SPLM: a movement with too many Prophets but no Savior!

David Majok: September 21, 2014

Over the years, Sudanese (Southern and Northern Sudanese) alike, have gravitated towards the ideals of the SPLM/A. A masterful conception of Dr. Garang and cohorts, it is/was considered a movement that held or defined the aspiration of the marginalized in the peripherals of Sudanese society, in all its forms. It demystified the notion that Arabs and only those who are associated with them called the tune and played the cords of discourse about what Sudan is. Throughout the protracted struggle, many came to identify with brand of the solution that the SPLM preached. With the New Sudan Vision/philosophy, it gained many converts, most from Southern Sudan, Blue Nile, Nuba Mountains and north. These converts believed in spirit and ideals of the salvation that the SPLM/A was preaching. In that, many perished while wanting to attain their place in the heavenly kingdom promised by the leaders of the movement.

The conception was attractive and brave! It defined the true cause of the Sudanese identity question. It provided pragmatic solutions that many felt, will address the issues of marginalization, development, decentralization of power from the centre to the peripheries. It premised that the state, secular in its conception, will address once and for all, the maladies entrenched from Sudan’s independence till the signing of the CPA, in 2005. Though the compromise reached with the CPA did not completely address the issue of marginalization and continued centralization of power, many still hinged their hopes that the period of transitional government of national unity, will provide the litmus test and challenge the elites to think differently. This euphoria came to complete realization when Dr. Garang came to Khartoum. The establishment felt the presence and force of the idea that inspired the rebellion in 1983. For years, the establishment in Khartoum, thought of the idea of New Sudan as a conceptualization made for South Sudanese alone. But that myth was shattered when Dr. Garang set foot in Khartoum. Millions showed up to welcome the hero that they have loved in silence. This was the closest we were able to see a Savior. However, fate had its evil hands all over the promise of better future for the people of Sudan. With the death of Dr. Garang, July 30th 2005, the fate of hopeful Sudan came to a disappointing end.

Don’t get me wrong here. I still believe that the brand of vision that was promised by the SPLM has strong resonance within wider spectrum of South Sudanese and Sudanese Societies. This reality is seen in all its forms—from defining issues of identity that Sudan struggled with since independence; to the dawn of new political dispensation framed within the CPA , till separation. These ideas that gave rise to the SPLM/A still hold true today, if you are an aspiring South Sudanese who is looking at a post tribal politics as the only solution to our endemic problems. The nostalgic part of the promise that gave rise to the SPLM is still being preached today with different prophets, each claiming a sect within the grand umbrella of the SPLM, evoking realities far removed from the conditions that gave rise to the SPLM itself.

Or another better explanation that seems to correctly describe the situation within the SPLM, is conjured as that of false prophets embracing the SPLM religion for the sole purpose of building their credentials through association with its vision. Their aim at the end, which seems affected to a large degree with the tribalized politics; framed within the concept or confine of liberation struggle and sold by groups of leaders with differing interest in the SPLM as the solution. Though partial in their reality, they are effective in garnering the right constituencies to continue fuelling the prospect of disintegrating the state in South Sudan.

For example, since inception, the SPLM brand has morphed through extraordinary evolutional milestones. Now, in Sudan and South Sudan alike, SPLM is a cult that attracts people from different walks of lives, holding different interpretation of what the SPLM is and is not. In the twenty nine years of its existence, these are the transfiguration the SPLM has embodied: SPLM; SPLM Mainstreem; SPLM-Torit; SPLM-Nasir; SPLM-DC; SPLM-North; SPLM-IG; SPLM-IO; SPLM-FD. As you can see, there are about nine different sects of the SPLM with different prophets, each claims or is claiming to be the true Savior of some sort. All are prophets, but none of them is able to bring the salvation that the people of South Sudan so dearly hinged on the SPLM. Majority see their aspirations linked to the Movement, whether those in the inside or outside of government. Their links to the SPLM brand seems to be the only credible alternative they possess, regardless of whether they really understand the meaning and the idea that garnered the SPLM its religious place in the politics of the two Sudans.

With the advent of the December crisis that lead to the collapse of the constitution, there seems to be an intensification of the Taliban like indoctrination and disregard to the value of human life. The death of so many people, targeted only for their ethnicity, exposes the reality and urgency with which the situation can be likened to religious zealotry. Of the many sects within the SPLM, all claim moral righteousness and in the process demonize the other. A prospect only seen in ethno-relgious wars that define and defile the other as unworthy opponent in all aspects.

Thus, withered away with the partition of Sudan the concept that gave rise to the SPLM and the pontificate righteousness it portrayed the issues and failures governance since Sudan’s independence from Condominium Administration. The collective miss-understanding from the governing ethnic elites of the land that identity politics will continue to give them the added advantage that comes with power is falsely premised and will continue to fracture every aspect of the conception of the SPLM and South Sudan alike.

As well, there seem to be an unspoken golden rule within South Sudan body politics that if you are a professed SPLM believer, advocating for credible alternative to the political stagnation created by the stranglehold on the brand of “politics” transgressing political space, lead by the SPLM, it is futile or impossible for you to gain any traction. This reality speaks volume about the timidity of the political elites who are clamouring for power with limited foresight as to what their defining prospects for South Sudan are. Most of the different sects within the SPLM have betrayed the faith or oversold it to South Sudanese people without reflection on their unholy disregard to suffering of the masses.

All throughout the metamorphosis of the SPLM, with its different sects and their leaders and suspect histories, the conception of tribally oriented policies seems to dominate, and at the same time, galvanize emotions and underestimate or take for granted the wishes of the people. Nine years since the inception of the CPA and three years into independence, all the factions of the SPLM have not clearly showcased their political platforms for the public to see and decide for themselves, what they really say about the future of South Sudan. The SPLM in government has had nine years of unfettered political space to educate the people of South Sudan on what they stand for. Unfortunately, they have yet to deliver at best or completely failed, in all aspects of political and leadership orientation.

Economically, the SPLM has deprived the people of South Sudan from any hope that they will ever see any peace dividends after twenty one years of preaching from the holy book of the hymn of the New Sudan Vision. The huge economic advantage that they have squandered with the lost of billions of dollars, is a testament that the party was not ready to assume the mantle economic management of a nation.

Politically, the SPLM and its variety of political malformations, totally failed the test of transformation from a guerrilla movement to a governing party that respect its own ideals of what it means to lead in a post conflict situation such as ours. The leadership, in their self contained vision of what a nation is, resorted to politics of identification to govern and in the process disenfranchised many ethnic communities for the lack of military force behind their constituencies. And if there was any political will to transform, all evidence show to the contrary. Within a short period of time, the entrenchment of the “bush mentality” took hold, instead of ceasing, in the face of the high political cost South Sudanese paid in order to be free. The party is more entrenched in protecting the rulers instead of the ruled. The constitution which articulate how the society is governed has been trounced. South Sudan today is a state with no functioning constitution. The ideals that gave rise to the SPLM and what they are effecting is in deep disconnect. Unless the two are harmonized, the prospect for a stable political future for South Sudan is bleak. The current leadership are not ready nor interested in actually fulfilling the aspiration of the people of South Sudan, even when they preach the ideals of the SPLM, in false prophecy.

Ethnically, South Sudanese who are pegged at the level of their veracity to commit violence in protecting their rights, are accorded political space. The recently concluded peace agreement, in May 2014, between the government and the South Sudan Liberation Movement/Army–Cobra Faction, led by David Yau Yau is a clear example. This peace agreement provided for the Murle tribe and other smaller tribes in Greater Pibor Areas with a new ethno-political jurisdiction, carved out of the Jonglei state, in complete contravention to the provisions of the constitution, that established South Sudan with Ten constituted States at independence. This agreement is created out of necessity to thwart increasing threats posed by the fracture within the Kiir’s regime and fear of Cobra Faction joining the rebellion, instead of genuine or real peace. Thus, the creation of the Greater Pibor Administrative Areas (GPAA) is an indicator that the road to finding a comprehensive solution to the issues of governance is still unattainable in the near future. This is because the current regime continues to views itself as holding the future and stability of the country, in stark contradiction to the realities at hand. As a result, the regime is entrenching itself by constricting all political space for other political entities that are seeking reform using peaceful means.

The crisis of December 15th 2013, was a further example of resentment from those at the top to free expression and accountability, which led to the fracture of whatever cohesion that remained within the SPLM. Politics is being defined along ethnic lines and ordered, enforced and formalized in institutions of government, regardless of the long term impact it may cause to the social cohesion brought to fore with CPA, the referendum and later independence.

As sober observers of South Sudan would argue that the political decay created by the SPLM and its many different sections will not subside unless drastic change is instituted within the internal body politics of the movement. Thus, the SPLM or at least the future generation of the movement must assert their position, instead of following their leaders along ethnic lines, trying to justify or rationalize the incomprehensible, with regard to the failures they are currently committing against the people of South Sudan.

Thus, as many leaders as there are in the movement; whether in the breakaway sections or within the current antagonists, very few have shown leadership in thinking or showing conscience to see beyond the material possession of titles. And, as the current intransigence continue, with no sign of peace in the offing, pressure must be brought to bear on those who are obstructing peace. Their continued disregard must be met with the threat of prosecution, at the International Criminal Court—for crimes they have been a part off, whether by omission or commission. Because the time of political justice has gone and accountability must be meted on those who have been implicated in atrocities committed on all fronts.

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The legality and the politics of pardon: the case of Lam Akol

October 17, 2013

Few have anticipated the surprise with which the pardon of the leader main opposition, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC), Dr. Lam Akol, was announced. The ‘perplexing’ aspect of the decree is that it holds no significant credence or it was erroneously applied in the case of the Dr. Lam Akol. In a sense, the decree was trying to address something that does not exist, or trying to remedy an offence that has not occurred—that is, there is no legal basis for issuing it. However, looking at the intonation of this decree, there is a lot to be desired. The decree can be seen as a political gesture or a calculated move with much further intent of neutralizing any future ambition by the opposition leader to aspire for higher office in South Sudan. Because, albeit the tainted history of the leader of the main opposition, there are hopes that, with the current row in the midst of the SPLM, dismal progress in realizing transition to democracy and post conflict development, the ruling regime may lose, out of rage and discontent of the electorate, the upcoming election in 2015.

Thus anticipating what may happen, it seems very obvious that this decision is meant to circumvent potential of Dr. Lam’s clean or suspect record from gaining any political momentum in the lead up to the elections in 2015. Though this scenario may seem farfetched, the dynamics of politics in South Sudan, at the moment is revealing some worrying signs that, regional balkanization auger well in this analysis. For, in the recent government reshuffle, there seems to be jockeying to cement as well as neutralize the potential of many who are aspiring for the highest office in the land. And if the current row within the ruling party is anything to go by, then any contest for the leadership of the nation from an outside party will be seen as a threat to the monopoly of the SPLM. Thus, neutralizing such threats from ever showing signs of hope is important for the current leadership within the SPLM

Hence, linking the current leader of the opposition, whether with facts or fictions, to the rebellion in South Sudan, will go far in limiting the political capital that the opposition stood to gain from the current discontent the general public have developed against the policies or lack thereof of the ruling regime. It is against the backdrop that author is building this analysis, drawing attention to the slow progress of transformation and lack of willingness to engage a wider spectrum of the political dispensation in the transition process.

So, in exploring the mechanics of the decision, one see that the leader of the SPLM-DC has been put, literally, ‘between a rock and a hard place.’ Why a rock or hard place? With this decree, the leader of the opposition has been served with two options: stay in diaspora and be considered a pariah or come home and be labelled as a leader of rebel movement that did not exist, to use the argument of the SPLM-DC. The latter, even if there is no proof that the leader of the opposition commanded a rebellion, the perception that has been hanging over him and accepting the pardon will just cement the validity of the claim in the eyes of the public in South Sudan.

In reference to legality of the decision to offer pardon, one sees very little justification for its use. In law, those who are charged and convicted in a court of law are provided with clemency or pardon, according the mood of the presiding leader. As such, those of Abdurahman Sule and co-shorts, even if not convicted, were known to have been or were actively involved in taking arms against the state. Thus, their pardon, can be justified, both under legal or political domains. But, the strongest of these will be a political pardon, since they were not convicted in a competent court of law. This varying degree of interpretation is important, in that, they provide clarity as to what these two mean and their implications in the current dynamic of political persuasion in South Sudan.

On the other hand, there seems to be a complete acceptance from the SPLM-DC of the decree and the potential it provides for its leader to return home. However, the measured reasoning of why the leader of the opposition and the party accepted the pardon is still outstanding. And even though the general consensus amongst South Sudanese suggest that peace and reconciliation is important and must given a chance in the process of nation building, it is in itself a cooptation of the opposition and fault-proofing the SPLM in safe-guarding their control over the political space in South Sudan for sometime to come.

Thus, welcoming the pardon and at the same time negating the premise with which it was intended, render the actual response to the President’s decision ineffective. And, as a result, the perception of guilt by act or association will still hover over the the SPLM-DC and its leadership. As such, confining the acceptance of the pardon to nation building and reconciliation is a failure on the part of the SPLM-DC from recognizing the long term impact of the presidential order or decree.

Consequently, the Machiavellian approach to this political decision is a highly sophisticated calculation that is rarely seen in South Sudan politics. For the ordinary political observer, the decision is seen as excellent gesture, but for experienced and knowledgeable analyst, this political move, if not properly studied by the main opposition, the impact will surely spell trouble for their aspiration to represent any significant political force at the national level for sometime.

Moving forward from here is going to present a different challenge for the leader of the opposition and his work on the ground in South Sudan, should he take the offer seriously. Because, the last time the leader of the opposition and the ruling party made such effort of reconciling, few months later, the whole consensus failed and all went back to the normal track of Dr. Lam seeking refuge abroad, “for his own personal safety.” So, for the hope of reconciliation and nation-building, let the perplexing situation proof that a real new chapter has been opened in the political discourse, rather than just another ploy that is meant to complicate the country’s tenuous transition to institutional and multi-party democracy.

But what is the alternative solution to this specific situation? From the perspective of the author, the proper process for realizing peace and reconciliation cannot be achieved with spate of decrees, especially at the political level. The president, in his capacity as the leader of the nation, cannot continue to hide behind is powers and hope that peace can be achieved by decreeing into reality a peace that has been so illusive since independence. His intentions to use powers vested in him as a president may be very promising, but it will not achieve the desired peace, if serious engagement of the political dispensation is not taken into consideration. Because from the look of it, there seem to be unspoken reality about these orders or decrees that the problem is caused by external factors alone and rectifying them, warrants a top-down decisions. Such approach to addressing complex issues of governance, transition and security will continue to be illusive as indicated above.

Thus using the framework established for “All Southern Sudanese political Parties’ Conference” of 2010, as the basis for building political consensus, goes further in addressing pertinent issues facing our national-building process. Hence, there should be no need to impose peace without actually talking or discussing it directly with the people whom the current leadership is trying to address so as to affect change on the issues of peace, security and transition. This process should not be replaced by a piece-meal approach to creating stability in the country. As well, the President and the ruling party should use the process to create real reform instead of using it to score points, when needed and completely absolve itself from the responsibility of accounting to its political engagement with the other parties.

Contextually, the proper approach to address the debacle of decrees should be for the President to call for a “Presidential Peace Summit,” where all political parties are invited for dialogue to create a sense of harmony as well as peace and reconciliation amongst the sons and daughters of South Sudan, to pave way for healing and serious nation-building process. This, the President can do, partly because, he built his legacy as a consensus builder, but mainly because for the past years, he has maintained a solid commitment to peace that should now be followed by actions.

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“Waiting to Exhale”: South Sudan and the Cabinet Re-shuffle.

David Majok

July 29th 2013
The not so anticipated shake up in the government of South Sudan is finally here. Though it seemed like something would not happen, the writing on the wall was clear. As well, given the increased in-party struggle to set the tone on the future of the country, the shake up was highly needed. Two issues were concurrently addressed by the President’s decision to sack all the ministers and Vice President. The stagnant performance of the last government and the infighting in the leadership incapacitated the prospects for change. The president in his decrees wanted to address both of the problems at once and clear the path for the SPLM convention so that those who are currently voicing concern over his leadership are forewarned of the road ahead. However, looking at the two issues concurrently hinders the level of analysis that is required to set the record straight. As such, analysing decision in relations to the operation of governance is relevant in this climate for change.

First, given the failure of the last cabinet in meeting the expectation of South Sudanese after the independence and the sagging popularity of the SPLM was a major reason for the change. The last government that was formed post-independence was a consensus based government that was meant to bring a wider array of political forces together for the purpose of governing. Conceptually, it was a great idea; however, fiscally, it was a great scheme of paying lip service to a lot of politicians who are unproductive and have no proven track record. The drag of this concept was apparent on what the cabinet was able to accomplish since its inception. Very little can be attributed to these group of ministers.

Yes, we may argue that the shut down of oil affected the potentials of the last cabinet; however, one would argue that politically, these group of ministers still could have improvised and looked for alternative policies that relied less on income from oil. This would have secured their place in history of re-engineering alternatives to the state of institutional, economic, political and social development in the nation. The reality has proven otherwise and the change was highly overdue.

Now, the nation is “waiting to exhale” after what had happened. People are waiting to see what will the President do to instill hope in the people of South Sudan that his new government will reignite the passion with which the people saw the new nation’s independence on July 9th 2011. Because it is normal for the people of South Sudan, whether at home or in the diaspora to hope for better than what was. And highest on the list of what need to be addressed is the issue of corruption. It is something that people can see its results right away, by bringing the implicated to justice. And what we expect is that there be a more robust application of law instead of rule by committee. Because we have seen over the last few months was, what rule by committee can really achieve. It achieves nothing! Why? Reviewing the performance of all the committees that were ordered into being, their main aims were to establish a political investigation and not a legal one. Hence, their work and its outcome were confined within the realm of political reprehension instead of legal accountability. As a result, this only says that our legal system, which is a far better instrument for addressing the issues of law is sidelined.

It also says that people who are entrusted with applying the law within these institutions of governance cannot be trusted with investigating and applying the law as is prescribed under the constitution. It also clearly informs those who are concerned with the future of our nation that concentrating power in the hands of few is the only way to answer our many problems, is problematic. Here, I would argue that if the future government empowers the legal system and provides it with the right powers, it will function the way it was intended to function. However, if the new government is intended to function like its predecessors, the likelihood that it will be meeting the same fate as the last cabinet is very high. Hence, the same predicament of ineffectual government will continue to be the on the track of discussion.

As such, the nation is waiting in anticipation on what the new government will add to the template of change that the president would like to bring. Would it be a government that is looking to recreate the past or chart a new course? The people of South Sudan would like to expect the president to form his government and provide the tools to his ministers to implement his policies and ideas about where he needs the nation to go. It is important that the people continue to see the president as a unifying figure for the nation. Thus, the president must not just look for consensus in the forming his government but also look at who would be able to implement his ideas of what our nation will look like in the next two years.

Now that the world is waiting along side all the South Sudanese, the anticipation for the appointment of Vice President and cabinet must really meet peoples’ expectation. Because, as many have already indicated, the measure is not on the decision to reshuffle the cabinet and removing the Vice President, but what the new cabinet will look like.

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NCP’s Zero Sum Game is No Game!

David Majok
February 1, 2012: It is becoming clear to the observers of politics in the Horn of Africa that Khartoum’s intransigence and disregard for common sense has gone overboard. With the recent decision to put into effect their ill-fated ill-designed and arrogantly construed law to confiscate the oil of the Republic of South Sudan, Khartoum has reached a new and dangerous stage in precedence setting. Any regional or continental powers that share the logic, whether that is the Mbeki’s Panel or any other body, should not be regarded as objective but biased mediator in the current post-independence negotiations between South Sudan and the NCP.

The process and the current alignment of the negotiation that is sponsored for the AU under Mbeki seems overtly unbalance, as if they are negotiating for Khartoum and have failed to justify all the proposals that they have brought forward to address the wide disparities between the demands of Khartoum and rights of the people of the Republic of South Sudan. The Mbeki’s Panel has rarely come up with any proposal that addressed the highly hostile and arrogant negotiating position of the NCP. The Panel has been keenly focused on depriving RSS from its resources with nonsensical proposals that does not even fall within a realistic negotiating platform. If the Panel is unbiased, why is it receiving advice from those of Alex De Waal, one of the so called Sudan Expert, who is notoriously known for his hatred for anything South Sudanese?

Alex De Waal is known throughout the history of the struggle to be anti-South Sudanese and have been an official spokesperson for the NCP in the international media/forums. Can we trust his objectivity? If as recent as last month, he has been quoted by Eric Reeves (Sudan Oil Crisis: Extortion and misappropriation are not ’negotiations’”) as saying that South Sudan’s decision to shut down oil production was ill advised, siding with Khartoum and at the same time indicating that he is an advisor to the Mbeki Panel? From the perspective of writer of this article, the current process is completely unfair to RSS and those entrusted with facilitating the negotiation process cannot be trusted.

I think a larger question that needs to be asked before the next round of negotiations that is slated to start February 10, 2012 should be: Can the Mbeki’s Panel provide RSS with objective and well-reasoned proposal that takes into consideration the goodwill of and the interest of South Sudanese? If such a proposal is not tabled prior to the negotiations, there should be no next round. The people of South Sudan are not willing to enter into another round of negotiation facing a highly biased mediator, armed with the so called experts that have been historically biased. If the current trend of producing proposals that favor NCP and disregards the historical and asymmetric relationships, in terms of development, political and psychological marginalization South Sudanese faced is not considered, South Sudan negotiating team must categorically renounce the process and come home for good. The people of South Sudan will continue to struggle, like it has done prior to the CPA and will surely survive till the current regime in the North is changed.

The courage which the leadership in South Sudan has shown in the last few weeks and the resounding support it is receiving from South Sudanese should be maintained, even in the face of intense international pressure from the regional powers that are seeking for South Sudan to capitulate. Based on the information that are currently before the mediator, NCP is continuing to violate their own gestures of goodwill, by continuing to steal oil without any reprimand from the IGAD or the mediator. How can the RSS continue to absorb this body blow, illegally, while the mediator is keeping silent?

There seems to be, from the news emerging now, that there are certain standards that are set for internationally isolated NCP and another of RSS and its people. I think president Kiir correctly decided not to sign the Cover Agreement, when he was ganged up on in Addis Ababa. The interest of the people of South Sudan, as the president indicated, is paramount to any side agreement that will surely bolster the position of the NCP and create limited avenues for South Sudan to pursue legal options on the stolen oil and other pertinent and outstanding issues such as border demarcation, Abyei and dividing the national assets.

These issues are enormous and cannot be negotiated hurriedly, such as proposed by the Mbeki’s Panel. As well, international pressure should not be used as the avenue to our own demise at the hands of NCP, who is only interested in a Zero Sum Game. Further, the NCP’s arrogant attitude towards common sense is generated by the unwillingness of international community, African Union, IGAD and the current mediator to invalidate their continued demands for the wealth and blood of South Sudanese. The current process is the last effort by South Sudanese to, once and for all, detached themselves from an entity and a regime that has lost a sense of humanity of its own people and that of the world around it.

As such, Zero Sum Game or not, South Sudan, as eloquently emphasized by President Kiir, is negotiating for its economic, territorial and psychological independence from the Sudan. And as the current situation continues along the path of owning our own decisions and living the consequences; we, as South Sudanese are proud and ready to shed more blood to uphold our true aspiration for complete sovereignty.

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South Sudan: third time is a Charm!

South Sudan: third time is a charm!

David Majok, April 16, 2013
It is interesting when one thinks of the opportunities gained and lost in South Sudan since 2005. It is also perfect to look at the past from hindsight and make conclusions as to what could have or should have happen in the given time period—2005 to present. This is especially important in our situation in South Sudan because of the euphoria created by the prospects for change ushered in with the CPA: for it has provided South Sudanese with level of optimism that is unrivalled by any time in our history. Thus, as part of our recent history or story, one would be remised if one does not contemplate on what was missed in the march to freedom. This story or history can be explained by the charms—CPA, Independence and Cooperation Agreement that was signed last year but did not come into full force till March 2013.

As indicated above, the CPA was one of the lucky or charm moment in our history. We gained our autonomy and with it incredible levels of leverage to set in motion policies and programs that would have transformed Southern Sudan. Our people were expecting much more than what could have been achieved. The quest for peace, freedom and development was outpaced by the expectations, given the lack of skills and experience required to deliver on the promises of better life. The period also has been marred by the uncontrolled excess of corruption, nepotism, lack of rule of law, and above all, vision. Or, the vision that was espoused during this period of CPA implementation was mainly geared towards attaining the right to self-determination at the expense of all other needs. The work of building a sustainable society was left to the NGOs and IGOs, some of which have delivered basic emergency needs, such as mobile health units, water sanitation in the severely affected areas of the country.

The referendum, which constituted a bigger part of the politics of CPA, has also provided South Sudanese with hopes for better future. South Sudanese made history in terms of turn out, despite of the road blocks that were erected in trying to make the process a difficult one. However, the perseverance of SPLM has paid off in standing on the principles of the CPA (spirit and letter) till those who chose to be part of history, registered in South Sudan and all over the world, to cast their decisive ballots to complete the accorded rights enshrined, not only in the doctrines of international law but also the CPA itself.

The second lucky charm moment in our history and story of struggle comes as a result of the independence, with the pronouncement of “erga omnes” confirming that South Sudan became an independent state on July 9th 2011, with full rights and responsibilities. This milestone has also created euphoria in our nation and many, for the first time, felt that a new phase in our history and story has begun. This was another point of departure that many have waited for, to allow South Sudanese to break with the recent but unpleasant reality of transformation that did not materialize.

With Oil completely in our hands and destined to enrich our lives and change the course of our history, nothing would have stopped us from attaining what we have so long suffered for. An independent country, shared history of suffering, strong referendum results indicating the will of the people to create their own destiny, which only few nations, have so willingly chosen, is a testament to better future.

Then the short lived euphoria was eclipsed by the breakdown in relations with Sudan, hence, the shutdown of the only source of income for South Sudan. Suicidal as it was, many in the nation applauded the decision of the leadership that implied, among other things, a sense of sovereignty, control over our own resources and a desire of people to be free from the shackles of Khartoum. Though seen as a decisive step in post secession, the decision exposed South Sudan to the realities of dependence on single source economic output. Many have indicated that the decision to shut down oil production and flow through Sudan was short-sighted and did not factor in vulnerable state the economy. The SPLM led government kept on and maintained a strong position on its decision to shut down the oil flow. This decision was marked by the Panthou crises, which also exposed South Sudan to another short-sighted decision to go to war under the assumption that the international community would willfully accept our interpretation of the facts on the ground and side with us against the intransigence of Khartoum regime’s approach to bilateral relations on the issues of separation. The International Community, fairly or unfairly, always rushes in at the last minute to rescue its reputation but leaves those affected by the conflict to fend for themselves, which was the case in the border areas affected by the war.

AS well, the Panthou war and the resultant international community’s indignation on the occupation of the border town exposed our diplomacy to the harsh reality of the bilateral, regional and global politics or realpolitik. South Sudan was caught unprepared to deal with how to fend off the accusations of being an aggressor state. Futile efforts were made by the ill-trained and unprepared diplomats in the finesse of international diplomacy, to educate the world on the geography and historical boundaries of the provinces of Sudan which translated into international borders as of July 9th 2011.

The protracted negotiations under the AUHIP and UNSC decision to force the two parties into negotiated settlements of post secession issues was instrumental in ratcheting down the rhetoric of brinksmanship. The September 2012 Cooperation Agreements and Oil Transportation Deal that was reached has paved way for calculated measures of building bilateral relationships on better terms. The results of these negotiations have finally demonstrated the need for responsible leadership and governance on the part of South Sudan.
Now the Oil is flowing, it is incumbent upon the leadership to kick start the economic engine of South Sudan with strong emphasis on immediate needs of building infrastructures, institutions and identity for our nation. This is an opportunity that has been missed twice before and with the resumption of our main source of income, the government and leadership in South Sudan is faced with moral duty of changing the image the world has about us. The image that the world has about us can be captured this sentence: South Sudan is new country, tribal, poor, corrupt, lacks ability to govern itself and lawless. This view of the world can be changed or transformed with committed leadership and determination to destroy the vices of what we fed the world about us.

This third phase or lucky charm moment is the last ditch effort to resurrect the image of the Nation and of the Party that fought to give us a chance to choose between being a second class citizens or free willing people. The SPLM, as movement that fought the liberation war and helped us make our choice, is now facing a make or break moment with South Sudanese people. The path is open and the decision is theirs, since the party controls every aspect of the way forward. We have presented South Sudan through our vote for independence, to the SPLM in “silver plate,” so it is their chance to show us what the SPLM Party is made of.

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SPLM: The Prospect of Transformation

SPLM: The Prospect of Transformation

March 11, 2013

As the SPLM gears up for its Third National Convention, many questions will surely be asked about the SPLM’s overall performance (???) since it became a political party and the restructuring required to put in motion the vision for the next phase. While this will for sure put the party on the pedestal of transformation, a much required element in the development of the SPLM, the question of accountability within the ranks of the party is yet to be translated into action, given the wide perceptions of unresponsiveness of the regime to changes from within.   Thus, creating a transparent and responsive political machine that is different will continue to be a challenge.  Addressing these challenges will do much to sustain SPLM’s monopoly on power for some time to come; however, this cannot happen until a complete attitudinal change takes place from within in order to meet the recognized ideals of the party. While this is obvious, there are other elements of the transformation that remains wanting for those, from within, who wish to establish a credible political party.  Hence, steps taken now are crucial in establishing a sound grounding against the backdrop of the failures of the last seven years.

A good place to start from for the SPLM is the draft constitution and manifesto of the SPLM of 2008, which is currently under review to be adopted at the 3rd National Convention or the Extra-Ordinary Convention for the restructuring the party. Though full of ideals for democratic transformation, one constant that has piqued interest is the centralization of the party’s powers and structures (at both state and national levels).

The SPLM as a party, is a national behemoth, which at its current structure, is ungovernable, and cannot be controlled from the Centre. Thus, the centralization of powers of the party in one hand, at both national and state levels, is too big a task to undertake. Why? The current structure of the SPLM is fashioned as a politico-military organization under which a single command structure is required. This type of structure favors a strong man at the top and the rest of the institution of the party is beholden to the center, leaving the grassroots of the party void and lacking the ability to inform the political discourse at the center. This type of party structure engenders a political entity that is controlled at top, but lacks clear and transparent institutions of accountability to the larger group.  Central to this notion is that the Chairman alone holds the key to any real change within the system, regardless of what the party members may perceive to be important. In this kind of a structure, the political maturation and transformation is spread thin, which only leaves one person to be responsible and accountable but at the same time uninformed about the needs of the local (States, Counties, Bumas and Payams) structures. This then hinders the prospect of democratic transformation in the party and by extension, the government/nation, since the powers of both are fused together. The recent sacking of the Governor of Lake State gives a glaring example of the far-reaching powers of the executive in effecting change at lowers levels of government without much consultation. A process, though granted in the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan of 2011, but its actual application calls into question the ambition of having a democratic institutions, where other organs of the state are rendered meaningless.

Thus, to be much more effective in implementing its grand ideals and programs, the SPLM Committees working on the transformation need to completely overhaul the party structures.  The national wing of the party and the states Secretariats must be separate entities to allow for the party to focus on building a truly national brand, and a truly democratic national political movement/institution.  As well, the states parties can form their regional identities, outside of the national party identity. The separation is crucial to building a more representative identity for the party, as it will allow for less “crowding out” effect at the top brass level of the party, such as what is being perceived to have been happening since its inception, and with pronounced effect from 2005 onward.

This separation between SPLM National and SPLM States does not mean that the National party will not have structures at the states level. It will continue to have national structures at the states level but administrative structures of the SPLM National level should act as independent entities within states, far removed from the political programs of the states. This will allow the party to focus on national issues as well as shed itself from the responsibility of controlling everything at the States level. This will also allow State Parties to form their own entities, develop different political platforms and programs that represent the need of the states, instead of working on the grand proposals at the national level that are far removed from disparate needs of the diverse regions of South Sudan.

Along the same thinking, new generation of leaders will be allowed to spring forward from different regions at the states level that can be able to vie for states or national leadership. As well, with the separation between the national and states political parties, the national SPLM Party will be able to focus attention in addressing the national agenda and leaving the local policy developments to local state parties.

The SPLM leadership at the national level can and must work hard to strengthen the legislative and judicial organs of the government by providing it with constitutional cover/powers to apply existing laws at the state and national level. Because the reason why the other organs of the system are not working is not because they are only lacking capacity; they are lacking the backing of the executive to act within their purview, granted under the Transitional Constitution. Capacity can be built within the system overtime, through oversight, knowledge transfer and training.

The SPLM can do this in order to allow for pluralization and democratization that it has enshrined into its manifesto and political programs. Having such ideals and not utilize it for the maximum interest of the party is akin to discussing transformation, but in reality working to monopolize the political space, without looking inward for self-reflection.  Ignoring this crucial element of transformation, the SPLM as a party, will continue to be a cause of displeasure amongst the electorate, who have moved on from celebrating the independence to expecting results of the peace dividends and democratic constitution.

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South Sudan: Social Stratification Russian Style!

David Majok: March 9th 2012

Like South Sudan, Russia obtained its status as a state after the break-up of the Soviet Union. And prior to the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the surest way to attain status and influence in the Communist Party is to be a member, hence increased social status. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the creation of Russian Federation, this marked the end of the communist era and with it the egalitarian society it once wanted to create.  Society and social structures has been totally re-aligned, from a supposedly classless society that is modeled after the much renowned Karl Marx, Socialist society, to a less ideological one, but highly fractured, where the former die-hard socialist transformed themselves to new capitalist, acquiring most of the vast and underperforming industries to private entities.

Most of those who succeeded in acquiring the vast wealth are those who were either within the system or former security agents of the regime (KGB). Their close proximity to power and knowledge of the system gave them unprecedented access to decision makers, which allowed them access to the nation’s resources, hence, the creation of supper influential communists, to overnight rich oligarchs. The new rich in Russia have completely parted ways with the communist identity and accepted or embraced true liberal market philosophy.

The early 1990s were exceptionally prosperous to the former communists who have gained from the windfall of the demise of the USSR. However, the level of embrace to the global new liberal market economy led to the unruly collapse of the market and introduced Russians to the reality of free market corrections that spared nothing on its way, whether rich or poor; hence, social stratification or restructuring of society in Russia highly deepened. Those who have made huge sums of money through the stock market found themselves, either at the bottomless pit of the new demon (free market, class dominated social order) or highly protected from it all, through their continued connections to the powerful within the Russian Federation.

Now, like Russia, the new super-rich in South Sudan can be associated in the same parallel. Those who are currently enjoying the riches of the nation are either political operatives of the SPLM, whose wealth and fame, in most cases came about with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) or following thereafter.  Like Russia too, the elite in South Sudan or the rich have strong ties to the ruling party, as such, won favorable terms by which they were able to gain access to unprecedented amount of riches.

The class, which is something new to our vocabulary, is now alive in South Sudan, with vast disparity between the new super-rich and the poor, with no supposedly middle class that can tamper with clear separation between the top and the bottom strata of our society. Even though there is somewhat a middle class, the number of which may not be big enough to act as a buffer (such as in the developed world), between the rich and the poor, are less influential either. And according to the recent data released by the RSS about the state of civil service (which should have acted as educated middle class), are substantially minimal in affecting any balance in the disparity between the rich and the poor. As well, with the high rate of illiteracy (rated at about 80%) to cite a conservative estimate, the disparity may continue to provide the new nation with daunting task to surmount in the near future.

On the other hand, rural population have been largely abandoned in the unintended endeavor of social stratification, where majority of the population reside; with limited access to equitable share of the national wealth and a heavy burden of the national problems, such as insecurity, famine, disease and lack of means to extricate themselves from their predicaments. It is clear the disparity between urban/rural and rich and poor will likely continue to negatively affect social stratification and allocation of resources, if not adequately addressed, to correct the imbalance in the between the rural/urban centres divide and especially, the ones who are connected within the system. As the social stratification continue to take roots, concerted efforts by policy makers to balance the divide through well crafted policies, to put a human face to the disparity that is growing in South Sudan, insecurity and other social problems will continue to dominate our moral consciousness.

Furuther, as the government strives to lay down the foundation for a more equitable society, the need to engage those who are affected so as to create ownership in the process of state making or nation building will be crucial. This is very important specially when using non-indigenous experts with limited understanding of the locally important indicators, much associated with cultural traditions and regional/tribal politics in the development process is very important, to say the least. The model that has been deployed so far has presented more studies, confined by the donor willingness to engage, under solely self-interested geo-political dynamics and far removed from the transparency they require, will continue to prevail.

Thus, confronted by these new realities of class and wealth distribution, the government must be keen at leveraging the talents of its educated diaspora to fill in the gap that seems to be widening daily. This is not only for the long term viability and credibility of the government but also for effecting credible institutions that can deliver on these needed social programs that must address the increasing gaps or divide. Additionally, engaging the diaspora at this nascent stage will surely provide the grounding needed in developing best practices and experiences in addressing the current challenges, instead of using highly paid foreign experts, while creating an underclass of well deserving and educated South Sudanese diaspora that are willing and able to deliver on all the indicators that are pertinent to the development of our nation.

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