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South Sudan: Is Peace Possible? February 11, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Aid to Africa, Colonizing Structure, Corruption, Dictatorship, Economics: Development Theory and Policy applications, Human Rights, Humanity and Social Civilization, Kemetic Ancient African Culture, Oromia, Oromiyaa, Oromo, Oromo the Largest Nation of Africa. Human Rights violations and Genocide against the Oromo people in Ethiopia, Oromummaa, Self determination, South Sudan, The Colonizing Structure & The Development Problems of Oromia, Tyranny, Uncategorized, Warlords.
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Kiir is accused of creeping authoritarianism, strengthening his control over the security apparatus and threatening to curb non-government organisations and the media. A newspaper reportedly found itself in trouble for daring to publish a photo of the president wiping sweat from his brow. One foreign diplomat commented: “There is a danger that this country that fought so hard for its liberty is going to end up resembling the country it fought against.”

Peter Adwok Nyaba was higher education minister but says he could not get an audience with Kiir from July 2012 until his dismissal in July 2013. “Things were going wrong in the education system but I had a complete year of not being able to meet him,” says Nyaba, who has been under house arrest since Christmas Day. “Many people complained of the same thing. I think being president of the country is too big for him, which is showing itself in him being unable to take charge of the current situation. He’s just a village chief.”

Even the US president was reportedly given short shift. One aid agency official recalls: “Kiir treated Barack Obama like shit. The story goes they were supposed to meet at the UN in New York but Kiir kept him waiting for 20 or 30 minutes. People should have said this guy is not our friend.”

America is feeling buyer’s remorse, the source adds. “The people who were pushing the narrative South Sudan good, Sudan bad, are now calling out the South Sudanese government, but it’s too late. When a crisis like this breaks, the US’s leverage gets less and less.”

Kiir’s increasingly autocratic behaviour sowed division within his governing party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), struggling, like so many militant liberation movements before it, to transition to a political party. Last July, his vice-president, Riek Machar, a charismatic and ruthless former warlord once married to a British aid worker, openly defied him, telling the Guardian: “To avoid authoritarianism and dictatorship, it is better to change.” Machar and the rest of the cabinet were sacked three weeks later.

In early December, Machar and other malcontents amplified their dissent at a press conference and planned a public rally. “Growing disenchantment and international criticism created fertile ground for opportunists masquerading as democrats,” noted one insider. On 14 December, Machar and seven others walked out of an SPLM meeting. The following day, with the mood volatile, fighting broke out within the presidential guard. Kiir accused Machar, a rival of old, of attempting to overthrow him in a coup. But many observers pour scorn on this notion. “If it was a coup attempt it was the worst organised, worse conceived and worst executed coup ever,” says a diplomatic source. “There’s a constant battle between chaos and conspiracy in South Sudan. Nine times out of 10, it’s chaos.”

Nevertheless, Machar was content to ride the wave and subsequently accept leadership of a rebellion that quickly took on ugly ethnic dimension. Kiir is a Dinka, the biggest group, while Machar is a Nuer, the second most populous. Some say Kiir used the alleged coup attempt as a pretext to unleash his own private militia and, whether he intended it or not, Nuers were the victims. Machar, linked to a massacre of Dinkas in 1991, stands accused of stoking tribalism and mobilising a Nuer force known as the “white army”.

There is nothing inevitable about this, experts argue, noting that for most of their history Dinkas and Nuers have coexisted peacefully and inter-married. Indeed, five of 11 detainees accused of plotting against Kiir are Dinka, while there are Nuers in his government. Yet in villages across the country, where three in four people are illiterate, each group is feeding a spiral of paranoia about the other. Ivan Simonovic, the UN assistant secretary-general for human rights, warned in Juba last Friday: “There are completely different worldviews and narratives among communities. Truth is becoming ethnicised.”

Nowhere is this more evident than at the UN base in Juba, where more than 20,000 Nuers are crammed into about 45 acres, including young children, who can be seen defecating in the dirt, and heavily pregnant women. Many here believe the Nuer are the target of nothing less than ethnic cleansing and, officials say, some who have dared to venture beyond the gate in search of food and water have been murdered on sight.

Among them are a group of Nuer politicians roughing it inside a tent, lying on mattresses amid suitcases and jerry cans, their suits hanging in zip-up garment bags, one of which has the label, “Shoreditch, London”. One, too fearful to be named, tells me: “Men with guns came to my house and knocked on the door. They started shooting into the house and a bullet just missed my left eye and went into the wall. I ran and told my children to lie down. I felt toothless. It’s what happened in Rwanda exactly: if you were found in your house, you were dead.”

As peace talks in neighbouring Ethiopia go nowhere fast, many are gloomy about the prospects for peace in the short term and democracy in the long term. The conflict appears to be driving Kiir into the arms of Bashir and Uganda’s strongman president Yoweri Museveni, who is providing military support. The Americans are being spurned – described as “heartbreaking” for many senior officials who feel professionally and personally invested in the new nation.

But amid the atrocities on both sides there have been redemptive stories of Dinkas giving hunted Nuer families refuge in their homes and vice versa. No one interviewed by the Guardian believes that South Sudan was a mistake or regrets secession in those idealistic days of 2011. They do, however, blame the political elite. “Independence, with all its challenges, was the best thing that happened to this country,” insists Mading Ngor, a journalist and commentator. “I don’t know anyone who is looking for reunification with Sudan.

“There were a lot of emotional faces on independence day. People teared up when they saw the flag going up for the first time. There were youths running about celebrating the rise of a new nation: Dinka youths, Nuer youths. Now those youths are killing each other. There is a need for a new generation to accomplish what the politicians failed to do, which is to build. My hopes are pinned on the people of South Sudan. The future is always better.”



On 15 December 2013, South Sudan was rocked by fighting in the capital Juba. The conflict was apparently sparked by a dispute within the presidential guard, pitching Dinka against Nuer in support of, respectively, the President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his previous vice-president Riek Machar. Soon it spread like a wildfire to other parts of the country.

What began as a political power struggle within the political elite soon turned into deadly ethnic conflict taking the life of several thousands. While President Kiir accused his opponents of trying to seize power through a military coup, his opponents led by Riek Machar accused him of trying to use the incident to suppress his opponents. The outbreak of the fighting followed a drawn out political struggle between the two political rivals.

Mr. Machar accused Kiir of incompetence, failure in curbing corruption, ensuring national unity, state building and making progress towards socio-economic development. The president retorted by accusing him of undermining his government. The president also told his opponents to abandon the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and form their own party.

The opponents however know very well that abandoning the SPLM spells political suicide because it means ending up in the cold. Instead of heeding the admonition of the president they opted to utilize the SPLM in challenging Salva Kiir. Thus, they decided to test their luck within the SPLM and demanded the convening of the SPLM congress.

Instead of convening a congress, however, Kiir decided to cleanse the SPLM and the government from his opponents. Riek Machar was fired as vice-president on 23 July 2013 and Pagan Amun from his post as Secretary General of the SPLM. Then the cabinet was dissolved on 31 July to pave the way for the president to install his loyalists.

After resisting persistent demand to convene the National Liberation Council (legislative organ of the SPLM), the president agreed to call the meeting which took place on 14 December 2013. The NLC however failed to reach an agreement that led to walk out of opponents that sparked the incident of 15 December.

Two interlinked factors of failures could explain the outbreak of the conflict.

The first is the failure of the SPLM government to transform itself from a liberation movement to a democratic political governing party and from bearer of a liberation political culture to civic political culture. Liberation political culture demands loyalty to the leader. Those who harbor political ambition and disloyalty and incline to express rivalry with the leader are thus thrown out in the cold.

In accordance with this political culture the vice-president and the secretary general of SPLM were fired from office because they expressed their intention to run against the president in the coming elections, which was construed by the president as harbouring lack of loyalty to him.

This action of the president threw the ruling party and the government into deep political crisis. Unfortunately democratic institutions of governance and conflict resolution that could mitigate and manage disputes are markedly absent in South Sudan. Therefore the political struggle among the political elite got out of hand plunging the new nation into an unprecedented spree of ethnic massacres.

The second failure concerns the transformation of the, virtually conglomerate, army of militias into an integrated national disciplined army. During the liberation struggle several ethnic based militias emerged and latter were incorporated into the SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army). Following secession no efforts to transform the SPLA was carried out. Rather the SPLA remained divided on ethnic basis.

Militias that fought against the SPLA during the liberation struggle were simply incorporated in the emergent national army following the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005. The incorporation took place without necessary political education that would lead to integration and cohesion of the national army. Indeed the incorporation remained mechanical. When the political struggle within the political elite exploded the army simply degenerated into its ethnic origins.

This double failure of transformation aggravated the already highly fractured society along ethnic fault-lines. The all-time precarious inter-ethnic relation and fragile state building process was further thrown into disarray. The post-secession nation building and state construction has suffered immensely.

It seems now that whatever efforts of negotiation and reconciliation are attempted between the rivals it will be near to impossibility to bring them to a cordial working relation. There is no way they could work together again. The reconciliation process has come too late and the blood spilled in this conflict will haunt the nation for a long time to come.

Uganda’s meddling has also complicated the mediation and reconciliation efforts. Therefore there is a real possibility that South Sudan could be heading towards prolonged bloody civil war with ethnic accentuation unless friends and neighbours exert real pressure on the leaders. The role of the friendly states, external actors in general, mildly expressed, in the post-secession reconstruction have been paradoxical. It is time that they reassess their role!

Amid this near impossibility of reaching political reconciliation the following measures could be considered to be of critical importance:

  • Convening the congress of the SPLM as soon as possible. One of the problems that contribute to the current crisis is the overdue delay of the congress of the SPLM.
  • Dissolution of the SPLM. The SPLM has proven itself to be impotent, corrupt and domineering. It has also become divisive and impossible to reform therefore needs to be replaced by other political parties.
  • Quickly organise presidential election. This will address the power struggle for the office of the presidency. It will lead to democratic, constitutional and institutionalised transfer of power.
  • Undertake serious reconciliation. Throughout the liberation struggle the movement was divided and beset with bloody inter-ethnic civil wars. That history has never been addressed. The current crisis is a reminiscence of that history.
  • External actors should exert concerted pressure on the leaders. The leaders on their own are not capable to strike reconciliation. They need all the help they can get.
  • Immediate withdrawal of the Ugandan army from South Sudan. The intervention of Ugandan forces in the inter-ethnic conflict not only has complicated the negotiation and national reconciliation; it might also be implicated in the atrocities committed.



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