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Let’s just say it: The SPLM party is the problem

By Gai James Kai

January 24, 2015 (SSNA) -- It’s not surprising that the SPLM leadership agrees to some extents in Arusha, Tanzania; it is that such extreme remarks and views are now taken for granted.

We have been studying SPLM politics for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In my past writings, i have criticized both warring parties when i believed it was warranted. Today, however, i have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the SPLM Party.

The SPLM has become an insurgent outlier in South Sudanese’s politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an South Sudanese news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

It is clear that the center of gravity in the SPLM Party has shifted sharply to the wrong. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the National Legislative Assembly are virtually extinct.

What happened? Of course, there were larger forces at work beyond the realignment of the South Sudan. They included the non - mobilization of social conservatives, the anti-tax movement launched by this failed party’s Proposition, the rise of conservative talk and the emergence of News and right-wing blogs. But the real move to the bedrock right starts with two names: Salva Kiir Mayardit and Dr. Riek Machar.

Ironically, after becoming President and Vice President respectively, these two wanted to enhance SPLM’s reputation and was content to compromise with Dr. Jonh Garang when it served their interests. But the forces Salva Kiir unleashed destroyed whatever comity existed across party lines, activated an extreme and virulently anti-democratic base — most recently represented by opposition party activists — and helped drive moderate believers out of National Legislative Assembly. (Some of his progeny, elected in 2010 elections, moved to the failed ruling party, SPLM and polarized its culture of intolerant in the same way.)

Today, thanks to the SPLM - IO, compromise has gone out the window in South Sudan. In the first 13 months of the ruining South Sudan, now these two are nearly to come together again; leaving the orphans whom they have killed their parents stranded in bushes and UN camps.

In the nine and now ten years of the Kiir and Riek’s administration, divided government has been produced, something closer to complete gridlock than we have ever seen in the history of South Sudan or the then Sudan, with partisan divides even leading to last year crackdown of the country.

On financial stabilization and economic recovery, on deficits and debt, and health-care reform, SPLM has been the force behind the widening ideological gaps and the strategic use of partisanship. In the presidential campaign of 2010, SPLM leaders have embraced fanciful policies on taxes payers’ money and spending, kowtowing to their party’s most strident voices.

SPLM often dismiss nonpartisan analyses of the nature of problems and the impact of policies when those assessments don’t fit their ideology. In the face of the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, the party’s leaders and their outside acolytes insisted on obeisance to a supply-side view of economic growth — thus fulfilling Norquist’s pledge — while ignoring contrary considerations.

The results can border on the absurd: In early 2009, several of the eight SPLM co-sponsors of a bipartisan corruption reform plan dropped their support; by early 2010, the others had turned on their own proposal so that there would be zero backing for any bill that came within a mile of Salva Kiir’s reform initiative. 

This attitude filters down far deeper than the party leadership. Rank-and-file the voters endorse the strategy that the party’s elites have adopted, eschewing compromise to solve problems and insisting on principle, even if it leads to gridlock. Democratic voters, by contrast, along with self-identified independents, are more likely to favor deal-making over deadlock.

Oppositions are hardly blameless, and they have their own extreme wing and their own predilection for hardball politics. But these tendencies do not routinely veer outside the normal bounds of robust politics. If anything, under the presidencies of Salva Kiir and his then Deputy, the oppositions have become more of a status-quo party. They are centrist protectors of government, reluctantly willing to revamp programs and trim retirement and health benefits to maintain its central commitments in the face of fiscal pressures.

No doubt, these oppositions were not exactly warm and fuzzy toward Dr. Jonh Garang during his ruling. But recall that they worked hand in glove with him though on the “New Sudan ideology.”

In the National Legislative Assembly, some of the remaining oppositions “Blue Dogs” Dem have been targeted for extinction by redistricting, while even ardent SPLM - DC, such as freshman Dr. Lam Akol, has faced primary challenges from the right for being too accommodationist.

I understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of South Sudan are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.

My advice to the press: Don’t seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?

Also, stop lending legitimacy to NLA filibusters by treating a 60-vote hurdle as routine. The framers certainly didn’t intend it to be. Report individual senators’ abusive use of holds and identify every time the minority party uses a filibuster to kill a bill or nomination with majority support.

Look ahead to the likely consequences of voters’ choices in the upcoming “elections.” How would the candidates govern? What could they accomplish? What differences can people expect from a unified Republican or Democratic government, or one divided between the parties?

In the end, while the press can make certain political choices understandable, it is up to voters to decide. If they can punish ideological extremism at the polls and look skeptically upon candidates who profess to reject all dialogue and bargaining with opponents, then an insurgent outlier party will have some impetus to return to the center. Otherwise, our politics will get worse before it gets better.

(This article is dedicated to my beloved uncle; Gier Diew Kuong who has just been killed by Salva Kiir’s reign of terror. May your soul Rest in Eternal Peace dear uncle.)

The author is a Law Student and columnist who have written numerous articles on politics, economics, democracy, Law and order. He can be reached via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or follow him on Tweeter @gai james kai

Open Letter to President of the Republic of South Sudan, Mr. Salva Kiir Mayardit!

CC:

President Barrack Obama (USA)
UN Security Council
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
Amnesty International (AI)
Union of Journalists in South Sudan (UJOSS)

Date: 23th, January 2015

Subject: Freedom of Expression under attack in South Sudan!

Dear Excellency,

Happy New Year 2015 in your leadership in South Sudan!

January 23, 2015 (SSNA) -- In first place, accept my warm salutation Mr. President and your entire government from National and States level respectively. I hope you are doing well and optimistic about the recent document signed by the Sudan People Liberation Movement (SPLM) Members in Arusha- Tanzania. It’s indeed hopeful for the people of South Sudan to have peace at this particular period of time and go for elections in the entire nation without fear of insecurity in some parts of the Country. I do appreciate your commitment with other SPLM members so much!

Without wasting a lot of time Mr. President! It is my pleasure and honor to salute you at this particular period of time in your respected office. It has been long time without sending you an open letter due to the fact that, I thought things might change in your government in one way or the other but due to what I have observed and contextualized in your leadership, I concluded that I should write to you this precious letter so that, you might listen to it or leave it. Am very much aware, you don’t have time to read documents that are of great important to the Nation.

Your Excellency, it has come to our attention we the professional Journalists from the Republic of South Sudan that we are problem to your government and indeed , what we always do is to inform, educate the citizens of the Country as per principle of Journalism is concern worldwide.

Absolutely, the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011 as well acknowledged the freedom of press and access to information. It’s very big surprise to hear about Journalists detentions, arrests always by your security in Juba. What have changed again from the document that came in to force through your signature in 2011? Did you sign the Constitution when you were sleeping or your attention was taken by something else?

Since South Sudan as the Country got recognition internationally, regionally as the Independence nation in 2011 9th July, most of the Journalists and activists are in exiles due to insecurity threats imposed to them by your security personnel’s in Juba. Very disgraceful!

Your Excellency, it’s not a shame for South Sudan as the Country to have Journalists or activists that always advocate for human rights, rule of law and democratization processes in the Country but according to what is in your leadership, you have gone contrary to your mandate as the President. I know Internationally, President is a symbol for peace, unity and head of the State that work always based on laws and principles. Hence I don’t know whether you follow the right way of taking South Sudanese to democratization processes?  Are you really a symbol for peace and unity in South Sudan? Are you a dictator or what is really happening within you?  Yes or no?

Your comradeship, since South Sudan got Independence on the 9th of July 2011, there has been a number of cases of Journalists, activists being tortured, harassed and other got killed like Isaiah Abraham who was killed intentionally by your security personnel’s in Juba in 2012 December at his residence.

However, killing and torturing is not the only solution to your current problems as the President rather, “the more you torture, kill and threaten Journalists in the Country, the more your problems will increase in your leadership” comrade. It’s just a simple advice to you and your respective cabinets that are part and parcel of corruption cases, tribalism, nepotism and massacre of civilians based on tribal basis

In fact, if I may question your respective office, what has Journalists done to you Mr. President? What is your problem really in South Sudan? How can you be in leadership without friends my President? Why don’t you talk to your security to treat Journalists, activists well in South Sudan?  Very disgraceful scenario that, you always instructed your security personnel’s to hunts for Journalists and activists who always said the reality about your government. When will you get transform upstairs Mr. President?

Coming to reality, in 2012 your security threatens South Sudanese Journalist Ngor Arol of publishing a history regarding your daughter who claimed to have been impregnated by the Ethiopian gentleman and indeed was not absolute due to facts and realities that were investigated by top Journalists in the Country. Therefore, it’s not right time for me to expose but if you wish I could release my details for world consumption but I should reserve it for other days unless otherwise, if there is need or if you want me to justify clearly.

On other hand, Mr. Dengdit Ayok, in his opinion, wrote this about your First Daughter wedding to an Ethiopian man:

This wedding is a demonstration that foreigners have not only monopolized our market, economy and robbed our integrity after penetrating it, but it is also a demonstration that they have taken over our national pride. What else is left if an alien could penetrate all the hedges and invade the house of our President, eloped and impregnated his daughter? Where were the security presidential personnel when that strange guy entered the house of the President?according to Mr. Dengdit Ayok.

In 2014 July, Mr. Dengdit Ayok who is the Columnist for Almasier Newspaper (Arabic newspaper) was almost to be killed by your security in EGPTY-Cairo, and you never set a team to investigate the issue that almost killed South Sudanese Journalist.

Mr. President, your security killed Isaiah Abraham in 2012 in Juba at Gudele. Do you want more Journalists to be kill as well by your useless security and hooligans, or what is your problem about Journalists?  What have Journalists done to you your Excellency? Are you the one who instructed your security to tortured, killed and harassed Journalists in Juba and other parts of the Country?

Furthermore, in October 2014, Daniel Majak Kuac, a reporter with the National Mirror newspaper in Juba, was getting ready to go out on assignment. Majak Kuac was working on a story about the demolition of makeshift structures in the South Sudanese capital. 

His first step was to interview some officials. Next, he was going to interview people who were affected by the demolition. But before Majak Kuac could complete his work, he was arrested. The police confiscated his recorder and his camera and questioned him for three hours.

However, in 2013 17th December in Juba, South Sudanese Journalist Peter Gai Manyuon was tortured and his relatives got killed by your security without proper reason and he was as well arrested for a week by your Military Intelligent (MI) at Gida due to the fact that, he is practicing his Journalistic Profession. And nothing has been done by your government to question those who ransacked the house of the Journalist and killed his relatives in Juba innocently.

More so, Juba-based Radio Bakhita, which is run by the Juba archdiocese, was closed on 16 August 2014 by the National Security Service for broadcasting a report about clashes in Bentiu, in Unity State. It has since been allowed to resume broadcasting on condition that it refrains from talking about politics.And the reason that was mentioned by your security was that, the station broadcasted the news about Bentiu capturing by the insurgencies forces. I think you will not disagree or dispute about Media fraternity being under attack in South Sudan by your leadership.

And lastly not the least, one of the Journalists was beaten almost to death on 21st of January 2015 in South Sudan Capital Juba by your security that you have not trained well. And your governments haven’t investigated the issue behind the scene. What a disgrace to your leadership in South Sudan your Excellency? Have you not lost legitimacy?

What kind of government do you really have globally or on earth?  In facts most of us Journalists from South Sudan have lost hope and trust in you your Excellency due to the fact that, you have lost your direction in leadership and moreover some of Journalists voted for you in 2010 elections in various constituencies across the Country. Do you agree that, Journalists and activists can expose you to the world and you become useless President?

In fact, a journalist working for the Nation Mirror Newspaper by the Name John Anyang was beaten almost to death by the National Security elements on his way to cover a story of demonstrating nurses on 20th of January 2015. All his reporting equipments got confiscated by your security and you haven’t questioned the culprits who are involved in criminal acts in your system.

What country are we living in at this particular period of time? What is happening with freedom of expression and the right of access to information in South Sudan? Do you want to be in South Sudan alone without Journalists and activists? A question, you should answer as a person!

Mr. President, Internationally a Country that does not allow freedom of the press and speech, is always regarded as a failed and fragile state. I think you have agreed with the reports from International Community that concluded that “South Sudan as the Country is a failed State” and they entails the reasons as amount to lack of freedom of press, lack of good governance, no respect for rule of law, corruption cases and tribalism that have been identified as the vision and mission of the government you lead. Do you agree with that my President?

In conclusion, Mr. President, if you really want to stay peacefully in the Republic of South Sudan, respect Media law , ethnics by allowing freedom of expression and speech to prevails in the entire Republic of South Sudan. If you continue targeting Journalists, activists then know that world will remove you from your sweet leadership by all means because, you might be called a “primitive President” that doesn’t allow Journalists to do their work freely.  Do you want to be calls primitive President on Earth? Yes or no?

Because I like you due to the fact that, I voted for you in 2010 election do something to grantee the security of Journalists and activists in South Sudan.

Let 2015, be the year where South Sudanese will have peace in their minds and have freedom of expression wherever they are at this particular period of time!

South Sudan was ranked 124th in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index in 2013, falling by twelve places since 2012. Reporters without Borders cited the murder of Isaiah Diing Abraham Chan Awuol, who was shot dead by an unidentified man on December 12, 2012 as the reason for the country's fall in ranking. Do you want your Country ranking to go up to zero level?

Best wishes!

Peter Gai Manyuon
Independent Journalist and Columnist
Blog:  www.independentjournalistpgm.wordpress.com
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Critique of SPLM Reunification Agreement in Arusha

By James Okuk, PhD

January 22, 2015 (SSNA) -- The Agreement on the Reunification of the SPLM that was signed in January 21, 2015 in Arusha, Tanzania, suggests three problematic tends despite the fact that it is in the name of peace and reconciliation but invitation of more pressure on the principals.

First, the East African leaders are desperate to see peace being restored to the Republic of South Sudan even if this involves farce, contradictions and renewed conflict when implementation stage arrives down from utopia.

Secondly, the generic content of the agreement leaves a lot to be desired in the level of political thinking and maturity from the SPLM’s factional cadres who negotiated it; you don’t see any amusing sense of rigorous intellectual work in that agreement. The negotiators might have been pre-occupied with the psyche of ‘what will each of them tell Dr. John Garang in the land of death if SPLM disintegrates’. They seem not to care for the Republic of South Sudan, its people, other political parties, resources and future.

Thirdly, the fate of that agreement is linked to the long-awaited the success of Addis Ababa IGAD-led peace talks. That is, if Addis Ababa peace talks collapse, the Arusha reunification agreement will be declared null and void with regret of wasted resources and time. Many available indications are not in favor of successful conclusion of Addis Ababa peace talks, particularly the issues of two standing armed forces in one country, management of oil money and government top positions. Thus, there is nothing yet to celebrate about Arusha agreement because it is not a break-through deal. Oppositely, it is Addis Ababa awaited break-through that would make Arusha a celebrity. The caro is still placed infront of the horse to block it from moving. Hence, pessimism should reign via realism before optimism gets in!

I

Articles 23 and 39 of the agreement made it hard for my throat to swallow and my stomach to digest the text. Nothing should be allowed to remain vague in-between if the SPLM leaders who converged in Arusha are sincere in establishing the SPLM-Reunited. Why should a reunified body still want to operate as different separate groups? A party is never united until it has a unified leadership. The current destructible war was a result of the disunited SPLM leadership. We already had the benefits of doubts, especially from the case of SPLM-United of 1991 which was abandoned by Dr. Riek Machar in order for him to form SSIM. Why repeat experimenting something whose results are known in advance and you expect a different result. Einstein will call this scientific insanity. The two articles damage the core soul of the Arusha’s SPLM-Reunited beyond repair of CCM Secretary-General even if he builds a permanent home in Juba to follow-up the implementation. The three SPLM factions shall remain as groups in the Political Bureau and in the Government since they shall be represented there equitably and proportionally respectively. But perhaps, this is what the SPLM's Arusha agreement calls 'genuine pluralism' (article 5). This will mean that no unity is yet around the corner for the entire leadership of the SPLM-Reunited, apart from tactics of coming to power and staying thereto intact using Machiavellian utilitarianism!

II

As far as there is term limits for holding offices of the SPLM’s National and States Chairpersons (article 30), nothing was said about the offices of the Secretary-General and other Secretariats. No term limits for them. Why? Perhaps, Pagan Amum, Anne Itto, Suzanne Jambo and other secretaries are going to remain the SPLM-SG and Secretaries for life. Lucky are they!

III

The SPLM showed no interest in promoting multi-party liberal democracy in the whole document though militarism and sectarianism was deplored. The document talked of pluralism only (article 5). That could be the reason why Hon. Awet Akot, Hon. Lual Deng and few other SPLM-Diehards would like to see the SPLM-DC abandoning its opposition role and merging with the SPLM-Reunited. At the end, the result will be a one-party state with pluralism of its wider membership. Is this the Republic of South Sudan we fought for?

IV

There shall not be government elections on 30th June 2015. Article 19 puts peace before elections by deferring SPLM convention and other arrangements that necessitate participation in government elections. The law suit against holding elections that was announced by NEC, is now gaining momentum of more evidence in favor of the National Alliance of political parties and civil society organizations that are outside the current government.

V

We shall no longer see Gen. Paul Malong Awan chairing SPLM affairs of Northern Bahr El Ghazal State. Article 12 tells him so, though it did not as well prohibit Ambassadors from being SPLM card holders. As we speak now, many Ambassadors of South Sudan in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation beat their chests of being loyal SPLM members, and they are deployed abroad and to strategic offices based on this manifest loyalty. For example, at the moment there is no any single head of diplomatic mission of South Sudan abroad who is not a declared SPLM loyalist. The SPLM's Arusha document had ignored totally this diplomatic anomalie while it tackled the case of armed forces. Diplomats are the unarmed army generals of a country in the forefront of the defense of foreign policy. South Sudan should not tolerate partisanship and sectional politicization in its diplomacy.

VI

For the SPLM to apologize (article 2 ) for the unforgivable mess it created in South Sudan and for it to account the criminal convicts in its membership (article11), is a notable acknowledgement of the critique some of us laid on the first signed framework in Arusha last year. What about the commanders and the criminals of corruption? Are they going to be accounted and unwelcome to the SPLM?

VII

Articles 8 and 13 want the SPLM not to be separated from the government. The government is called SPLM’s Government rather than the Government of the Republic of South Sudan. Why should we have a party government unless we are confirming to be a one-party state? The government should belong to all while the political party to its members only. The Westphalian nation-state dictates so. The two should not be mixed and exchanged at will. It shall look like forcing bull’s horns on a hornless donkey.

VIII

All in all, the SPLM didn't hint to any move of changing its name within the declared reform agenda so that the reunited party becomes re-brandedly relevant to the Republic of South Sudan. So where is the SPLM-Reunited transitioning to, if it is not willing to separate from the Sudan in order for it to adapt to South Sudan? “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." Charles Darwin.

Bye bye to Arusha even without bringing home its real spirit of 1967. All eyes should now be starred towards Addis Ababa, because that is where the salvation of South Sudan is going to come from, if at all, it is to remain a lucky country in the world.

Dr. James Okuk is a lecturer and public analyst in the area of politics. He lives in Juba and can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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