Opinion: The fear of political reforms in South Sudan
In his Easter message, President Salva Kiir called on the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO), Dr. Riek Machar, to go to Juba to form a transitional government so that the two leaders could form a provisional government as stipulated in the September 2018 peace agreement.
To be precise, President Kiir urged Dr. Machar at least two times to accept his invitation but the SPLM-IO leader refused, saying he could only accept the formation of a transitional government if security arrangements were implemented first. Dr. Machar also said the May 12 dateline was too close and demanded that six months extension be given to allow the parties to implement peace provisions before a government is formed.
In separate interviews, Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Teny and Foreign Minister Nhial Deng Nhial advanced Kiir’s call by asserting claims that are rather anti-peace. Ateny proclaimed in an interview that peace already returned to the country and that Machar should not worry about his security because the government guaranteed his safety. On the other hand, Nhial, who was in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the time of his interview, declared that the best way for the establishment of a transitional government to be delayed is if the SPLM-IO and other opposition parties submit an official request to the government, asking for an extension.
All the claims presented by the three men are self-serving, intentionally designed to avoid what the agreements stipulate; in fact, these claims represent the essence of fear in the minds of those who tend to embrace tyranny and reject political, military, and economic reforms in the country.
There is no doubt that Kiir is fishing for the best way he can use to silence his political opponents for good. He tried many deceptive techniques to no avail. Kiir met Pope Francis on March 16, 2019 and assured the Pope that he and his rivals are serious about peace and that they are open to visit the Holy See for the sake of peace. Fortunately, the Pope agreed. This is what led to the April 10-11, 2019 “spiritual retreat” at the Vatican. Remember, the Pope kissed the feet of South Sudanese leaders to encourage them to bring about lasting peace in the nation.
Days after Kiir returned to Juba, he contacted Dr. Machar, asking him to go to Juba to form a transitional government. Machar was stunned because the main provisions of the peace deal popularly known as “security arrangements” have not been implemented. To refresh your mind, Kiir seems to enjoy meeting the Pope and playing the “I want the peace card.” The March and April 2019 meetings are not the first. In November 2015, Kiir met with Pope Francis in Uganda for only 15 minutes. There, he claimed he was going to end the war, which later turned out to be a naked lie. I am glad the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) agreed with Dr. Machar’s request to extend the pre-transitional period so that the parties to pact can implement the security arrangements. In a rather cunning move, Salva Kiir gave an interview after IGAD extended South Sudan’s pre-transitional period for six months so that the parties to deal could have time to implement all vital provisions of the pact. What is disturbing about this particular interview is the fact that he wanted the six months period already approved by the IGAD to be one year.
Kiir has no plan to fully implement the pact. He recently refused to participate at the May 2-3, 2019 peace talks in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Kiir did not produce any good reason for his failure to show up at the talks. However, he insisted that his delegation will represent him at peace talks, even though he is the one who is impeding the implementation of security arrangements. It is now clear that Kiir orchestrated the April 2019 “spiritual retreat” in the hopes that he will be able to manipulate his political adversaries—especially Dr. Machar. This is the very reason why Kiir called on Dr. Machar days after he returned to Juba and asked the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-In Opposition leader to join him for the formation of a provisional government. Kiir is not ready for peace because he enjoys his dictatorial leadership. For instance, he is happy whenever he hires or dismisses a government official on the violence-infused, notorious, and state-run South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation (SSBC). For him to see some of his current powers gone, he prefers to keep the same tyrannical system, regardless of what other people say. The man prefers to bribe or pay millions of dollars to anyone he sees as a threat to his ruthless regime. This is what he has been doing for nearly six years. In April, he secretly paid millions of dollars to Sudan’s new military ruling council in a bid to gain their support after they forced Omar al-Bashir out of power, let alone the $3.7 million dollars he recently paid to a U.S.-based lobbying firm, Gainful Solutions, in an attempt to repair his tainted image.
There is no doubt that Salva Kiir is not prepared to fully implement the September 2018 peace agreement. The man is a mad tyrant who is determined to continue ruling with impunity. His campaign against South Sudanese youths who proposed a May 16 demonstration against his cruelty shows he is addicted to staying in power with his callous leadership style. Kiir, who visibly seemed to be infuriated by the Red Card Movement, told a handful of journalists that “Violent attempts to usurp power from the people would be met with violent resistance and the cycle of violence cannot end. The way to stability in South Sudan is through democracy and democratic elections, and this is what we fought for and we will not compromise it.” If one analyzes Kiir’s assertions methodically, one would conclude that the man’s oppressive mindset is alive and well. He believes threatening people with death would discourage them because he knows that is what he does every day. Kiir’s behavior displays an indisputably consistent pattern embraced by his political sycophants.
Last week, his divisive Information minister Michael Makuey Lueth, who also has a documented history of ordering the killing of South Sudanese civilians, lashed out at the Red Card Movement on or about May 7, 2019. The information minister used a rather outrageous language by suggesting that those who want to protest against Kiir’s brutal regime want to die. This led to Kiir’s ordering his military to occupy the Freedom Square in Juba: this move was an attempt by Juba’s Kleptocratic regime to prevent people from protesting. But this murderous regime deceptively tried on May 15, 2019 to minimize the backlash of the army deployment by claiming that the positioning of military and security personnel was simply for an upcoming holiday. This claim does not make any logical sense—in fact, it is too naked to believe.
Theoretically, Salva Kiir is for peace. However, he hates most of the key provisions stipulated in the pact. For example, Kiir does not like the idea of a hybrid court, dissolution of powers, constitutional amendments, budget allocation for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) forces, the issue of internal boundaries, and the reunification of the armies.
What is preventing Kiir from implementing the agreement is his fear of reforms. He does not want political, military, security, or economic reforms to be instituted in the constitution, let alone his new campaign against the Red Card Movement. He knows very well that if he allows reforms to take place, then his current brutal rule—which he seems to enjoy—will collapse, and this could eventually lead to his downfall. In a logical sense, he is a tyrant who champions destruction, looting of national coffers, and divisions along ethnic lines.
What he does not know is the fact that his leadership will not last forever. There will be a time when he is faced with the bitter reality of his own cruelty. He must abandon this irrational fear of reforms or else he risks being remembered in the history of South Sudan as a brutal tyrant whose rule was the embodiment of South Sudan’s destruction.
Duop Chak Wuol is the editor-in-chief of the South Sudan News Agency (https://southsudannewsagency.org/. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note: The views expressed in this article are his and should not be attributed to the South Sudan News Agency.
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