The Dilemma of The SPLM: Is it justified? By: Ngino Nikako
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Nov 21, 2007 - 12:49:07 PM
By: Ngino Nikako
The most recent impasse brought about by the SPLM’s decision to suspend the participation of its members in the National government brought to the fore legitimate concerns about the future of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the consequences of any breakdown of cooperation between the two parties to it.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) is, no doubt, a great achievement for the Sudanese people. It did bring to an end the 21-year civil war in southern Sudan and other war-affected areas adjacent to it and provides the constitutional basis for the current setup in Sudan. Of particular interest to southern Sudan is the fact that the CPA promised the Southerners the right to vote in a referendum on self-determination in the year 2011. This is a tremendous achievement worth clinging to. The CPA is more importantly predicated on a partnership between the National Congress (NC) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). This partnership demands from the two partners to deliver in full on their obligations and commitments towards the CPA.
In accordance with the provisions of the CPA, the Government of National Unity (GONU) is composed of 52% NC, 28% SPLM, 14% other Northern political forces and 6% other Southern political forces. By definition this is a coalition government in which the dominance (80%) is to the two partners. Article 72 of the Interim National Constitution of the Republic of Sudan 2005 (INC) – itself derived from the CPA – defines the functions of the National Council of Ministers (NCM). One of the functions, (72(b)), is the “implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement”.
An important characteristic of a coalition government is ruling by consensus. The policies of such a government are arrived at by consensus within the Council of Ministers. Hence, there is no party in the coalition that can impose its policies on the others. In fact, a minority party in the coalition which is focused with well defined policies may influence the policies adopted by the coalition government a great deal. The problem with the SPLM is that it is a minority partner with no clear policy positions on economic, social and political issues debated in the NCM. Yet, some of its influential leaders would want the policies adopted by the NCM to be SPLM’s policies!! It is like expecting to reap a harvest when you planted no seeds in the first place.
Even the reshuffle of the NCM about which a lot of fuss was made is not as it was portrayed. Appendix B2 of Annexure II ( Implementation Modalities and Global Implementation Matrix and Appendices) of the CPA states:
“The following appointments shall be made through consultations within the
1. Appointment of the Governor of the States of SK (Southern Kordofan) and BN (Blue Nile).
2. Appointment of Constitutional Post holders in the Government of National Unity (Ministers and State Ministers).
It is clear from this quotation that Ministers and State Ministers in GONU are appointed ‘through consultations within the Presidency”. This means that it cannot be taken for granted that the head of the executive (in this case, the President of the Republic) has no say in the appointment of the Ministers and State Ministers presented to him by each party in the GONU. Being the person who supervises the performance of these ministers and oversees the coordination of all the ministries, he has the right to object on concrete and specific reasons to the appointment or relief of any minister as presented by his/her party. This is why the CPA stressed “consultations” and not “automatic appointment”. Otherwise, weak ministers who are not able to perform their duties well will continue to be in the NCM simply because their parties want them to be there. This will negatively affect the overall performance of the NCM in meeting the objectives of the CPA to render services to the Sudanese people. Article 58(1) of the INC states the following:
“The President of the Republic is the Head of the State and Government and
represents the will of the people and the authority of the State; he/she shall
exercise the powers vested in him/her by the Constitution and the Comprehensive
Therefore, it is a pivotal responsibility of the President of the Republic to ensure that the State, including the NCM, functions well.
Building Confidence and Trust:
For any partners in any enterprise to work together they must develop good communication with each other which in its fullest development turns into trusting each other. It is true that mutual trust cannot be realized overnight, especially between parties that have fought each other for years. Nonetheless, it is equally true that mutual trust cannot be attained if any of the parties gives the impression that it is working in opposition to the other, takes the slightest issue of difference to the media and it utmost concern is to mobilize foreign quarters against its partner.
The way some leaders in the SPLM are conducting themselves cannot sustain a mere cooperation, let alone a partnership of any kind. It is not that the NC is free of blame as far as the implementation of the CPA is concerned, but they have conducted themselves in a far more responsible way than these SPLM leaders. The attitude of these fellows is to look for faults and publicize them rather than seek solutions to them. It is inconceivable to think that these SPLM leaders were so naïve not to have anticipated that the implementation process of the CPA will face challenges, problems, even obstacles. Hence, the reasons for their conduct could not have been that they were caught off guard when they suddenly came face to face with this reality. We have to look elsewhere for an explanation.
Before we proceed, let us define who these SPLM leaders are? They are a bunch of fellows who were around the late Dr John Garang, the historic Chairman of the SPLM/A. Their known contribution was being his sycophants and scaring him of any qualified SPLM cadre they do not like. By then they did not dare do or say anything the Leader did not sanction. This behavior won them the name “Young Turks”. This is how they were known by then.
Even the current Chairman, Salva Kiir Mayardit, was then on the receiving end not only of their firm siege of the Chairman but was also subjected by them to personal insults and character assassination including the accusation that he was acting in cahoots with Khartoum, especially during the famous November/December 2004 showdown between the two.
Now, they have turned round and shamelessly embraced the current Chairman and are using with him the same tactics they successfully employed with the former Chairman. They flatter him and tell him that they are the only SPLM cadres loyal to him and that other senior SPLM leaders are after his top position!! Wonders never cease. They now pride themselves of being called the “Sons of Garang”. Their sycophantic behavior with some push from Uncle Sam paid off and they got appointed to the leadership positions of the party structure. It is in this capacity that they are now spreading their poisons in the name of the SPLM.
You do not need to be a member of the SPLM to discover that the actions of this group are geared towards achieving a number of interrelated objectives: the exclusion or elimination of some senior SPLM leaders they do not like from leadership positions in the party and government; driving a wedge between the SPLM Chairman and his staunch supporters in the SPLM; portray Salva Kiir as weak and unworthy of leading the SPLM; and to knock the heads of the SPLM Chairman and the President of the Republic against each other to spoil the good working relations between the two without which the implementation of the CPA will be rendered impossible.
The end result of all this is two-fold: to prepare the ground for the regime change sponsored by the US Administration, and for the group to replace Salva in the leadership of the SPLM. The operational machinery of the group is well oiled, thanks to the millions of dollars the US Administration dishes out to them.
Right from the word ‘go’, the SPLM, or more precisely, the “Sons of Garang” group, has behaved as if it were in the opposition. Criticizing the government policies and distancing itself from government actions became the cornerstone of the SPLM policy as pronounced by its spokesmen. The SPLM won itself the infamy of being in the government and in opposition at the same time. Some of these SPLM leaders can be excused for lack of experience in or sheer ignorance of the art of government, but repeating the same mistake all the time is a clear indication of insistence not to learn, especially when all this is done with a gusto of inflated egos unjustified by the mediocrity known of them. An abrasive and foul-mouthed spouse cannot build a good marriage.
This influential SPLM group chose to ignore the mechanisms set out by the CPA and by the Partnership Summit of May 2006 and took their case to the mass media. In doing so they wanted to please their backers and mentors in the international community first and within Sudan next. It is an open secret that the current US Administration has an axe to grind with the NC and would like to effect a regime change in Sudan.
The idea is that if the SPLM makes the right noises it will bring under its wings the political forces opposed to the current government and defeat the NC come the next general election. Even before the elections, the new alliance led by the SPLM would discredit the regime sufficiently to precipitate its overthrow through a military coup, popular uprising or a combination of both. To execute this dangerous and grand project, the US administration has recruited some SPLM leaders so that the Movement becomes its Trojan Horse in the GONU.
The irony is that this right-wing doctrinaire US administration has put its eggs in the basket of decadent leftists and ex-communists in the SPLM to achieve its project of regime change in Sudan. This explains why these US made parvenus in the SPLM parrot the criticism leveled by the USA and its allies against the very government in which their party (SPLM) is not only a member but a main partner for that matter. For it to lead the opposition, according to these simpletons, the SPLM must adopt and speak the language of the opposition. They sometimes overdo it to nauseous ness. Their unpatriotic histrionics find approbation from the US administration and some EU countries and institutions. These midgets tell these foreigners what they would like to hear. But is what they say or wish achievable? The answer is obvious. Given its majority, nothing could be agreed by the GONU without the consent of the NC. Therefore, any talk about adopting policies inimical to the NC is nothing short of daydreaming.
Is the American Project feasible?
The current US administration played a significant role in pushing the SPLM and the NC to arrive at the CPA. They also together with other IGAD Partners Forum (IPF) funded the negotiations in Machakos and Naivasha. They additionally made promises as to what assistance they would give if the parties signed the peace deal. All these are positive points for the US administration. However, it did not live up to its word. As soon as the GONU was formed, the US administration continued with its anti- Government of Sudan policies as if nothing has changed. Worse still the USA toys with the idea of exempting southern Sudan from the economic sanctions it imposed on Sudan and made it plain that it will only cooperate with the SPLM component of the GONU and not with the others. The First Vice President was received at the highest level in Washington three times since 2005, whereas when the President of the Republic went to New York in September 2006 to attend the UN General Assembly, his movements were restricted to within 25 miles from the city’s centre!!
If the SPLM were true to the letter and spirit of the CPA it should not have allowed itself to be a pawn to be played against its partner by the USA. The latter is not doing that for its love of the SPLM or of the South but for its own national interest which at the moment is against the NC. What has the SPLM to gain in this power game? If the SPLM leadership is indeed a friend of the USA it should give them a clear unequivocal message that a regime change would mark the end of the CPA which will harm the South more than the North. What much will the NC lose if the CPA collapses today?
The USA has fought the NC government in various ways for 16 years and did not succeed to overthrow it. The USA has less chance to do so now. Forget the rosy picture being painted that, in the event that hostilities resume in the South, the Northern government will be stretched thin on many fronts and hence will be easy to defeat. This is mere wishful thinking. If the war breaks out today on issues that do not unite the Southerners, the military balance in the South will never be anywhere near the favorable pre-CPA situation. Those who beat the drums of war and have never gone to war themselves are well advised to take heed of this fact and become rational in their saber-rattling. The US administration will not come to their rescue. It has already learnt its lessons the hard way in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Politically, is the SPLM capable of bringing the Northern opposition – Sadiq al-Mahdi, Dr Turabi, Nugud, etc.- under its wings and lead them into an election victory against the NC?
The answer to this question is clearly in the negative for many reasons which shall not be enumerated for lack of space.
Suffice it to mention that the Sudanese social and political conditions as well as the positions towards the SPLM of the parties constituting the opposition, no doubt discount the SPLM from being the leader of a grand opposition coalition against the National Congress. In spite of the hullabaloo being made out by the SPLM about democratic transformation, the truth is that it is not any different from the NC in terms of lack of commitment to democracy, the rule of law and respect of human rights. Those who have been duped to believe otherwise have just to look at what is happening in the South now which is under the control of the SPLM.
We tell the apologists of the SPLM who always explain away its failures and excesses in these areas arguing that the South is starting from scratch that one does not need to start from somewhere to allow individuals or groups to enjoy the rule of law and to practice democracy. More importantly, the SPLM is not yet an organized political party in the real sense of the word and suffers from internal squabbling bordering on a schism that it needs a breath of life to survive, let alone to dream of leading others. In short there are no wings for the SPLM to fly, to say nothing about carrying other parties along.
On the basis of the foregoing analysis, it is absolutely safe to conclude that from both the political and military standpoints, the American project has no chance of success in Sudan.
If history is anything to go by, the USA has always backed losers in Africa and the Third world. For instance, some years back, the American propaganda has made everybody believe that their puppet in Angola, Savimbi of UNITA, was the most popular in the country and that what was needed was a free and fair elections for him to drive the ‘reds’- the MPLA- out. We all know that not only did he lose the general elections – which were declared by all as free and fair – but also lost his life in the hands of his own soldiers. Another darling of America was Delakama of RENAMO in Mozambique. They put a lot of capital in him believing their own propaganda that he would defeat the ‘commies’. Delakama’s RENAMO and him personally were roundly defeated by FRELIMO several times. To his credit, however, he was humble enough to accept the rules of the game. What chance have the lapdogs of America in Sudan got to fulfill the American dream? Their chance of winning any elections is nil. The most outstanding thing they have in common is that they lack any popular base.
This leads us to say something about how the USA has treated the heads of State and Government who loyally and faithfully served the American interests when they were ousted by their own people. The USA was never at all grateful to them. For example, the USA refused to grant asylum to the ousted Shah of Iran in 1980 and Mobutu of the then Zaire in the nineties. Both wandered for a while hoping that the country that won them the wrath of their people would come to their assistance at the time of need. Alas! They were denied asylum in the USA and died a miserable death. What about Noriega of Panama? Do we need more examples?
The USA has taught us that as soon as puppets and stooges outlive their usefulness they get dumped into the dustbin of history. Those in Sudan who would want to ignore this lesson do so at their peril.
The Situation in Southern Sudan:
In implementation of the CPA, the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) was established with defined legislature, executive and judicial powers. Article 162 of the Interim National Constitution defines the primary responsibility of GOSS thus:
“The primary responsibility of the Government of Southern Sudan shall be
to promote good governance, development and justice, exercise authority
in respect of southern Sudan and the states of southern Sudan, act as the link between the National Government and the states of southern Sudan ad to ensure the protection of rights and interests of the people of southern Sudan”.
Hence, the promotion of good governance, development and justice lie in the centre of the responsibilities of GOSS. How did it fare on these vital matters?
Following the signing of the CPA, peace and stability did prevail all over southern Sudan. However, since the establishment of GOSS in November 2005, there have been pockets of insecurity all over the South. These were reflected in inter and intra-tribal conflicts, fights with militias and cattle rustling. Of late, clashes became frequent between the SPLA and the police causing heavy casualties as was the case in Yambio and Bentiu. Also checkpoints manned by the SPLA as was the case during the war period are still common in many parts of the South. It is abundantly clear that the SPLA is not yet willing or ready to surrender to the police what should be police’s responsibility in a civil democratic state. The GOSS needs to take a firm action on this matter if peace and stability have to be enjoyed by all areas in southern Sudan.
GOSS has failed to deliver on executing tangible development projects in southern Sudan. This is hardly surprising from a government that did not develop any development plan for any number of years. The people whose expectations were raised by the signing of the CPA are still waiting for health facilities, schools, roads, etc., to materialize. This failure is happening despite the fact that GOSS received about three billion (2.95 to be exact) US dollars of oil money from 2005 to August 2007. This amount does not include other funds availed to GOSS and the southern States such as Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF), soft loans guaranteed by the Central Bank, grants-in-aid from the National Government and funds earmarked for established national projects in the South such as the Peace Road (Rabak-Juba) and Babanusa-Wau railway. It is common knowledge that salaries in the South are far higher than those in the National Government for the same job done. Yet, employees of GOSS in the States go without salaries for many months, a situation reminiscent of the war period. GOSS must come out clean on how it spent this money. The public needs to know.
A lot has been said about fighting corruption in southern Sudan. Unfortunately, corruption is still rampant and on the rise despite the “corruption free” badges worn by members of the Cabinet of GOSS. You do not give yourself badges; others do it in recognition of good work done. It is evident that GOSS is reluctant to act on the first report of the Anti-Corruption Commission lest some big heads will roll. Corruption can never be fought with half-hearted measures.
In relation to democratic transformation about which the SPLM is most vociferous in the North, GOSS has not yet allowed some space for political parties other then the SPLM to operate. There are many persons in jail or harassed for their political views and a good number of politicians have been denied the right to hold political rallies, some were even deported by the SPLM apparatchiks in charge in GOSS. In fact, in many occasions, the SPLM does not make a distinction between the SPLM as a party and GOSS. To them, they are one and the same!! As a matter of fact, if there is an area where international intervention is needed most urgently, it is here in relation to monitoring adherence of all to democratic principles and practice. The international monitors on democracy should not wait until the time of elections. They must be deployed all over the South right now to ensure a level field for all.
The most serious area of concern in GOSS performance is its failure to lead by example. Almost all the ministers and senior officials in GOSS have their families abroad, their children study outside Sudan and they travel abroad whenever they fall sick. This state of affairs will be read by the people as signs that the leadership of GOSS has not come to stay permanently. With such a situation, why would these leaders expect the refugees and IDPs to take them seriously when they appeal to them asking them to return to their original homes?
Also the heavy military presence in the capital of GOSS, Juba, including the escorts of the leaders of GOSS does not augur well for a return of civilian life to the town. It sends the wrong messages that there is still insecurity in the town. There must not be signs of military presence in towns at peace time.
The Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) which in addition to its legislative function should have been the watchdog on the work of the executive branch of government has fallen short of meeting the expectations of the people. In the two years of its existence, the SSLA has the unenviable record of having passed no single bill! As a result there is no legal regime in the South today. This awkward situation forced the President of the Supreme Court of Southern Sudan to issue judicial circulars, in lieu of Acts of parliament, to fill the vacuum so that the judiciary can work and dispense justice.
Also, the addresses of the President of GOSS to the opening sessions of SSLA have so far been like statements delivered in political rallies rather than policy documents outlining GOSS policies, ministry by ministry or sector by sector, for the session(s) concerned as is the parliamentary practice. The SSLA has even introduced the practice of discussing and taking resolutions on positions of a political party not tabled before the Assembly by any Minister. In the eyes of many southern Sudanese this SSLA has turned itself into a rubberstamp of the SPLM leadership.
Southerners should be able to discuss openly the performance of their government in order to improve it. Constructive criticism should be taken in good faith not as some agitators dismiss it as serving the ‘Jallaba’.
The SPLM should not take the other southern political forces for granted or pretend that they don’t exist. The South belongs to all Southerners regardless of their hues and colors. Therefore, the SPLM must engage all the Southern political forces in dialogue about the implementation of the CPA and the future of the South. If it has a partnership with a Northern political party, the NC, why not with its brothers.
The Suspension of Participation of SPLM Ministers in GONU:
The decision taken by the Interim Political Bureau of the SPLM on the 11th of October 2007, was astonishing in many respects. If we leave the issue of timing aside, coming as it did on the eve of a solemn Muslim occasion of Eid El-fitr, the decision has raised many questions. What does it mean to suspend the participation of ministers in a coalition government? Indeed, is there anything in political practice as “suspending participation” in a government of any kind? Can the suspension be partial? In other words, can the Leader of the party suspending its participation remain in Government while his ministers are out of it? If the answer is in the affirmative how will he behave in the meetings of the Council of Ministers?
Under normal democratic practice, the decision taken by the Political Bureau of the SPLM should have meant withdrawing from the government and joining the benches of the opposition. This step would have been led by the party leader who is the First Vice President of the Republic to be followed by his ministers and State ministers, and because of the party’s size in parliament, he would have become the Leader of the Official Opposition. However, this is not a normal situation and that is why the decision was ill-advised.
The SPLM is not a normal political party; it has a military wing called the SPLA. The SPLM is in GONU because of the CPA and in order to implement it to the finish. According to Article 72 of the INC, the first most important functions of the National Council of Ministers are: planning State policy and implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. By withdrawing from GONU, whether fully or partially, the SPLM is giving up its responsibilities in the implementation of the CPA whereas it claims that it is the failure to implement the CPA that is the reason for taking such a step! In other words, the SPLM’s withdrawal from GONU will result in more delays in the implementation of the CPA than accelerating it. Is that what it wants? Withdrawal from GONU also means withdrawal from GOSS which was also established by the CPA. After withdrawing from GONU what will the SPLM do next? Shall it leave the implementation of the CPA to its partner, the NC, which it accuses of lacking!
the political will to implement the CPA or shall it go back to war?
The SPLM must be mindful of paragraph 2.6 (Machakos) of the CPA which states:
“The parties shall refrain from any form of unilateral revocation or
abrogation of the Peace Agreement”.
A close scrutiny of the facts available lead to the ineluctable conclusion that the only reason for the SPLM’s action was to effect a reshuffle in its component of the GONU which some of its hardliners believed would be resisted by the NC. Otherwise, why would you present a list of reshuffle of a Cabinet you are withdrawing from?
The episode is a reflection of the squabbling of factions within the SPLM rather than taking on the NC. For the interest of the CPA, the only correct course of action for the NC to take is to call their bluff.
What is to be done?
The CPA has brought about peace and stability in the Sudan, or at least the South, and ushered in the country into an era of democratic transformation. It is therefore a unique achievement we must cling to. If history has placed upon the shoulders of the SPLM and NC greater responsibility to implement the CPA, the responsibility extends to all sectors of the Sudanese community. All must play their part in the implementation process. There is no one party to implement the CPA or that owns it reducing the role of others to just approving or disapproving what is done. The implementation of the CPA is a commitment and responsibility of all parties up to the end of the road. It is not an undertaking you can withdraw from or stop in the middle of the road.
The CPA has provided for mechanisms and institutions to tackle and resolve all the challenges and difficulties that may arise in the course of the implementation. Additionally, the two partners, the SPLM and NC, have put in place joint committees through which cases of disagreement are discussed and resolved. These mechanisms must be respected and used effectively to strengthen the partnership, overcome difficulties and resolve outstanding issues in the implementation process. The SPLM must free itself from the myth that some international power will intervene to get the CPA implemented the way it wants. The CPA will be implemented right in Sudan in the hands of the Sudanese through the mechanisms and institutions provided therein.
Confidence in each other and mutual trust are essential in working together. The partners must avoid discussing their problems in the media. The discussions must take place within the mechanisms agreed upon in the CPA and by the parties themselves. The partners should also desist from issuing statements and taking actions that could be harmful to the partnership. The prolonged absence from Khartoum of the First Vice President has contributed enormously to the gaps in the implementation of the CPA. Only him and the President of the Republic can tackle certain issues amicably in a spirit of collegial responsibility. He must devote more of his time to exercising his responsibility as First Vice President in Khartoum. This is a very important office for the South and should not be left vacant or in any way relegated in importance.
A lot has been achieved in the implementation of the CPA. These achievements should not be underrated and must be highlighted. However, many challenges still remain and must be tackled together. Apart from the issue of Abyei where the parties disagree on the final borders of the area, the other outstanding issues can and must be resolved without further delay. Troops redeployment, facilitating the work of the Population Census and the Border Commission, etc., need only a political commitment and resolve to get them out of the way. This must be done. Even the Abyei area issue is not that intractable. An interim administration can be set up pending agreement on the final borders of the area. This step is a must so that the citizens of Abyei can enjoy the services and resources promised them in the CPA and that require such an administration. The people on the ground cannot and should not be held hostage to the political disagreement of the parties.
The situation in southern Sudan deserves special attention. The government of Southern Sudan must adopt a five year plan (2007 – 2011) within the quarter century strategy for the whole country. GOSS has to move quickly on consolidating peace and security, promoting multi-party democracy, institutional capacity building, provision of basic services, building infrastructure and reconstruction in general, and fighting corruption much more vigorously, among other pressing matters. The citizen in the South has not yet seen peace dividends and it is in the South that unity of the country or its partition into north and south shall be decided.
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