Sunday, February 26, 2017

Excluding Kiir and Riek in post-war leadership without their consent is counter-productive

President Kiir and fromer FVP Dr. Riek Machar
While President Kiir and former First Vice President, Riek Machar, are part of the problem that plunged South Sudan into political and military confrontations, I do believe that any planned post-war leadership program that excludes them without their consent would be counter-productive. There is absolutely no doubt that the two men have to retire; however, it would be ill-advised to think that these two would accept to be politically forced out or they would accept to step down as if they care about the people of South Sudan. Under no circumstances will these two men accept to step down without any broad-based program that can make sure that they only step down under a comprehensive, inclusive national leadership conference.
In such a conference, these leaders need to be shown how their continued existence in leadership struggle will be a haunting ghost that'll continue to impede any progress, prolong tribal animosity and civil war, and lead to the demise of the country. However, the two leaders would be given a chance to convince South Sudanese and the nation why their continued leadership struggle isn't a spectral political nightmare. 
Part of what makes it hard for these two leaders to step down is the vehement and irrational support their tribal constituents give them. Basically, these supporters will stand by them no matter the atrocities committed by these two leaders. All the problems faced by the civilians and the destruction meted out on the country will only be blamed by the respective supporters on their rivals. Anyone coming up with any solution modalities for the South Sudanese problems has to incorporate this tribal reality into the solution matrix. Admittedly, this tribal reality is categorically unsavory, however, it’s a reality we cannot push under the rug or turn a blind eye on. A transitional readership of technocrats once suggested by Dr. Lual A. Deng and now being championed by Dr. Majak D’Agoot and former political detainees will have to address this tribal dynamic if the supporters of the two leaders are to entertain any notion of the two infamous leaders stepping down.

Many Jieeng people see criticism of President Kiir as not being focused on the issues but on the hatred of the man himself. Any criticism from non-Jieeng is considered tribal; any criticism from different dialectal group of within Jieeng is considered a sectional bias. Unless these tribo-political realities are addressed, any prescribed leadership process will always be tribalized and therefore doomed to failure through tribo-military and tribo-political resistance informed by both ignorance or misunderstanding.

And this tribal reality has always been ignored or downplayed by South Sudanese leaders. This salient feature of our tribo-national existence has to be factored into any solution modalities. Dr. Riek and Dr. Lam ignored this tribal reality in 1991. President Kiir ignored this reality when he incorporated Paulino Matip into the SPLA with his forces under his ‘big term philosophy’ without any long-term plan. President Kiir also ignored this tribal reality when he fired Riek Machar with his entire cabinet in July of 2013. Political opponents of President Kiir—some of whom would later rebel and some would later be arrested after the December mutiny—ignored this tribal reality when they held a press conference on December 6, 2013.
While I agree that Dr. Riek Machar and President Salva Kiir need to step down as they cannot be part of any peacefully working antebellum or post-war leadership, I do believe that excluding them in any post-war leadership program without their consent would still plant negative sentiments among their supporters and fuel future political rift. Any long-term solution to the South Sudanese leadership nightmares need these two men to step down, though no willingly, but with some understanding.

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