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SPLM 2nd Convention: A Hard Test in Democratic Transformation *By James Okuk
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Mar 3, 2008 - 8:54:45 AM

SPLM 2nd Convention: A Hard Test in Democratic Transformation

 

*By James Okuk

 

Some people might have developed a dislike for my articles and others an interest in them. This is normal because human beings have different tastes. I could adopt an indifference attitude out of some reasons (fear, non-concern, selfish interest, etc.) but my conscience tells me not to do so. In an international conference on “ Africa , Globalization and Justice” in 2006 at Catholic University of Eastern Africa (few months after my enrolment at the University Nairobi), I introduced myself to the audience before I presented my paper that “I am pursuing PhD to avoid PhD.” It was a surprise for many of them because of the appearance contradiction. But I told them to relax so that I untie the acronym for clarification: ‘I mean I am doing Permanent head Development (PhD) to avoid Permanent head Damage (PhD). To my surprise, the hall was filled with laughter and applauds at an instance. Some of articles I have been presenting to many readers are part of the first PhD. I have been negative on some decisions taken by some leaders in the SPLM but not for a sinister motive; only for a hope of transformation that can yield fruitful democratic results for the party and the country. I know it is not a good thing to defecate into the same dish you have been eating from. I pay much attention to the SPLM because I value party’s self-evaluation more than finger-pointing. I look at the SPLM as a party that deserves building as it is just growing like a new child and requires some educative thrashing at times. The old political parties are deformed to be reformed because they have developed resistance to lashes like the repeaters in the school of democracy and its tough journey.

 

The following are the hard test questions I mentioned in the title above. I hope they will get some answers for the concerned SPLM cadres and supporters before and during the coming SPLM 2nd Convention:

 

1) Who is going to be the Chairperson and the Secretary-General of the SPLM after the 2nd Convention? (Of course it will depend on who will be elected by the General Assembly there but it is important to think of the candidates before time and allow them to campaign among the delegates for transparency and better chance of evaluating them for delivery leadership).

 

2) Is the candidate who will win the party Chairpersonship going to become the President of the GoSS and automatically the First Vice President (1stVP) of the Republic of the Sudan like what has been the case before the untimely death of our hero of the CPA and after his succession by our Joshua?

 

3) What will happen if the current SPLM Chairman fails to become the boss of the party after the 2nd Convention? Is he going to maintain his current position as the president of GoSS and 1st VP of the Sudan or will he give way to the new party’s Chairperson elect to take over the government portfolios he is holding now? Is he going to accept to become an ordinary veterans like Adwok Luigi, Joseph Lagu, Abel Alier, etc., or is he going to cling to the party’s top ladder like the traditional and family-dynasty political parties of Northern Sudan (Umma, DUP and Communists)?

 

4) Is the candidate who will win the Chairpersonship of the SPLM in the 2nd Convention the same one who is going to compete on the party platform for either the Presidency of the Sudan or the Presidency of the GoSS? What happens if he/she happened to pass the post for the Sudan: is he/she going to allow the candidate who will pass the post in Southern Sudan (from the SPLM or other southern parties) to become the Vice President of the Sudan – in case he/she is a southerner? If that successful candidate happened to be from NCP or other northern political parties will he/she accept him/her to be in charge of Southern Sudan ? What will then happen to the post of the 1st VP and the one of the Vice President in that case: Is he/she going to appoint someone from the North (including Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile State) but from SPLM or someone from Non-SPLM parties to fill either one of those Vice President posts as required conditionally by the CPA? Will his/her government continue to be the Government of National Unity (GoNU) – as it has been before the mid-term general elections – or will it be the government of the majority/coalesced ruling party? Will the SPLM accept to be an opposition party out of government if it lost the elections? (NCP has already stated last year that it is willing to occupy the back benches in the Legislative Assembly in case they lost the coming elections).

 

5) Is the SPLM going to continue with the current unfaithful partnership and unfriendly collegiality with the NCP? If they decide to divorce and look for other partners what will be the fate of the CPA since it is stated clearly that its implementation will be ensured by the two signatory partners? Are SPLM and NCP going to contest in the coming 2009 elections as a coalition parties or they are going to do it without one of the partners? If they happened to agree to continue together who is going to contest where? Mr. Al-Bashir for the National Presidency endorsed by the SPLM or Mr. Mayardit for the regional Presidency endorsed by the NCP or vice versa and for any other agreed candidate?

 

These are tough and sensitive questions whose answers cannot be produced piecemeal and at a glance. That is, there is going to be totally different and complicated political calculus before and after the results of 2009 general elections, especially in regards to the presidency and the status of the GoNU and the GoSS executive branches for the constitutional post holders, because the inclusiveness and diversity used in the selections and appointments before 2009 are not said to continue to work after. Because of this tough calculations, SPLM leadership must ensure that those who are going to find answers in the 2nd Convention are not just a stupid majority brought anyhow to attend the convention, but rather those who could scratch their heads and find common comprehensive answers to help the party overcome the challenges.

 

It is clear and straight forward before 2009 elections because article 2.3.5 of the CPA which is incorporated in the interim constitution stipulates: “Until such time as elections are held, the current incumbent President (or his successor) shall be the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF). The current SPLM Chairman (or his successor) shall be the First Vice President and shall at the same time hold the posts of the President of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) and Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).”

 

But after elections it is totally hidden what will happen because article 2.3.7 of the CPA only states: “The President shall be elected in national elections, the timing of which shall be subject to the agreement of the two parties. The President elect shall appoint two Vice Presidents, one from the South and the other from the North. If the President-elect is from the North, the position of the First Vice President shall be filled by the person who has been elected to the post of President of the Government of Southern Sudan, as the President’s appointee to the said position. In the even that a person from the South wins the Presidential elections, the President-elect shall appoint the First Vice President from the North. All the other provisions in this agreement relating to presidency shall continue to apply.” (Here any person from Abyei Area will not qualify to be appointed to either of the Vice President posts because residents of Abyei Area will have to wait until 2011 to determine their status either as Southerners or Northerners but by then the CPA mandate would have expired). Here also it is vague as from which party are the Vice President appointees going to be: A Northerner from SPLM or a Southerner from the NCP or any other Southerner or Northerner in any winning party?

 

Back to the SPLM, I would want to recommend that there is a necessity to be clearer on separation of the party from the government (at all levels: National, Regional, State and Local); the case which was (understandably) not there at the 1st Convention in 1994. The 1st Convention was within a one movement territory of the ‘New Sudan’ but Naivasha has buried the ‘New Sudan’ together with ‘Civilization Project’ (Mushru el hadhari) and brought forth two clear entities – Southern Sudan and Northern Sudan . For it not to confuse the people and go contrary to the South-North paradigm of the CPA, the SPLM delegates should be clear about these two divisions.

 

SPLM is acknowledged as the party which managed to constitutionally (though not necessarily practically) separate the state from religion and it can still find more credits if it goes ahead with a ‘fierce urgency’ to separate the party from the government, even if it becomes the ruling party in the country. Let SPLM remember the advice of South African ANC party in New Site in February 2005 that it should not put all its strong cadres into the government. This separation is healthy for proper checks and balances in democratisation. It is not a must that the Chairperson or the Deputies or the Secretary General of SPLM has to be in the government. This is for safety of the party because if the government gets dirty in its politics, the party can still remain clean to be admired by the people. Also this separation can safe the SPLM from possible emergency 3rd Convention (before the five years could end) if its Chairperson fails the government elections but have passed the party elections. This separation is a must in successful democratisation, unless SPLM is striving to adopt the communists system of one party state where the Chairperson and the Secretary-General are everything and everything is them in the party.

 

There are no absolute answers in politics and I am not trying to mystify the reality here because it is commonly said in Arabic that “reality got lost amongst the philosophers” – raht el hagiga bein el falasafa. This saying is true for ‘Machiavello-Sophists’ and not ‘Aristotleo-Platonic’ philosophers. I am trying to apply Prof. Francis Deng Majok’s wisdom that “what is not said is what divides.” Politics is a complex public management art and it can put you into awkward and failure situation if you do not approach it sophisticatedly with open-mindedness. Since SPLM is still like a new child now, struggling to grow from a guerrilla movement to a mature political party, I would like its leaders and supporters to consider the following poem from an Indian Child Rights activist Guru, Amita Agarwa:

 

If a child lives with criticism he learns to condemn

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight

If a child lives with ridicule he learns to be shy

If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty

If a child lives with tolerance he learns to be patient

If a child lives with encouragement he learns confidence

If a child lives with praise he learns to appreciate

If a child lives with fairness he learns justice

If a child lives with security he learns to have faith

If a child lives with approval he learns to like himself

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship he learns to find love in the world.

 

To develop a better world of the future, the SPLM child must grow up in a positive environment that provides a sense of justice in all spheres of life (political, economic, social and cultural) in the united or separated Sudan . The child of today is the real future of tomorrow (if it doesn’t become sickened or died). Sincere investment in SPLM as a child will be an investment for the future of the party with better example to the old parties. After that 2nd Convention, SPLM should make its MPs – people’s representatives – to be more responsive by obliging them to go to their respective constituencies before the beginning of each session, so that genuine problems of the people may be gathered and presented before the August House to be dealt with immediately. For authentic democracy to thrive within the SPLM institution, the public must remain well informed about the administration of the party – give the members their right to know by availing photocopies of the party records and plans of concern to the public. All that is needed to make SPLM a successful party of the people (rather than personality cult) is the political will combined with effective and efficient administrative support that does not mock democracy. Long live SPLM!

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* James Okuk is a PhD student in the University of Nairobi . He could be reached anytime at: [email protected]

 



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