By Riang Yer Zuor Nyak
March 23, 2015 (SSNA) -- It has been reported by many media outlets that Salva Kiir and his group had a public rally in Juba on the 18th of March 2015. It is reported that the purpose of the rally was for the president to inform the public of why he had returned to Juba without a peace agreement signed. The contents of his long speech, plus other shorter ones made by his entourage, have been reported by many of these media outlets. They are more or less similar, which makes one to begin to believe that the contents are authentic. If this is the case, then let a look be taken at parts of the speeches.
Salva spoke on a number of issues. Nevertheless, he never had the intention of addressing them to display what had really transpired at Addis Ababa talks. Instead, he used them to twist the truth to achieve a goal that is as murky as his ideas in resolving the war. Below are some of the excerpts, not in any particular order.
On Two Equal Presidents
In his speech, Salva blamed the failure to reach peace on the issue of positions. He stated: “We could not reach peace because of positions. Riek wants to be equal with me and recognized as head of state. There is no country where there are two presidents”.
Throughout the whole period of the last talks, it has never been the case that there should be two presidents. The SPLM/A has never come up with such a proposal; the government delegation has never made such a proposal; nor has IGAD or any other party proposed the possibility of two presidents. Where did Salva bring such a position from as one of the causes for the failure to reach peace? He must have been thinking that ordinary South Sudanese were not able to closely follow the progress of the talks, and that they could take any statement from Salva at face value.
On Shifting from the Position of a Prime Minister to that of a 1st Vice President
“We could not agree on the structure of government since August last year. We said Riek would be number 3 in the hierarchy but he refused and said he wants to be executive Prime Minister. We accepted but I said there should be 3 deputies…Riek again left the first idea of Prime Minister and demanded to become a first Vice President…Riek always want to be number two to me so that when I go outside the country he remains acting.”
Before August of last year, the issue of a position of a prime minister was never on the table. There was only the issue of the president. The question that the Parties were dealing with was who that president should be. Should it be Salva? Should Salva leave the government, as he was responsible for the genocide committed in Juba in December, and allow Dr. Riek to reunite the country that Salva had disunited?
The idea of the prime minister was introduced in August by the IGAD as a middle ground. Their idea was for Salva to continue as president and SPLM/A to nominate the occupant of the office of the prime minister. In their minds, Dr. Riek was not even the envisioned prime minister. He was to wait outside the Transitional Government of National Unity so that he could run for the highest office in the land at the end of the transition.
In the name of peace, the SPLM/A made a concession by dropping its previous position that Salva should step down as president. Instead, the IGAD proposal was accepted with the counter-proposal that the prime minister be executive, and that the two Principles (president and prime minister) should work together without deputies. The idea was that the two needed to work together as the ones solely given the responsibility for the smooth implementation of the peace agreement. This was to eliminate excuses later that ‘we failed to implement this or that because of so and so who did not do his work’. The government and IGAD refused such a counter-proposal.
The idea to drop the creation of the office of the prime minister and replace it with the office of the 1st Vice President also came from the IGAD. Both the SPLM/A and the government were surprised at the February 1st Summit with the proposal. IGAD failed to explain why it suddenly changed its previous position on the president-prime minister arrangement. People were only forced to speculate as to the reason why the change came about. There are those who think that the change came about due to the SPLM/A demand that the prime minister should be executive, and the IGAD does not want that to be the case. There are also those who think that the idea to remove deputies, including the vice president, was not sitting well with some IGAD heads of state who started presenting themselves at the August Summit as the voice representing the South Sudan region of Equatoria. They see Wani, the current vice president, as the representative of Bantus in South Sudan, and the two principals as representatives of the Nilotics.
It is difficult to understand why Salva wanted to mislead South Sudanese in his rally that it was Dr. Riek Machar who demanded the position of a prime minister in August and, then, dropped it for the position of the 1st vice president. Again, in the name of peace, the SPLM/A did not see the reason to make that an obstacle so long as the 1st vice president could share the executive powers with the president.
I cannot, possibly, believe that Salva was not aware of what was going on in Addis Ababa. His delegation must have briefed him of all developments as to the progress of the talks. I believe that he was deliberately being dishonest. But, what could have been the reason for lying? Could it be to achieve a political goal?
On the 2002 SPLA/M Merger
“They want to take Wani’s position but what if Equatorians take up arm against government? I told Riek we will not appease you and give you Wani’s position again…I told him we will not repeat the 2002 agreement we displaced Wani and put you in his place…IGAD and other countries want me to throw away my Vice President Wani Igga in favour of Riek Machar. If they make Riek the 1st Vice President and I die, then Riek would automatically become the president but if Riek is the 2nd Vice President and I die then Riek would not be the president. That cannot happen”
First, I find it difficult to understand why these people associate positions with individuals. There is no such thing as Wani’s position. There is the office of the vice president, and Wani just happens to be the current occupant. It does not belong to Equatorians, and as such Equatorians do not need to take up arms for that position. They are democratically, as of right of citizenship, eligible for any position—including that of the president.
Second, the 2002 merger was not a situation where Wani’s position was given to Dr. Riek Machar. The agreement was a merger between two movements (SPDF and SPLA/M). The initial idea was that the two principal leaders were to make an arrangement where one would lead and the other would follow. Salva was against that, areguing that the two men (Drs. Garang and Riek) were both from the Greater Upper Nile. He saw such an arrangement as a way of the Greater Upper Nile dominating his Greater Bahr al Ghazal. He wanted Garang to lead as a member of the Greater Upper Nile community followed by himself (Salva) as representative of Greater Bahr al Ghazal. Who followed him was not his business. Interestingly, he conveniently forgot that he and Dr. Garang were members of the same Dinka tribe. He did not see the possibility of other South Sudanese to see two Dinka men one following the other as dominating other tribes.
Eventually, the crisis created by none other than Salva himself was resolved by saying, ‘Look, we are all members of SPLA/M. We only split in 1991. Since we are now reuniting our ranks, let us go back to the SPLA/M hierarchy.’ Dr. Riek believed that the issue was not the positions. Instead, it was the issue of uniting the Southern front and demand self-determination together with one voice. He believed the he could do whatever that he needed to do to make the war a success in any position. He compromised. Dr. Garang remained in his previous SPLA/M position as number one, Salva who was then the number two (after Kerubino and Nyuon had died) remained number two, Dr. Rek remained number three, and Wani remained number four. The only person who was the victim of this compromise was Dr. Lam Akol who should have been number four after Dr. Riek and before Wani. I am not sure why it was not done that way. It could probably be that he rejoined late after the arrangement was completed.
So, there was no Wani’s position that was taken by Dr. Riek Machar. It was the agreement that the previous SPLA/M hierarchy should be used to break the deadlock created by Salva who was not in favor of two people from the same region to be numbers one and two respectively, but was in favor of two men (himself and Garang) from the same tribe to be numbers one and two in the movement’s leadership hierarchy.
Third, from his statements, it appears that Salva does not see the issues. The only issue that he sees is personal. It is about Dr. Riek Machar’s possibility to lead South Sudan as president. This is what he seems to be fighting against. His political issue is ‘Riek’; his social issue is ‘Riek; and his economic issue is ‘Riek’. But, what about real issues that are facing the people of South Sudan? What do South Sudanese think about the issues affecting them on daily basis? Criminals are killing the people in Juba on a daily basis, and Salva was not able to tell the audience how he plans to deal with it; the ever-shapeless economy is deteriorating on daily basis, and Salva did not tell the rally what his immediate plans are; and health and educational services are in their ever-unproductive states. These are in addition to the war related issues. South Sudanese think about all of these things. Should their thoughts matter?
No one thinks that Salva will die any time soon. As such, his succession should not be an issue in the peace process. Whether Dr. Riek or Wani should succeed him should be a future matter reserved to the time when his death actually becomes a reality. If he has any information pointing to the imminence of his death, he must keep it to himself so as to not allow it to be a stumbling block in the peace process.
On the Position of Vice President and Two Armies
“I don’t agree with the suggestion that Riek be given the position of vice-president. I don’t accept the issue of the two armies.”
The issue here is not whether or not Salva agrees with Dr. Riek being given the position of a vice president. Nor is it the issue of him (Salva) accepting the idea of two armies. The main issue is that the level of atrocities among ourselves has never been as high as it has been ever since the war broke out; the level of mistrust has never been as high as it has become; the level of hatred among our people has never been as high as it has been this time; and there are diverse political programs that need to be protected on both sides. The question now is how to reasonably solve this problem. He has to come up with a reasonable alternative—not just disagreeing “…with suggestion that Riek be given the position of vice president…” or not accepting “…the issue of the two armies”.
There are reforms that must be agreed up on. Once they are agreed up on, they will have to be implemented. Salva has already rejected those. But, he must accept them at the end. With his current rejection, can he be trusted to implement them later? There is a need for him to share executive powers with Dr. Riek Machar (vice president or prime minister) so that he (Dr. Riek) sees to it that they are implemented.
The two armies must co-exist. The processes of implementing the peace agreement must be protected.
On Compensation for the Victims
“There were people who supported Riek for first vice president position so that his people who died in Juba are compensated. If its about compensation, did Riek compensate Dinkas he killed in Bor 1991?″
First, Salva is not clear as to the people whom he referred to as “…supporting Riek for first vice president…” He should have made it clear so that we know whether he was talking about people in the SPLM/A, people from the International Community, or people within his government. We would like to know so that a proper response could be given.
Second, no one, at all, associates any position with the compensation of the victims of the Juba massacres—let alone the position of vice president. The IGAD who came up with the proposal do not seem to care whether or not the victims get compensated. The SPLM/A has never made such an indication. The SPLM/A simply believes that the victims will be compensated whether Dr. Riek Machar becomes the vice president, prime minister or president.
Third, he talked about the compensation of Dr. Riek’s “…people who died in Juba…” It is good that he has made it clear that he targeted the Nuer in Juba because he thought (and still thinks) of them as Dr. Riek’s people. It makes his motive for killing them clear. He has committed genocide by systematically targeting the Nuer on the basis of their tribal origin. Any South Sudanese who had been doubting up to the 18th of March 2015 has no reason to remain in doubt after the 18th.
Fourth, it is interesting that Salva associated the compensation of the victims of the Juba massacres with lack of compensation of the Dinka people killed in Bor in 1991. Is he suggesting that he killed the Nuer in Juba in avenging the deaths of the Dinka in Bor in 1991, and that the two communities are even? Or is he trying to suggest that if the Nuer whom he massacred in Juba have to be compensated, the Dinka who had been killed in 1991 have to be compensated first? He has to be clear so that the rest of the South Sudanese who are neither members of the two seemingly feuding (as Salva wants members of his tribe to think) tribes should know what do think and do.
What about the Gaat-Jaak Nuer massacres in 1984, 1985, 1986 and 1987? Has he prepared himself for their compensation? The Gaat-Jaak massacres were carried out during a different war; the Bor massacre was carried out during a different war; and they have to be dealt with using different mechanisms. But, Juba massacres were carried out during the current war. As such, the peace talks that are intended to end the current war must address the issue of the compensation of the victims. It is only a blind-minded can fail to see this.
“Riek said we must apply federalism but we are already a federal state although we don’t call ourselves one”
If Dr. Riek calls for the application of federal system of governance and Salva believes that we are already a federal state, then what would be the disagreement? If he agrees with the call and believes in the federal system, and that he thinks that he is practicing it, then, why not calling ourselves as federal?
The truth of the matter is that we are not currently a federal state. Salva knows that. He just thinks that the people of South Sudan do not know what federal system is like. Or if he does not know, then why is he rejecting something that he does not know.
Few things that he must know are that, no national president can remove state governors and replace them where there is a federal arrangement; no national president can dissolve a state legislative assembly, as provided by the current transitional constitution, in a federally arranged state; no federal president can remove a minister at the state level in a federally arranged state; there cannot be a unitary judiciary in a federally arranged state; and etc.
Salva is simply against the idea of federating South Sudan. He knows that he is going against the aspirations of the people of South Sudan who have been demanding federal system since 1947. He enjoys controlling state power so that he is the only human being that matters in the whole country. He has to have the courage to come out publicly to declare to the people of South Sudan that he is against federalism, instead of hiding behind the illogical idea that we are already a federal state.
We need federalism now. There are those who say that federalism should wait until such time as when we embark on the permanent constitutional making process. That is unjustified. We all know what our people want. When the time comes for the making of the permanent constitution, we will still ask the people of South Sudan whether they want to continue with federalism or they want to go back to the unitary system.
On the Dissolution of Parliament
“I told Riek parliament will not be dissolved because MPs were elected by people not us. Even if they are not doing their work. I want to tell MPs here Riek doesn’t want you because he says you are doing nothing in parliament.”
First, the idea that members of the National Legislature were elected is not an issue. The whole process that is taking place in Addis Ababa is dictated by the current war situation in the country. The power-sharing that was being discussed between the two warring parties was (and is) what necessitated the idea to dissolve and reconstitute the National Legislature.
The SPLM/A does not believe in a big government. Big governments, unnecessarily, take away resources that should be used for development activities, which should benefit the ordinary citizens of South Sudan. For example, the current members of the National Legislature are not less than 400. If the power-sharing ratio is taken to be 50/50 between the SPLM/A and the government, and the current members are taken to be the government portion, then more than 400 could be added to be the portion of the SPLM/A. The country would end up with more than 800 members of the legislature. But, then, for what purpose should we embark on such a costly project? That would mean robbing the people of South Sudan of their resources. This is why it is important to dissolve and reconstitute the National Legislature so that we can maintain the same number of people as the existing one without any cost added. It is cheaper that way.
Second, the idea that Dr. Riek Machar wants the dissolution of the Legislature because he does not like the members is way too cheap a politics. They may be “…doing nothing in parliament” as Salva stated. But this is not an issue right now. Dissolution and reconstitution of the National Legislature is a necessary part of the power-sharing arrangement whether or not current members are doing something in parliament. Salva thinks that telling members of the legislature that Dr. Riek does not like them is an easy way of turning them against Dr. Riek. It only shows how out-of-ideas the man is.
“Let them sanction South Sudan but if they will not ask God to stop rain in the country we will still prosper without aid.”
Salva talked of sanctions as if they are meant to be imposed on South Sudan. He knows very well that sanctions, as discussed by the United Nations Security Council, are intended to target individuals who are found to be responsible for the failure of the peace process. Those people will be banned from traveling; their accounts with foreign banks will be frozen; and the rest of the country will continue as usual.
If this is the case, then sanctions will not hurt ordinary South Sudanese. They have no money stashed away in foreign bank accounts; they do not even have money to travel abroad. It, simply, is not their sanction. Salva should just worry about himself and his partners in crime since they are the only ones to lose millions of stolen dollars in their foreign bank accounts, and their lucrative travel benefits.
The other interesting part of the above statement is talking about rain. This suggests that Salva is turning to agriculture. But, after what? The land has been there for our people’s benefit; the rain has been there; and food has been imported from Uganda and Kenya for all of these years. He did not see any problem with this, as he was not personally affected by the situation. He never made it a point to sensitize our people to produce their own food to stop dependency on foreign produced food. Any leader who has the prosperity of his people in mind—people who have a land such as that in South Sudan should have led a crusade of agricultural production years before the current threats of sanctions. At this time, he should be talking about himself and his partners (who are going to be subjects of the sanctions with Salva) to turn to the land to grow their own food.
Our people have been trying on their own, without any assistance from the government, to produce their food for subsistence. Those who have tried to produce more end up not getting a market for their produce due to lack of roads. Salva should come up with a solution to that problem before talking about rain. God will definitely send rain, but He will not send roads to market centers.
On the Negotiation of Equals
“We want practical solutions and now is the time to do what is best for our people. No president negotiates with rebels, but I went to negotiate with Riek because I want peace, but Riek thinks we are equal that is why he became intransigent.”
If wanting peace means going to Addis Ababa for negotiations, then Salva does not want peace. This is because he did not go to Addis Ababa voluntarily, at least for the last round. Instead, he had wanted Wani to go to Addis Ababa. He had to be pressured into going to negotiate with Dr. Riek. In fact, Dr. Riek had to issue a press release urging those who had influence on Salva to apply more effort to persuade him (Salva) to avail himself for negotiations.
On the issue of equality, Salva does not seem to understand how things work. It is not written anywhere that presidents should not negotiate with rebels. He needs to understand that unique situations need unique ways of dealing with.
The delegations of both the SPLM/A and government had been in negotiations for a long time. They tackled certain issues. However, there were issues that they were not able to decide on. IGAD proposed that the two Principals (commanders-in-chief of the two armies) be brought together to resolve these issues. The idea was to expedite the process by bringing the two heads of the two warring parties together to expeditiously take care of the most difficult issues.
Looking at the roles (commanding the two warring armies) that the two Principals play in this war, and given the fact that the process is meant to stop the two armies from fighting, the two men are equal. If he does not understand that, then, he has a problem. The fact that one is a president and the other is a chairman does not make any difference. They are just titles. It is the roles of these two Principals in bringing the war to an end that matters. Salva should not attempt to hide behind a title to avoid facing Dr. Riek. It just can’t work.
On IGAD’s Shifting of Goal Posts
“All of you have seen me going to Addis Ababa to meet with my brother Riek Machar so that we resolve the issues, but always when we go we find that the goal post has been shifted to another place. And all the time when we go and stumble on a new agenda, in such a way you don’t expect peace to come.”
This statement puts the blame for failure of the peace talks on the one who frames the agenda. This is IGAD. It is true that IGAD has not been consistent in this area. They have shifted a lot, especially in the areas of power-sharing. This has been a problem. But, it could have been overcome had the government been sincere and serious. All the IGAD positions were drafted in favor of the government. In fact, the government did not go to the talks with any particular position on all the issues. They only adopted the positions put forward by the IGAD. Even then, the delegates would not want to discuss details.
The interesting thing about Salva’s blame of IGAD for failure is that he was confusing his audience at the rally. At one point, he squarely put the blame for the failure of the talks on Dr. Riek Machar. At another point, he squarely put the same blame on IGAD. Which is which? The poor members of the audience must have been forced to read between the lines to figure out for themselves what was right or wrong.
“I want IDPs in Juba, Bor and other towns to go back to their homes. The authorities will give them support.”
Sometimes I wonder if Salva listens to himself. To begin with, the IDPs in Juba and Bor are survivors. Salva attempted to exterminate their kind. They are literally alive because of the UN protection. Salva once talked about these people, referring to them as rebels. He is now asking the same people “…to go to their homes” and that “…the authorities will give them support.”
Salva has not yet apologized to these people for what he has put them through; he has not given them any sincere promise that he will never kill them again if the go back to their homes; he has not withdrawn his statement calling them rebels; in his speech on the 18th of March, he referred to them as Riek Machar’s people; and he has not yet reached a peace deal with Dr. Riek Machar. How does Salva harmonize these mixtures of positions that he has taken against these IDPs and his request for them to go back to their homes?
Martin Elia Lomoro’s Speech
Martin Elia Lomoro, the current Minister for Cabinet Affairs, was one of those reportedly made short speechs. Among the statements he made, one stands out. “Citizens of South Sudan, if your remove president Salva Kiir, you will see what will happen to you…”
This scare tactic is characteristic of the regime’s officials these days. At any time, if an opportunity avails itself, these kinds of threatening statements are commonplace. They want the people to start fearing change. But, these Salva’s cronies are South Sudanese who should know South Sudanese better. There is nothing that they can say to make our people accept their current positions as spectators who are not entitled to tasting our Independence. They are made only to smell the sweet smell of their hard earned Independence. Lomoro needs to find something better to say. Or else, he should keep quiet.
Kuol Manyang’s Speech
Kuol Manyang, who is Salva’s Minister of Defense, made a comment regarding the two armies proposed by the SPLM/A for the 30-month transitional period. He showed his rejection of it without supporting his position. He simply called it “unnecessary”. Anyone who wants to make a point always tries to justify why he or she is taking a certain position on an issue. It is this way that one’s position is either bought or rejected. Vagueness does not help. It could be taken as lack of justification or an attempt to keep people guessing as to one’s real position.
The problem with Salva and his cohorts is that they do not see politics as issue-based—issues that are socio-economic in nature. They consider it as a game of lies. They tend to think that whoever lies more wins the game. They should realize that the game does not end with the players. Players just play, and the spectators, who are the citizens of South Sudan for that matter, make the judgment. And that judgment must be based on the issues involved. If one misses the issues that matter to the people, one loses no matter how long one talks.
The issues presented to the two Principals for negotiation were the following: Federalism, Institutional Reforms, Wealth sharing, Parameters of permanent constitution making process, Reconstitution of the National Legislature, Transitional Justice, TGoNU, Leadership Structure of the TGoNU, Security arrangement, and Accountability and National Reconciliation.
Salva and his team did not want to negotiate and agree on any of these issues. The only thing that they called a compromise on any of these was for them to acknowledge that federalism is a popular demand by the people of South Sudan. However, they wanted it to be considered only after the transitional period.
Salva attempted to blame others for the collapse of the peace talks. At one time, he blamed it on Dr. Riek Machar; at another time, he blamed it on IGAD for continuously shifting the goal post. That was not true. Yes, IGAD continuously shifted the goal post. Nevertheless, the issues remained. It was Salva who refused to negotiate the issues. If his response to every issue on the table was a ‘No’, then he was the one single-handedly responsible for the collapse of the talks.
The rally on the 18th of March only turned out to be a wrong circus made of lies and threats. As such, the speakers became inconsistent, illogical, dishonest, and vague.
The author is a South Sudanese. He can be reached at