South Sudan is a country today because of U.S. foreign policy. There is no question in my mind that South Sudan would still be part of Sudan today if it was not for the U.S.’s influence. There are some muddled ethnic nationalists who shamelessly deny this indisputable fact. It is clear, however, that these people are making fools of themselves.
Former President Obama was too cautious in his effort to resolve South Sudan’s conflict. His overall strategy for the young nation was, in large part, a failure. Most South Sudanese were stunned when Obama declared the following on December 16, 2016: “I feel responsible for murder and slaughter that’s taken place in South Sudan that’s not being reported on, partly because there’s not as much social media being generated from there.” One week later, on December 23, 2016, the United Nations Security Council rejected a U.S.-sponsored resolution, delivering a diplomatic blow to Obama’s administration. Obama’s comment was not well-suited given the fact that he failed to use his powers as U.S. President for nearly three years to impose punitive measures on South Sudan or deny Juba’s regime from receiving U.S. financial aid.
There is a widely established belief in South Sudan that Kiir’s persistent refusal to accept peace is because of Ugandan, Kenyan, and Egyptian influence. It is worth noting that Museveni deceived the United States a few days after the civil war broke out in December 2013, stating that he was sending his soldiers to rescue Ugandans who were trapped in South Sudan. Museveni also told the Obama administration that he was going to protect South Sudan’s vital institutions in case the young nation crumbled. The Ugandan leader even asked the U.S. to finance what was initially presumed to be a rescue mission, but Obama refused to offer any financial assistance after reports emerged that Ugandan military intervention in South Sudan was purely a secret Kampala agenda to fight alongside Juba-backed troops against South Sudanese rebels. Museveni was a co-founder of the ongoing civil war. He was the one who told Kiir that killing other South Sudanese tribes who are a threat to his leadership was a good thing to do. Perhaps Museveni was emboldened by the fact that he once committed serious crimes against the Acholi people in Northern Uganda while Western leaders turned a blind eye to his atrocities. It is good to remind people that after seizing power in 1986, the Ugandan leader starved, abused, and killed Acholi people under the pretext of hunting down individuals who did not support his government. This was exactly what Kiir did in December 2013 when he waged a door-to-door killing spree against the Nuer in Juba, claiming that Nuer civilians in Juba were rebel supporters. Kiir also thought that his massacre of the Nuer civilians would put fear in any South Sudanese who questioned his ruthlessness.
The people of South Sudan are tired of war and do not want to see Uganda, Kenya, and Egypt keep meddling with their internal affairs. These countries have caused enough suffering and their destructive policies will never be forgotten by the suffering South Sudanese. The international community must confront these greedy nations if they want this young nation to have peace. The Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi must be told that his cunning strategy to harm the Ethiopian Nile Dam project by using Uganda and South Sudan as a launching pad has nothing to do with the millions of South Sudanese who are living under dire conditions in refugee camps. The Ugandan President must also be told that his economic greed in South Sudan does not help in the peace process and that his January 2014 poisoning of South Sudanese rebels through cluster bombs and other documented war crimes he committed will not go unpunished. The Egyptian greed for the Nile water and Ugandan greed for South Sudan’s resources must come to an end. The citizens of Uganda, Kenya, Egypt, Eritrea, Morocco, Ukraine, and Bulgaria should condemn their leaders for investing in Kiir’s atrocious regime. The people of South Sudan already have a cruel tyrant, Salva Kiir, as their leader, and they should not additionally be subjected to regional and economic tyranny.
Duop Chak Wuol is an analyst and editor-in-chief of the South Sudan News Agency. He can be reached at [email protected].