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?