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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Divided Rebellion, Indifferent government, and the Politico-Military Impasse in South Sudan

By the Editor*

“I need blankets. It is cold at night and I don’t want my children to get sick,” said the 23-year-old Rebecca Barnaba, a mother at Doro camp in Upper Nile State.

But who’s listening?

It’s very clear in South Sudan that none of the political groups that claim to be the one with the interest of South Sudanese at heart is actually playing their verbal claims. They only attempt to exonerate themselves from Juba failures while consolidating their positions and potential power-sharing as future stakeholders.

Undoubtedly, South Sudan has reached a politico-military impasse. The rebels have markedly confused politico-military agendas and they have no strong military means or strategies to oust the leadership of President Kiir. Their personal interest-driven agenda is actually turning them against one another. If their interest is political reforms or rescuing the country from descending even further into the proverbial rabbit hole, then their interests would have been aligned and united in a concerted strategy to launch a single front against Juba. Unfortunately, we know that liberating South Sudan is far from the agenda of these once power-players in Juba. Like the tribalized government in Juba, these rebel groups become the abode of tribal agendas dressed-up as liberation forces. How can a national leader recruit a tribal army and expect to have a national appeal? How can such tribal militias whose purported agenda is to remove the failed Juba regime fight one another and expect to succeed?

Essentially, rebellion, as conceptualized and exercised by the current rebel leaders, is by no means a panacea to our political ills in South Sudan as such a strategic move requires wise, solution-focused, military-political strategist and an individual with an appreciable sense of selflessness.

So far, most if not all the satellite rebel groups, are after creating a negotiation and power-sharing front in the future political process. As Aristotle once said, “Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.” We are all angry in South Sudan – ALL OF US – but what are we using our anger for and who are we aiming it for? For rebel who purportedly took up arms against Juba, one wonders why they are ‘angry’ with their fellow rebels? It’s all about POWER!

However, these leaders will inundate us with exorbitant and ambitious claims of fighting to democratize Juba and bring freedom to the people of South Sudan. By forming satellite, tribally-based rebel groups instead of uniting under a single force, these leaders have shown us that this is not about fighting for the people of South Sudan but power. Since being a rebel with a fighting force makes one heard, rebelling to get a national and international profile, has become a normative, power-exercise reality in South Sudan.

However, the readers should know that I understand the reasons behind these leaders rebelling and I understand the extent to which president Kiir’s government is damaged and tribalized beyond redemption. However, the manner in which rebellions are being formed and led will only lead to more suffering instead of positively bringing a complete political overhaul in Juba.

 After forming his new rebel movement, National Democratic Movement in September of 2016, Dr. Lam Akol had this to say: “The National Democratic Movement (NDM) was born to wage the struggle, together with others in the field, against the totalitarian, corrupt and ethnocentric regime in Juba that is bent on dragging our country into the abyss.”  Akol added that “It must be clear from the outset, the NDM is not just for change of personalities in Juba to replace them with others of the same feathers; it is out for a radical change in the country that will bring about genuine state-building and nation-building.” In an interview with The Messenger in March this year, the leader of National Salvation Front (NSF), Thomas Cirillo Swaka, claimed that he is “Inspired by the spirit and need to create a new political dispensation in the country that is based on the principles of democracy, unity and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms anchored in a federal structure as the basis for uniting and rebuilding the country, the National Salvation Front is the movement determined to fight for a New South Sudan in which all its citizens will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.”

While these leaders have strong reasons for leaving Juba and the words quoted above appreciable, I doubt if their chosen methods to change the system in Juba would work. Until such time when these leaders unite, they’ll just be some territorial warlords in the bush.

What makes Lam and Cirillo think that they can do better than Dr. Riek Machar of SPLM-IO is something I would want to see. Reduced to a prisoner in South Africa with his movement only nominally functional and forces fighting without clear strategic plan, Riek Machar will have to admit his failure. If he cannot use his leadership skills to prevail on South Africa to free him, then how can Riek Machar help South Sudanese?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Let Us All Die From Inside

By Pal Chol* (Guest Writer)

Mr. Pal Chol
 (courtesy of the author)
With the escalating destructive war, many South Sudanese people have been forced to flee. Others live to seek protection in the congested UN camps resembling Nazi concentration camps under very squalid conditions. The international community is working and exerting efforts to make sure the war stops and life returns to normalcy.

The civil society organizations also work around the clock to make sure the war stops. If my memory serves me well, the President said he is not happy seeing his people dying always and running for their lives. Nobody knows whether the concern is real or imaginary. Leaders who are concerned by the lives of the people usually devise ways and means of stopping what is making people suffer even if it costs them their jobs. South Sudanese honestly have no problems among themselves.

The problems are the liberators who, because they had gone to the bush, found themselves at the helm of power. They have broken our social fabrics. They negotiate themselves into positions of authority. They don't address people's concerns. The rallying cry of all South Sudanese is to have the war ended at all cost. It has had its highest toll. The UNHCR has made it plainly clear that it cannot afford hosting and feeding the South Sudanese refugees in Uganda, now numbering over one million. There is nothing wrong if bringing peace can make rulers lose their jobs. South Sudan is a resourceful country with abundant riches. There is no reason why we should squabble and fight over Chinese rice.

It is a shame. What is in China which is not here? China has arable and vast land just like here with people (manpower) inhabiting it. These people put to use these resources to produce the rice by tilling the land. It didn't come like a manna. People have toiled for it. Perhaps, the only difference is because their leaders care for them; they love their country and keep the peace,  thus paving way for the people to work. It is an open secret that the ordinary South Sudanese have been confronted by their tribal leaders. They are at each others' throat. It is not now Dinka versus the Nuer nor the Nuer/Dinka versus the minorities. It is them [leaders, elites] against us, the citizens.

There is a need for unity of purpose. It is time to put aside our differences and work for peace and unity. No tribe is not affected by this dire economic collapse. I challenge even those who might have had the chance to look with impunity to come out clean that they still have their kids in the schools, afford three meals a day, and live a comfortable life. Even with the election being talked about by the power wielders, I don't think it would be transparent, fair and credible given the fact that most of the would-be voters are not in the country unless it is done in the African way:  entrenching dictatorship by rigging elections.


*Pal Chol is a concerned South Sudanese. He has written extensively on various South Sudanese websites and in newspapers on social, economic and political issues.  He is reachable at palcholnyan2016@gmail.com