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Vice-president Kiir Needs to Confront SPLM tribalists to Unite the South by G. Buay Reath

11/26/2005 2:26 am

Vice-president Kiir Needs to Confront SPLM tribalists to Unite the South
G. Buay Reath*

I am personally greateful to H.E. Salva Kiir for keeping his words. He
promised me over phone when I talked to him in Washington that he would seek
to resume dialogue with South Sudan Defense Force (SSDF) as soon as he
returned to Khartoum. It's now obvious that he will stick to his promise
when he contacted SSDF leadership in Khartoum on Nov, 22, 2005.
However, I am writing this piece of article to inform him publicly about the
things he has to do to achieve South Sudan unity. If I want to advise him
privately, I would just call him via his cellular phone. But I want the
South Sudan public to know the issues I want to convey to him. Before doing
so, I want to clear the air poisoned by Garang's loyalists, who attack
respected elder Bona Malwal of wrong doing. First of all, Bona Malwal is not
to blame for the formation of South Sudan government which resulted in the
exclusion of the Nuer. Some folks want us to believe that Bona has something
to do with it. Bona Malwal is not a member of the SPLM. He is the member of
South Sudan Democratic Forum. He is an advisor to President Bashir in his
capacity as a member of the Democratic Forum. If he has any relationship
with Salva Kiir, it is on personal basis, not political.

The formation of the government of the South, if one may talk to Riek
Machar, has nothing to do with Bona Malwal. The government was designed by
what is now knowned as "the Gogrial kitchen cabinet". Bona Malwal is not a
member of that shadow government. That kitchen cabinet is composed of
self-appointed advisors of Salva Kiir, who happened to be the architech of
the formation of the government.Those individuals are the remnants of Abel
Alier's government of Anya-Nya one. Some people may call them tribalists.
Others may regard them as "old school thinkers" to borrow the words of late
Dr. Garang, who categorically considered the Abel Alier's government
politicians as "the Southern Bourgeosie clique".

The question one may ask is: Why did the self-appointed advisors form the
government of the South with the approval of Salva Kiir? The answer is what
constitutes the reason for writing this article. First of all, factional
politics within SPLM party needs to be explored before we talk about South
Sudan politics in general. Before the death of Garang, SPLM was divided into
those who supported Salva Kiir to get rid of Garang and those who supported
the latter. The so-called SPLA young officers, who were former Garang's
personall bodyguards, plus some financially desperate individuals, supported
Garang. Kiir's group, composed of mostly polticians from Bhar El Ghazal, who
were marginalized by Garang, called for removal of Garang to restructure the
South Sudan politics. People need to refer to what is known as "The Rumbek
Emergency Meeting" of 2004 to refresh their memory about the cleavages
within SPLM.

The death of Garang without bloodshed in the South is a gift from God not
only to Kiir's group but also to South Sudan Democratic Forum, SSDF and
other political groups who saw Garang as an obstacle to South-South
dialogue. As the International Crisis Group expert says, "the death of
Garang will make a lot of things easier because he was an arrogant dictator
who cannot differentiate fact from fiction". Indeed, the demise of Garang
from South Sudan political scene must be regarded as one of the turning
points in history that will bring about fraternity, unity and forgiveness
among South Sudanese. If John Garang did not die on July 30, there would
have been civil war in the South on August 1st. The SSDF military leadership
ordered all its officers to go to their units on July 28 and be prepared for
war. As somebody who has high level contact with SSDF, I know nothing would
have prevented Southerners from war. But because God of South Sudan does not
want people to die after the conclusion of the Comprehensive Peace
Agreement, he decided to take Garang alone.

The formation of the government of national unity revealed divisions within
SPLM. Garang's loyalists who were supposed to occupy important positions in
the North were purged. Nhial Deng Nhial was replaced with Dr. Lam Akol. As
some analysts correctly said, "Dr. Garang is not happy in the grave for the
appointment of Lam Akol as the Foreign Minister". Of course, only God knows
what position Lam Akol would get if Garang were alive. But Lam became
Foreign Minister because of his loyalty to Salva Kiir against Garang in

The formation of South Sudan government that led to marginalization of SSDF
and certain ethnic groups within the SPLM was a compromise between Garang's
loyalists and Salva Kiir's. Elders like Abel Alier approached "the Gogrial
kitchen cabinet" and convinced them to prioritise the unity of SPLM.
Prioritization of the unity of the SPLM means rejection of the demands of
the SSDF and other political groups. Before the formation of the GOSS, Salva
Kiir himself promised SSDF to have two ministers in the government. All his
promises were rejected by the shadow cabinet. The only party that got one
full ministerial post is Democratic Forum. The "Gogrial kitchen cabinet"
formed the government without regard to the CPA, which clearly states that
SPLM would get 70%, NCP 15% and other South Sudan parties 15%. From South
Sudan parties, only the Democratic Forum has a position within the cabinet.
Parties like USAP, SANU and Labour have been marginalized. It is ironic
because USAP and SANU have two ministerial positions in the government of
national unity, but not in the South. That is a clear violation of the CPA.
When I asked Salva Kiir to explain the contradiction, he was unable to
convince me at all. However, the bottom line is that Salva was defeated by
his self-appointed advisors who were backed up by Abel Alier and Bor group.
One may infer from logic of the game that the GOSS formed is a compromise
between Dinka Bor and Dinka Bhar El Ghazal.

The next phase of Salva Kiir political problems is how to strike a
compromise with SSDF in order to create a unified South Sudan. I will not
focus much on the details of the need for a compromise with SSDF for
security reasons; however, I will only deal with theories that should bring
about that compromise. First of all, Salva Kiir must neutralize tribalists
within the SPLM who do not want the resumption of the dialogue with SSDF. As
the President of the South, his first loyalty must be towards the South, not
tribe. The old school of thought in the South states that a leader must be
loyalt to his tribe. But tribal loyalty is seen as a source of the failure
of many states in Africa. A leader needs to develop a political culture in
which he should fight his kin and kith who are enemies of the unity of the
people in the state. A state is always built on principles which requires
statemanship to keep it together. Abraham Lincoln gave his life to free
African Americans from slavery. John F. Kenedy did the same thing by turning
against white racists who wanted to maintain Jim Crow in the Southern States
of America. In South Sudan context, Kiir must first go to war with Dinka
tribalists before even dreaming of uniting the South. He has to purge all
the Dinka tribalists in his government who are disloyalt to South-South
dialogue with SSDF. He has to demonstrate in action that he is a leader of
all South Sudan tribes.

The failure of Salva Kiir's government will come from his stance to deal
with tribalists within his party who are not interested in the correct way
of managing ethnic pluralism, which is a central fact of political life in
the South. There is school of thought which argues that the protest against
marginalization of certain ethnic groups within GOSS is motivated by tribal
reasons rather than the mismanagement of ethnic pluralism by "the Gogrial
kitchen cabinet". But the thinkers of such a school of thought are
intellectually incapacitated by their own ignorance of political reality in
Africa. The discourse on conflict in Africa tends to be dominated by group
grievances beneath which inter-group hatreds lurk, often traced back through
history. When leaders of ethnically heterogenous state fail to manage
pluralism, the result is always instability because the excluded groups
resort to the use of force to express their grievances. By playing upon a
sense of grievance, the excluded groups may therefore be able to get
additional recruits more cheaply. In grievance theory, if one is consumed
with grievance against the government, one may well prefer to rebel than to
continue to suffer its continuation. There was no Union of Nuer Community in
North America (UNCONA) before the formation of the government of national
unity. The UNCONA was established by the Nuer in North America to bring
about Nuer unity against marginalization in Sudan. Whether we like it or
not, the UNCONA is a force that needs attention from South Sudan
politicians. If the Nuer civil society are united against Salva Kiir's
government, Nuer politicians like Dr. Wal Duany, Riek Machar, Gatluak Deang,
John Luk, David Koak and etc will follow the will of UNCONA leading to
politicization of ethnicity in the South.

It was once thought that ethnic heterogeneity facilitates state failure in
Africa, while homogeneity corrolates strongly with success. The case against
this argument has become considerably stronger in recent years. The ethnic
mix of a country does not by itself lead to cataclysmic outcomes, but its
management. Somalia and Rwanda are two of the most ethnically homogenous
states in Africa. Yet they are the source of human suffering in the 1990s.
By contrast, one of the most stable countries in Africa, Cameroon, is also
its most ethnically and linguistically diverse. Cameroon is believed to have
over 150 ethnic groups. Ethnicity has proven to be a destablising factor
only when used by frustrated and insecure elites for their own end. Even
though ethnicity has been a continual source of political tension in Ghana,
it has not persistently polarized the polity as it has in Nigeria or Sudan.

South Africa did not have an ethnic problem until chief Buthelezi decided to
fan the flames of Zulu nationalism in order to assure for himself a role in
post-apartheid government. Likewise, the former Yugoslavia was one of the
most multi-ethnic, stable and relatively successful states in Europe until
Slobodan Milosevic sought to maintain his power base by resurrecting latent
Serbian nationalism using local Bosnian Serb leaders as surrogates. The
slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda was orchestrated by insecure Hutu extremists
who feard that former President Juvenal Habyarimana was giving away too much
to the minority Tutsis. Salva Kiir needs to know these facts because if he
fails to disarm SPLM tribalists early, they will instead disarm him in the
long run. It's advisable for him to get rid of them now for the sake of
peace in the South rather than allowing them to impede dialogue with SSDF.
Purging extremists within the SPLM is much better than risking a civil war
with SSDF.

In conclusion, the appropriate step HE Salva Kiir must take is to confront
the SPLM tribalists early so that he nurtures political culture of
compromise. South Sudan needs leadership which transcends tribal loyalties
to bring about peace. What SSDF is asking for is its share of power like any
group in Sudan. Kiir must demonstrate spirite of statemanship within the
first three years of the CPA.

*The author is the Chairman of South Sudan Democratic Forum-Canada. He is
also special advisor to Maj. Gen. Paulino Matip. He can be reached at
[email protected]

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