By James Gatdet Dak
December 15, 2014 (SSNA) -- After many painful decades of destructive war of liberation against successive oppressive regimes in Khartoum, people of South Sudan gained their hard won freedom on 9 July 2011.
The independence which resulted from an overwhelming vote in favour of separation from the rest of Sudan, in an internationally monitored referendum, was thought to be the beginning of the freedom at last.
It was thought that lives would be rebuilt in the state-nation building as good governance with selfless spirit would supersede selfish gains. It was thought that peaceful plural democratic politics would be adopted and embraced as prerequisites for justice, stability and prosperity.
Little did the down trodden masses know that they were going yet for another protracted cycle of unnecessary internal bloodshed and self-destruction.
General Salva Kiir Mayardit, the first president of the Republic of South Sudan, has betrayed his people and the nation. He has betrayed the trust of the people of South Sudan bestowed upon him in August 2005 and April 2010.
Kiir had an overwhelming support from his colleagues, and of course from the South Sudanese masses, irrespective of ethnicity, who stood behind him from the onset when he succeeded our former leader, Dr. John Garang de Mabior, in August 2005.
He also started well when he boldly decided to reconcile and reunite with the Other Armed Groups (OAGs), led by late General Paulino Matip Nhial, returning to the fold their supporters among the populace.
Kiir also had a committed able team of colleagues in the ruling party (SPLM) and government. This team led by his former right-hand man, Dr. Riek Machar Teny, went through thick and thin, shuttling between Juba and Khartoum, and successfully negotiated the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
The team also ensured that Kiir was elected in April 2010, renewed his mandate and continued with the mission to achieve independence. Despite the fact that there were unbearable weaknesses in his leadership as captain of the ship, the team continued to tolerate such weaknesses so that any internal conflict did not arise and overshadow the main mission.
This was to avoid chances by Khartoum to take advantage of unfavourable internal situation which might jeopardize the long awaited exercise of referendum on the right of self-determination.
The team made independence of South Sudan a priority number one above other critical issues on democracy and governance.
Unfortunately, President Kiir was not prepared for the state-nation building after independence. He displayed an apparent act of apostasy and deviated from the vision and principle objectives of the party. The President defiantly displayed a misguided one-man show and continued to do so even in post independent era and after eight years in power.
President Kiir dashed the hopes and high expectations of the people when his fascist administration continued to indulge in corruption with impunity. Tribalism, acute inadequacy in delivery of basic services and lack of well-planned socio-economic and physical infrastructural developments were lingering on.
Instead of appreciating and compensating the people of South Sudan with untrammeled freedom, rule of law and democracy, unity and development for their suffering in the liberation struggle and for standing behind him for eight years and counting, Kiir chose to walk the path of dictatorship, division and lack of development. He finally plunged the young nation into civil war on 15 December 2013 and the consequent predicament.
A patriotic statesman who claimed to have liberated his people would not betray the very people and the nation in the way president Kiir has done it!
He has stooped so low that he decided to defend his position with bloody iron fist against reformists and democratic processes in leadership successions in the party and government. He did not learn a positive thing from the political life and leadership of the South African icon, Nelson Mandela, whose burial service he attended, nor read books about Julius Nyerere of Tanzania.
Kiir as chairman of the SPLM (currently in government) defied messages which he, his colleagues and the populace clearly read on the wall when all the states secretariats of the ruling party in 2012 summarized their report after exhaustive consultations with the people in which the report clearly stated that the SPLM had lost vision and direction.
The party chairman and his colleagues were reminded of the need to check what went wrong that led to the loss of vision and direction. Thus, they understood there was need for reforms and maybe change of guards in order to rejuvenate the party’s leadership and revitalize its vision and redirect its policies.
The party’s constitution necessitated leadership contest in every five years, and in this case, from May 2008 to May 2013. So it was never a crime for any leader or member of the party to decide and express desire to contest for the top seat or any other position ahead of a planned national convention?
Machar as the next senior officer and some of his colleagues had to act in trying to salvage the party and nation from near collapse. They declared their interest to constitutionally contest for the chair.
In reaction, president Kiir decided to unconstitutionally go around the process by first blocking further follow up meetings of the political bureau, the highest executive organ of the SPLM, from taking place.
He went on to unconstitutionally dissolve party structures with the exception of his own office, strangely.
Finally, the president faked a military coup in order to arrest, dehumanize or eradicate the reformists and contesters. This was an attempt to silent voices critical of the way he was running the party.
There was never a planned coup in the first place. This is why the case collapsed in his own court in Juba. There was no single evidence. There was no single army officer in the army headquarters implicated for allegedly taking part in the military coup attempt.
Those arrested on the night of 15 December and the days that followed were all party leaders who were awakened and surprised by sounds of AK-47s when they were asleep and unaware.
This is because their meetings days before the 15 December incident were simply calling on President Kiir to convene a meeting for the party’s political bureau in an attempt to reconcile the differences and chart a way forward, where basic documents were to be passed.
This author was in attendance and actually took the minutes and participated in the drafting of the resolutions of the last meeting chaired by Machar with participation of more than ten senior party leaders, most of whom were the current former detainees led by the former SG, Pagan Amum Okiech.
The meeting was held in the house of Mama Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior days before the 15 December. There was nothing militant about it. It was all about reconciliation in the party.
But when Kiir called for an abrupt meeting at Nyakuran Culture Center in Juba and bent on forcefully passing the basic documents [manifesto, rules and regulations, code of conduct and constitution], without the necessary discussions and amendments, he was already in bad mood during which he sprayed insults, threatening his colleagues, instead of reconciling with them.
Certain quarters in South Sudan and from foreign countries however contributed to the confusion and helped in hardening the dictatorial tendencies which president Kiir developed. Bad advisors who only saw their interest in fishing in the dirty water didn’t want a democratic process which would have seen their bread winner exit the throne.
What the heck is democracy, they whispered in confidential circles. Kiir seemed to have picked such ill-intentioned advices from his close loyalists and foreign mentors, taking it as an assurance of not being alone in the encouraged collective greed for power and wealth.
These are the individuals and groups who now try to throw the blame on Dr. Riek Machar for challenging Salva Kiir in the first place, ignoring the fact that the constitution allowed any party member to expressively challenge the chair ahead of a national convention.
Thus, Machar and two other colleagues including Mama Rebecca Nyandeng and SG Pagan Amum expressed their respective desires to contest for the chair. This they revealed in February 2013 just three months to the planned SPLM convention in May, if the schedule was to be followed. Therefore there was nothing wrong about it.
There are some who continue to argue and ask, but why did Machar dare to contest against his boss while he was still his deputy in the party and government? These hypocrites should be reminded that there is no article in the SPLM constitution which stipulates that a deputy chairman shall not contest against his chairman.
Yet the same people would contradictorily argue and ask, but why didn’t Machar challenge Kiir’s weaknesses when the two were in the fold for eight years from 2005 to 2011? I believe the same people would equally blame him if he persistently did so before independence and Kiir resisted and war broke out. It was wise to concentrate on priority number one (independence).
Nevertheless, Machar tried so hard to advise and show Kiir his weaknesses and offered him remedies which the latter rejected for so long. Even though he delegated some of his executive powers to his deputy, Kiir continued to sabotage Machar’s efforts. Machar only hanged on with him for the sake of unity, hoping that Kiir would change in time, particularly after independence.
Long story short, president Kiir should save the nation by let-going his burning desire to remain president for life. He should not continue to hold South Sudan hostage when he failed his chance for nearly 10 years now.
His visionless rule is characterized by rampant corruption, tribal divisions, lack of development and deadly violence. He should step down and allow others to put the house in order. This would be an applauded bold decision if he did it.
A meaningful peace agreement on the basis of a federal system of governance needs to be reached between the warring parties and the war stopped.
The SPLM party and leaders, without Kiir, would then reconcile, reinstate and reconstitute their pre-15 December leadership hierarchy to lead an interim period before the next national convention and general elections.
A genuine democratic political multi-party system needs to be instituted in the South Sudanese politics. Mergers or alliances between like-mind political parties should also be encouraged in order to come out with few, but strong political parties capable of challenging and checking each other.
Reforms in the party and in the various sectors in government should be introduced and implemented.
Finally, president Kiir should be mindful of whatever good legacy he is destroying in whole. He should be courageous enough to wake up one morning and decide that the nation is above what seems to be his desire for lifetime presidency. Ten years in power is enough for one to explore his or her ability and capacity as a leader.
He has to quit for the sake of the people he claimed to have liberated, but yet let down at the critical time when they were yearning for unity, stability and prosperity.