Opinion: The Dialectic of the South Sudanese State
There is a persistent question in every Sudanese and in particular a South Sudanese mind. Why is that the Sudan and South Sudan never seen any peace? Why is it that in spite of the many signed agreements the Community in this great Nation call the Sudan has subjected itself to wars for so many years?
The latest of the many of agreement to be signed and would most likely be dishonored is the Revitalized-Agreement on the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan (R-ARCIS) The agreement was inked on the 12th September 2018 and celebrated the 31st October 2018.
The accord was mediated by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda facilitating the negotiations. Khartoum and Kampala duped the agreement the final solution to the South Sudan problems.
The agreement is to address the root causes of post-independence issues and political differences between the various political actors in the nascent Country. But the question is, has it and would it? That is the big dilemma in everybody’s mind.
During the negotiation and at the signing ceremony, like many agreements before it, the people of South Sudan watched the interlocutors on their television and social media platforms dancing jubilantly, singing Kumbaya we have brought you peace.
Many commentators were quick to point out that the agreement was mainly to serve the interest of the dominant warring parties that is the incumbent government of Salva Kiir Mayardit and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in opposition of Dr Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon. The South Sudan’s Opposition Alliance (SSOA), an umbrella of nine opposition entities also took part in the negotiation. While six of the group were happy or pressured to sign the agreement as some would say. Three members of the group distanced itself from the coalition and rejected the signing of the final document of the revitalized peace agreement by its leader.
The opposition National Salvation Front (NAS) led by General Thomas Cirillo; the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) of Hakin Dario and the SPLM- Former Political Detainees - FDs, rejected the final version of the peace agreement, citing unresolved outstanding issues in the peace document.
In a classic textbook counterinsurgency style, Maj. Gen. Julius Tabule, a one general in the National Salvation Front (NAS) movement was airlifted to Khartoum, declared new leaders of the NAS and made to initial the agreement. To add to the confusion, General Khalid Butrous a member of NAS's high command also proclaimed himself the interim leader.
Within hours of this renegades’ announcements, Thomas Cirillo moved swiftly and dismissed these two military figures, a move designed to put him in full control of the forces following their suspicious activities.
In the time when there is a yearning for peace around the country, many in public and the international community were not able to comprehend the Thomas Cirillo’s resistance to peace. In this opinion piece and the series to follow, I would like to attempt to analyses the arguments the NAS has put forward for rejecting the R-ARCISS. My focus will be on whether R-ARCISS adequately addressed NAS grievances or not.
For a start, some understanding of the factors that drove the NAS rebellion is warranted. There is no rebellion without a cause(s). This first opinion thus focuses on the post-independence political maneuvering that left the country in chaos and the NAS rational for its subversive activities. It only fits that one tries to understand why NAS took up arms. While one is not a political scientist, one does have some reasonable comprehension of South Sudan issues and some knowledge about what a political cause means.
So, what caused a well-respected Lt General to turn against his party and take up arms? Though attempt is made here to answer that question, I am afraid the answer is not a straight one. Political theorists have pondered over the big question of what caused the world's revolutions for years. While theorists, such as Theda Skocpol sees revolutions as a rapid transformation of a society’s class and structure. Political scientist such as Jack Goldstone sees revolution as a state breakdown which only happens when a government becomes weak.
Sure, most Sudanese and South Sudanese, in particular, are used to rebellions in the Sudan. One would say, it is almost a badge of honor for a Sudanese to have to survive or lived through one or two revolution(s). From Mahdi revivalism; Anya Nya independent struggles to New Sudan projects or the current SPLMism. The Sudanese masses have endured it all. My maternal mother was born, lived and survived the Anya Nya rebellion only to die in the SPLA/SPM struggle. My siblings and I are no exceptions. We lived and survived the SPLAM/SPLAM revolution. My children are surviving the current waves of rebellions.
The Sudan and South Sudan are not the only countries to have revolutions. Revolutions have occurred through human history and vary widely in terms of methods, duration and motivating ideologies. From my limited reading of the literature and knowledge on the causes of revolutions. Historical, many of the world’s revolutions have 'both structural and transient causes; structural causes are long-term and large-scale trends that undermine existing social institutions and relationships and transient causes are contingent events, or actions by particular individuals or groups, that reveal the impact of longer-term trends and often (Jack A. Goldstone p10).'
The author proposes to apply that definition in analysing the causes of NAS rebellion, which, it is argued, are: (1) demand for change, which is derived from (a) provocations and (b) solidified public opinion; (2) hopefulness of success, which comes from (a) programs of reform and (b) leadership; and (3) the weakness of the SPLM as a party which has been caused by disputes amongst itself; disaffection in the SPLA and international complications.
Theda Skocpol theorizes that political crises are often the trigger points for launching revolutions. One would agree that many trigger points lead to the current circle of rebellions in South Sudan. I shall restrict this to the political triggers or what may be termed a crisis within the SPLM and now defuncted SPLA.
There may be points of contentions regarding when and how the crisis started. Nevertheless, one would still reasonably accept that it is a political crisis which had its genesis in 1990s splits in the SPLM/SPLA. In particular, when Dr Lam Akol and Riek Machar questioned Dr John Garang's leadership in that infamous ‘Why Garang Must Go Now’ declaration or what they profess to be a rejection of Dr Garang's ‘dictatorial leadership”. Dr Lam Akol and Dr Riek Machar’s promised for human rights and an independent South Sudan lead to years of meaningless rebellions and counter rebellions leading to the period of chaos that reigned within the SPLA/SPLM.
Equally a crisis worth mentioning was the failed SPLA attacks on Juba in June–July 1992. The harsh National Islamic Front’s reprisals that followed lead to summary executions of suspected SPLA collaborators who were mainly intellectuals from the Equatoria region. They include, from the army, Major Joseph Ladu, Major Andrew and over 60 soldiers of other ranks; from the police, Colonel David Kenyi, Lieutenant Colonel Lado Peter and Captain Arkangelo Yugu; from the prisons service, Major Pitia Kenyi, Captain Kamillo Koma, Captain Mohamed Khamis, and First Lieutenant Mark Taban. The torcher or killings of these intellectuals grated a gap and wound in the heart of many Equatorians.
One would also be justified in saying that the post-independent circle of rebellions in the country began in December 2013, when President Kiir charged his once Deputy Riek Machar and ten other historical members of the SPLM of attempting a coup d'état. There is no argument in concluding that the fighting that broke out between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and SPLM-IO was the trigger for the South Sudan civil war. It was something to be expected. I say this due to the following reasons.
While many see the crisis as a struggle for power and wealth, I see it as the dialects of the South Sudan Nation. The contradictory process of nation-building among the nation’s idealist. A class of beliefs about the proper ordering of the South Sudanese society.
During the struggle for South Sudan independence, the various members of the SPLA/SPLM were each driven by different ideologist and motives. What united them all was the dream of an independent South Sudanese country. Whatever ideologies and motivations the leaders had at the time, the masses were oblivious. The yearning was for an independent South Sudan republic by any means necessary.
To properly contextualize this, it is necessary to understand the drivers of ideological opinions. Since the time of the French Revolution, ideological opinions have been classified most often in terms of a single left-right dimension, which originally referred to the seating arrangements in the French parliament after the Revolution (1789–1799). On a left-right spectrum, communism and socialism are usually regarded internationally as being on the left, whereas conservatism and capitalism are on the right. This formulation of the left-right distinction and many others contain two interrelated aspects, namely (a) advocating versus resisting social change (as opposed to tradition), and (b) rejecting versus accepting inequality ( Jost et al. 2003b,c).
In the Sudanese context, this translate to those who were advocating for outright independence of South Sudan and those who whose primary objective was a secular New Sudan. Under the separatists’ umbrella, many of the leaders harbor their ideological leanings. There were those who adhered to the communist or socialist cred; others who preferred tribal fascism and there were many others whose reasoned ideals centered on liberal democracy. Some were simply Jesus Christ foot soldiers for whom Nimeiry’s Sharia was an Arab man ’s middle finger aimed at their bottoms.
While it is reasonable for one to hold the view that the majority of the SPLM members were on the separatist spectrum from the revolutionary standpoint, when it came to the school of political reasoning, many preferred to flow with the eternal leaders. A minority of them just swim with the tides, a cleverly designed art of political survival and resilience at almost any price. It is no surprise that the surviving founding members of the SPLM were those members that only washed one half of their face at a time and slept with one eye open like a meerkat or mongoose.
The dominating eternal leaders from the South Sudan leadership stand point were Dr Garang and Dr Riek Machar. While their contempt for Al-Turabi’s muslimization and Arabization was the unifying cause. Dr Machar disagreed with Dr Garang over the revolutionary objectives. Garang philosophy was ‘Sudanism. Garang believed, for the people of Sudan to live in cohesion, they must not separate themselves into the many existing ethnic factions present within the nation but, rather, to collectively renounce the belief that Arabness, Black African-ness, Islam or Christianity were to be the ultimate defining characteristics of Sudan.’ This was the guiding philosophy of the SPLAM/SPLA under Gerang’s leadership. The aim was to achieve a secular and multiethnic New Sudan.
That was rather a different philosophy to that of Dr Riek Machar. Machar wanted a fully independent South Sudan. Although both agreed on the methods that was required to achieve victory over the Islamic fundamentalist, the two were not in tango with one another when it came to administration of the rebellion. Dr Machar was pushing for more democratic leadership; accountability and internal reform. For Dr Garang everything was to be run in the ‘Political Military High Command.’ Things were to be run the Soviet style.
It was inevitable that when the independence objective was achieved in 2012, the political ideologies and opinions within the SPLM would again become more divided and more centered to their identities. According to social psychologist, there are relational motives, epistemic motives, and existential motives which helps to explain why certain people—once they are exposed to certain political ideas—stick with those ideas.
The reality is that with the independence, it was evitable that, the idealist within the SPLM would again meet other idealists who were dormant or were on the opposing side during the war, and the struggle for power would resume in the form of the present South Sudanese rebellions or civil wars where both tried to maintain and assert their status as the legitimate rulers of South Sudan.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) made this all possible. During the CPA negotiation, the National Congress party had the advantage over their Southern or SPLM counterparts, owing to its many years of experience in governing the Sudan. The NCP had mastered a political strategy for dealing with other political parties in the Sudan. Oblivious to Dr Garang and his boys. The NCP had cleverly shifted the War from military boots on the ground to "war by other means.” The conventional war was proving an expensive exercise, so the regime's favored course of action was for dealing with rebellions was " counterinsurgency on the cheap, co-opting opponents and internal subversion, propaganda and dirty tricks operations.”
The NCP has worked out that at the end, negotiations are cheaper than jihad. The regime was to hedge its bets on South Sudan. The regime knew it was not powerful enough to enforce its will on all of Sudan's factions at one time but is strong enough to hold onto political and economic power at the center. With John W Bush’s access of evil line running through the NCP corridor. The NCP strategist knew negotiations was the only means of holding onto power, to level the playing field against the stronger opponents, and to co-opt and disarm them. It was at the risk of the South succeeding from the rest of the Sudan.
To overcome the possibility and the reality of losing South Sudan’s vast resources, the NCP pulled out the last trick out of its political playbook. Let the South succeeded if it needs to be. If circumstances change, the regime can always renegotiate with the new South Sudan Republic based on new realities.
To achieve this, the NCP strategist weaved a clever political trap into the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which was designed to infiltrate the SPLM and eliminate the separatist or nationalist base and replace them with people whose allegiance were with the NCP during the Civil War or people who are only there for the dime. The NCP is to permeate all sectors of the economy in South Sudan and all levels of the state apparatus.
The program was set, in that, the SPLM party and government was to observe all of the NCP political and military machinery that was in the South, by this, the author means the southern members of the NCP, the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) Southern agents and the NCP next work of counterinsurgency militia. The counterinsurgency security and political set up that was designed during the War to fight and oppose the South separatist agenda was to be observed into the new South Sudan Government and institutions. The NCP Jububib members; intelligent agents; Judges and funded militias were to be either integrated into the Southern government, the SPLM party or the SPLA during the interim period. Having been trained by the NCP, these Jububins were very experienced in politics, negotiation, and deception and better prepared than any other political entity in South Sudan. They are to bring about the change in circumstances in the post-independent South Sudan.
On the other hand, the poor South Kordofanians and Blue Nile SPLM and SPLA members were to be left to fend for themselves. There was to be no truth and reconciliation commission to provide proof against the Jububins who were doing the dirty work for the National Congress Party (NCP) during the 21 years of civil wars. Instead, they were to be observed and to continue to run the Southern Sudan security, judicial, and other state institutions. It was a brood parasitism strategy designed for realigning and manipulating the political leadership in South Sudan with the aim of returning Southern Sudan under North Sudan’s sphere of influence.
It is no surprise that with the birth of the independent Republic of South Sudan, the altricial National Congress Party (NCP) trained political and military strategist within the South Sudan institutions; security sector and political parties took out the NCP's playbook and were able to apply it with ease. They begin to evict all the host progenies from their nests methodically. Like a common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) chick they rolled out most of the original SPLM leaders and cadets out of the nest and replaced them with their own or those who subscribed to the new project.
The ones that survived are those who read Mao Zedong “On Guerrilla Warfare” and understood Mao, when he said, we must not belittle the saying in the book of Sun Wu Tzu, the great military expert of ancient China, 'Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a thousand battles without disaster.
While the National Congress Party (NCP) agents and original SPLM vie for influence, the mercurial President just waffles between these two power centers, while consolidating his power and remaining entirely in control of the two elements. It was all facilitated or was made possible with the money coming from the friends of the West, as well as, the booming oil economy of the New Republic.
With the new regime awash with money. The National Congress Party (NCP) trained tacticians were at ease in executing the NCP manuscript. Like their North Counterparts, these Jububins are brutal pragmatists, well-educated but toxic cosmopolitans, ready to negotiate, to deal, to compromise to tighten their grip on the real levers of power in South Sudan. Their strategy is a constant state of negotiation with friends and foes alike. Bribe, loot, build clientelistic networks along tribal lines and break agreements, if circumstances change, you can subsequently broker a better deal. Be prepared to escalate into mass murder and outright defiance if it calls for, the unknown man is to be allowed to swim in the turbid South Sudan waters when required.
In this internecine struggle between institutions and individuals, the friendship and support of the IGAD countries and especially Uganda and Kenya are a commodity like no other. The birth of the holy grail of South Sudanese politics, a deliverable that Dr Riek Machar failed to deliver in the heady days of his ascendancy as the Vice President of the Government of Southern Sudan and SPLM Co-Chair of the Joint Executive Political Committee.
It has been this struggle for dominance which allowed militant rebellions to thrive in South Sudan and the cause for the immense suffering in the country.
With the continued struggle for power and the political chaos that has engulfed the Country, the National Salvation Front (NAS) has followed the rebellion manuscript and posited itself as the alternate savior of South Sudanese.
The question the movement has asked itself is, how can the descent into abyss be stopped; using what means; what the possible options are and what should be the outcome of such an undertaking.
The movement has offered ten facts which it believes signify gross mismanagement of the affairs of the people of the Republic of South Sudan. The facts NAS list includes (i) General security (ii) Food insecurity (ii) economic stagnation (iii) security sector discord (iv) corruption (v) absence of basic services (vi) personalized constitution (viii) Triable Loyalty ( ix) Human rights abuses.
In a series of opinions to come, I want to look at each issue. In particular, whether the signed Peace agreement addresses the issues NAS has raised, or whether NAS Cirillo is justified in its continuation of the war.
The author can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in ‘opinion’ articles published by Radio Tamazuj are solely those of the writer. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author, not Radio Tamazuj.