An Open Letter to South Sudan’s Rebel Leader, Dr. Riek Machar
It’s common knowledge that you are one of the most divisive figures in South Sudan’s political life whether you intended it or not. And that will go down in history as part of your leadership and political legacy. It doesn’t matter who’s to blame for all the historical mishaps you’ve been involved in; history will always remember you in a manner that’s outside your perception of yourself. And it’s a personality tragedy you seem to brush aside as you continue to bargain and fight for your political life.
More than 90 % of your camp [military and political] is made up of your tribesmen. Your supporters can blame circumstances surrounding December 15, 2013 mutiny in Juba and subsequent incidences thereafter. My judgement tells me that you didn’t start the problems that brought us to the current crisis; however, you contributed to the crisis in many ways than one. Corruption flourished while you were still the Vice President, your office employees, like those of many other ministers, were from your tribe and you wanted to shut down SPLM-DC. Besides, you criticized your own boss [Kiir] while you were still VP. Those factors don’t belong in a resume of a democrat, who sees himself as a genuine reformer.
And what is even more appalling is how you see yourself as a national leader when you rely exclusively on your fellow Nuer. The few non-Nuer in your camp joined you not out of your exemplary leadership but for the mere convergence of your grievances against the government. With no doubt, these folks had bones to pick with the government. What gives you some semblance of credence isn’t what you offer but what the government of President Kiir isn’t doing.
· You are as tribalist just as Kiir Mayardit is.
· You are bargaining for political power and that’s what Kiir is doing.
· Your camp is mostly Nuer and Kiir’s camp is mostly Jieeng.
· Both of your camps have committed atrocities.
· And more importantly, none of you seems to strike a tone that promises the advent of peace in South Sudan.
· President Kiir has a tribal militia and so do you.
· Your deputy is from Central Equatoria, your army chief and your spokesperson are from your Tribe. That’s the same thing Kiir has done.
I don’t see how you could claim to be any better than Kiir. If you are, then you’re still to show us.
You were once asked by a journalist to apologize to South Sudanese regarding the atrocities committed by your forces. Against all required logic and democratic sense of nationalism, you asked the journalist who you should apologize to; arguing that you are a victim. Not only did that burry any shred of leadership decency and nationalism, you portrayed yourself as a selfish megalomaniac.
So many South Sudanese people died in this war. As someone who considers himself a national leader, you owe it to them to comfort them whether you are to blame or not. And the apology being asked isn’t meant for President Kiir, who’s equally required to apologize for his camp’s atrocities, but for the affected South Sudanese.
The likes of Mabior Garang De Mabior and James Gatdet Dak, including yourself, believe you have nothing to hide when it comes to war crimes. You even recently asked for the release of African Union commission report. We know the Human Right Watch report blamed all the warring parties for atrocities committed. AU preliminary report also blamed both sides in the conflict. It’s bizarre how you think you’d wish the content of these reports away.
It could have been a great justice to South Sudanese citizens if you’d called a press conference to apologize. That’s what good leaders do. But no, you want someone to apologize to you! I hope you don’t want the dead to apologize.
You think Kiir lost legitimacy because of the massacres of Nuer in Juba, but you remain mute on what the massacres in Bor, Bentiu and Malakal mean to you as a leader. Can we just forget about those lives because they are mere causal narratives of December 16 -18 Massacre of Nuer in Juba?
These have actually become job-sharing conferences of either-or conditions. Peace is the only way in which this conflict can be ended. Neither you nor President Kiir would win this war militarily. Both of you know that a total defeat of any side wouldn’t bring peace to South Sudan. It’d only lead to perpetual insecurity in South Sudan. Unfortunately, none of you seems to care what this crisis would continue to engender as long as you negotiate yourself back into the government and Kiir renegotiate himself back into presidency.
When you rebelled in 1991 and came back in 2002, it was the current VP James Wani Igga, who humbled himself and gave way to you. This humility was once shown by Gordon Muortat Mayen when Joseph Lagu took over both the political and military wings of Anya Nya war prior to 1972 Addis Ababa agreement. Remember Wani Igga is a human being with feelings. He’s one weak, comical politician but he symbolizes something greater than himself; and that is, the political position of the three Southern States of the country relative, bizarrely, to Jieeng and Naath people.
Why can’t you, for once, compromise for the sake of peace and tell your camp that part of being a great statesmen is not simply being a top leader. In all essence, establishing a legacy that has both long lasting and positive impact would go a long way in establishing yourself as a true democrat and reformer.
Negotiating yourself into power is not only selfish, it shows your lack of political muscles. IGAD peace initiative seems like your backdoor plan B. Give South Sudanese peace and they’ll reward you for it. Bring peace and campaign with a positive vibe.
IGAD’s leadership has proved itself a total failure by being peace imposers rather than peace negotiators. President Kiir and you should therefore show some nationalistic care and attitudinal change for the good of the country. If the two of you don’t care, who will?
Kuir ë Garang is the author of ‘South Sudan Ideologically’. For contact, visit www.kuirthiy.info