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.