INTRACIES OF QUEST FOR POWER AND POLITICS IN SOUTH SUDAN: THE INCOMPLETE DIVORCE BETWEEN THE FORMER DETAINEES (FDS) AND THE GOVERNMENT

By Daniel Juol Nhomngek, Kampala, Uganda,

Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, meeting South Sudan's SPLM Leaders led by Rebecca Nyandeang and Oyay Deng Ajak at Entebe, Uganda, on April 5th 2017(Photo: file)

Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, meeting South Sudan’s SPLM Leaders led by Rebecca Nyandeang and Oyay Deng Ajak at Entebe, Uganda, on April 5th 2017(Photo: file)

June 9, 2017(Nyamilepedia) —– Sometime politics which is defined as the process of making decisions applying to all members of each group or achieving and exercising positions of governance, which is about the organized control over a human community, particularly a state can be very interesting to an outsider like me.  In fact, watching at the interaction between politics and power objectively at a distance can even make their relationship more interesting.

It is because of the way politics is played not only in South Sudan but all over the world, which forces me to negatively conclude that politics and power when join together to play a game, such a game can be selfish as each group struggles for the position of power just to outwit the other. This is the fact in regard to South Sudan where politics and power have played it bad, which subjects citizens to unbearable sufferings and rampant deaths.

Thus, this article is intended to discuss the intricacies of power and politics in South Sudan, which makes everything to become a servant of politics. We therefore speak of no any other language in South Sudan but only politics. Everybody is speaking in politics, politics is the food people eat, politics is the car people drive, politics is the trade people engage in, people spend whole days under trees talking of politics and accusing each other in language of politics.  

Politics is the room in which people of South Sudan put in their beds to sleep on. In South Sudan we all think politics, talk politics and dream politics. Because of this no one thinks about the welfare of the citizens. This is why millions of South Sudanese are rotting in camps either inside the country or in the neighbouring countries such as Uganda, Kampala, Khartoum and Ethiopia without any help.

Politics makes some of our leaders whether in the bush or in the government or just waiting somewhere for an opportunity to grab power, keep the needs of the citizens at the second place in their thoughts as what they think about is power and politics which is a means to power.  

Politics and power are good for the health of the country when their relationship is understood and played well by those who want to play politics in order to get power. Where such an important relationship is not well understood, the interaction between power and politics can be dangerous as we see in South Sudan today. In fact, in South Sudan politics and power are facing each other at opposition directions though this is not seen by those who are in the field of politics playing it.

However, we, who are not interested in politics and power but interested in learning something about them, we find the relationship between the two in South Sudan very intriguing and therefore we become like the line people in the field of politics while at the same time watching at periphery or along the line in the field of politics as we constantly remind the players in that field of their limits.

It is such interesting and dangerous interactions between politics and the power which I refer to as intricacies which are the peculiar qualities in the relationship between power and politics in South Sudan. As it has been defined, when we talk of intricacies or intricacy we mean the quality or state of being complex or having many parts which is sometime called intricate. Exactly, the relationship between politics and power in South Sudan is complex. Both are played are highest levels in the country.

In talking of the intricacies of politics in South Sudan, we should not forget the main players in that field. Unlike the ordinary football that is played by two parties, politics in South Sudan is played by different actors. Nonetheless, there are three main distinct groups who are playing politics in South Sudan today. These are: the SPLM which head the Government of South Sudan, the SPLM/A -In –Opposition (IOs), which is the official opposition that has chosen a violent means to address their grievances and the G10 or Former Detainees (FDs) who are in the middle and have not taken any side.

In fact, I would like to briefly delve into examining the relationship between FDs and the government of South Sudan and why their relationship can be described as an incomplete divorce. This relationship creates high level of intricacies in the relationship between power and politics.

The relationship between the FDs and the Government is nothing but an incomplete divorce as they still share many things in common. For instance, FDs have neither formed their own political party nor have they joined any other group fighting against the government. They are just there hoping that they would one day be reunited with the mainstream SPLM Party.

Such ambiguous relationship complicates the relationship between power and politics further and put the question as to when the war will stop in question. This is because FDs who have not taken a clear position yet at the same time are playing very serious underground politics and power seeking strategy.

However to be fair and avoid blaming all FDs members, it must be pointed out that not all FDS members who are interested in politics currently. Some have left politics, and instead, engage in their own businesses or some are working in the government and do not show any interest to leave that work and rejoin FDs mainstream. Therefore, these individuals with the FDs who have decided to do their own things been isolated from the main stream of FDs remaining other FDs members.

The remaining members in the mainstream of FDs though have opted to remain standing aloof from the politics and quest for power in South Sudan, let me tell you, don’t be deceived with kiss, they are closely watching power and political intricate at the far end of the political field and occasionally jump into the pitch of the political field of politics to strike where necessary.

In this regard we can use the few examples to support the conclusion that I have reached in the above paragraph. For example, Pagan Amum, the Former SPLM General Secretary (and in fact, he is still the SPLM General Secretary as there is no one appointed to take the position permanently) was seriously campaigning for the UN or AU to take over the country in form of trusteeship or to hand over the government to technocrats of which he and Majak Agoot consider themselves to be part of.

In addition, though Madam Nyandeng campaigns that the SPLM has failed she does not suggest who will take responsible to write the wrong of the SPLM but she appears to have her own candidate of which she may even be the one. We saw her in Kampala two months ago when she and others within the FDs mainstream were holding a closed door meeting with the President of Uganda on how the war in South Sudan should be stopped. The true minutes of that meeting are still up now not disclosed. After that meeting, Madam Nyandeng proceeded to Australia where she met with Bor community but what she was discussing with them was never disclosed up to date. However, as I learned later from some sources, Madam Nyandeng was in Australia to mobilize Bor citizens to fight if they elections are held and Kiir refused to relinquish power. Whether this information was true or not it is not confirmed up to now but what is clear is the quest for power and politics which are at play.

As seen above, though the FDs and their comrades have not made their aims, objectives or goals clear in politics and quest for power in South Sudan, they in fact have  undisclosed agendum or agenda. Nonetheless, failure to make their positions in regard to politics and quest for power clear has made their approach to politics ambiguous. This is because they appear to have a political programme but with no clear directions as they have not disclosed their policy document or roadmap. Then, the question is: how do we explain this political equivocal conduct of FDs in reference to the political violence or crisis in South Sudan? In answering this question different people may have different answers but to me FDs are trying to play clean and double standard in politics so that they gain from all sides. For example, if international community or the AU becomes fed up with South Sudan crisis and intervene then they are found as suitable candidate to take over the country.

In addition, if they SPLA/M-IOs are defeated the FDs will have good relationship with the government and if the government is defeated then they will still have good relationship with the IOs. So members of the FDs are trying to play a game with all sides to benefit. This assertion can be supported by the fact that FDs are not interested in ending the war through peaceful means or joining either of the two to end the war through violence means. As I have been hearing, the FDs give excuses for not taking any side because they do not want to shed blood of innocent South Sudanese. This is not sufficient to explain this kind of neutrality at the face of these greatest South Sudanese moral tests. The simple approach is that if one does not want something bad to happen then the best way is not to stand aloof but to either intervene to stop it or campaign for it to stop if not able to stop it by your own.

In fact, though FDs are now campaigning that the war should end in South Sudan, but they do not provide strategy how to end the war without the UN or AU intervening. This implies that they are not interested in ending war in the country but they are only shedding crocodile’s tears as they are waiting so that if the war rages on and country become more messed up than now, the international community may intervene and by implications get the opportunity to get power. I may be wrong on this point but what I have stated here may not be far from the truth.

Why is it not be far from the truth is that if FDs were interested in reforms in the country they would have been struggling and also drafting their roadmap to peace and then present it to the international community, AU and also to the government. But as far as I know and unless I may be proved wrong in case such a document exists, the FDs are much concerned with the issue of President Kiir and this is why they have constantly been calling that “Kiir must go.”

I must remind FDs of the fact that what they have not taken into consideration is what will be the state of the country if country is chased away by force. The going of Kiir will put the country in worse position than now or the country may fall apart so the best way is to save the country is to negotiate with him to give up the power peacefully. This is because if Kiir is overthrown then the situation in Central African Republic or Somalia of 1990s-2000s would be better. What is needed currently in South Sudan is for us to campaign for reforms until president Kiir accepts and once he accepts reforms even him will be gone peacefully as he will be part of the reforms as the new and energetic leadership will be required.

However, what need to be noted is that we cannot negotiate effectively for reforms with president Kiir currently as oppositions are highly fragmented and the FDs are ambiguous but struggling behind the scene to see that the president and the whole government is gone. This ambiguity that accompanies the activities of FDs in failing to make their position clear complicates the whole process. Their silence and neutrality at the face of this crisis has left every concerned citizen of South Sudan guessing on what the role of the FDs in ending the present crisis. Thus, up to this point, we can see clearly that the intricacies in the relationships between power and politics is playing out clearly.

Another intricacy is the issue of the SPLM/A-In-Oppositions (IO). The IO has become like Maker AIDs in Cueibet County in former Lakes State 1990s. At that time our people had just heard about HIV/AIDs and also that it is spread through sexual intercourse, so when this unknown man called Maker AIDs appeared women and even men became scared as those reported about him reported that he was out there to rape women in order to infect them with HIV/AIDs. Consequently, this was taken advantage of many people as everywhere people would go it was reported that people had had encounter with Maker AIDs. Therefore, the fear spread everywhere and everybody was caught in a panic not because of Maker himself but because of the disease that he was carrying since it was reported to all the people in the village that it has no cure as we still know about HIV/AIDs today.

In the same way as it is narrated in the case of Maker AIDs above, the IO is being used today as a pseudo name by those who are disgruntled with the government to commit crime with impunity. In South Sudan today, IOs are found everywhere as everybody who commits crime commits such a crime and states that he or she is or they are from the IO. 

In addition, the IO has refused to accept any peace talks or national dialogue and instead keep on denouncing the national dialogue without examining its merits and demerits and to see if there are merits in it then they should corporate with the Government to see how it can be improved in order to achieve lasting peace.  In this title of this work I have used intricacies of the politics and power in South Sudan, which is seen in the way the IOs respond to the attempt of the government to initiate any peace process. The IOs keep on condemning any attempt to bring peace in the country on the ground that they want their leader, Riek Machar, to be released in the first place. They have however forgotten that what they were fighting for is not power but reforms but as things stand now politics and power have taken central stage, which made politicians to leave at the edge the need for reforms that was the purpose of the present war. In actual sense, if the present war was just for reforms but not for power the IOs would have instead of demanding that Riek Machar must come, they would have just put his deputy in charge of the group so that they continue to negotiate with the government forms and peaceful transfer of power. This is the approach that was done in South Africa.

In South Africa, the African National Congress did not refuse to negotiate with the White Minority Government that Mandela must be first be released. Instead, they kept on negotiating with the minority government in South Africa and by the time Mandela was released, much of the work was done. Such a spirit is what our country wants the country does not want rigidity since such rigidity can destroy it. In this respect, the intricacy can be seen in the way that the IOs are fighting a war without agenda which complicates the matter. The IOs members appear to be fighting for Riek Machar as their main aim so that Riek will become the president irrespective whether the reforms are made or not. This confused situation perpetuates the war and prevents the real reforms that the government may accept if the IOs are clear on what they need.

Another intricacy of politics and power in South Sudan is seen in regard the way the Government of South Sudan are holding power and playing politics. The government is not willing to accept the change in status quo as it has been completely slow in the reforms as demanded in the 2015 Peace Agreement. Whereas the government did not want Riek to be in South Sudan, what the government should have done was to implement the rest of the agreement strictly and to persuade rebels to appoint another leader or Riek’s Deputy.

Instead of implementing peace agreement through calling IOs in the bush to bring their leader apart from Dr. Riek Machar which they all agree on, the government did mistake by co-opting General Taban who the SPLA_IOs did not accept hence the IOs have refused to denounce violence completely.  At the same time as the government says that it is working with the IOs to implement peace, the youth are being constantly harassed on suspicion that they are members of the IOs. The conduct of the government shows that it is not ready to implement peace as it is telling people that they are implementing the August 2015 Agreement with the IOs and at the same time those members of the youth suspected to be members of the IOs are being arrested on daily basis. This is rather a confused and murky situation.

In summary, the incomplete divorce between the FDS, the rigidity of the IOs to negotiate for reforms with the government though Dr. Riek may be still remain in detention in South Africa, the refusal of the government to undertake serious reforms that people need and to be more democratic has complicated the relationship between the politics and power. The IOs looks at power as everything, FDs are standing aloof from the politics with occasional interventions. Due to the reluctance by three parties to engage into serious concession in regard to peace in South Sudan, power and politics have become serious handmaids in supporting each other in destroying the country.

In order to retain power the government sometimes refuse to accept the truth and instead plays a politics, in order to reject peace, rebels or IOs are not willing to accept any peaceful settlement of conflict and this is why they have so far refused national dialogue and in order to gain from one of the two sides, the FDs have refused to take sides or making their position clear to bring any of the sides to their camp. These are intricacies of politics and power which this paper is about.

the author is concern citizen of South Sudan and he can be reached through: juoldaniel@yahoo.com

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