The Highlights of the SPLM-DC Founding National Delegatesâ€™ Congress and Future Prospects
BY: Deng Yiech Bachech, Khartoum
Three months ago (and before that time), courageous men and women in this country led by Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin evaluated, discussed and examined the current and future directions of the peopleâ€™s movement, the SPLM, in terms of security, political, economic, ideological and social conditions prevailing all over the Sudan, specifically in the marginalized areas, after a brief period of four (4) years of relative peace brought about by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). But only to be discouraged and frustrated by what they hear, see, and feel. The vision of our founding fathers, some of whom are still alive today, sacrificed their lives for the pursuit of peace, equality, justice, and respect for all. This distortion and deviation of the core values and principles of the movement by a small clique of self-serving elites who put their private interests above national interests forced the brave men and women of the peopleâ€™s movement to break the chain of apathy and complacency, and launched a different path to rectify the situation.
It was on August 31, 2009 when the Founding National Delegatesâ€™ Congress (NDC) of the Sudanese Peopleâ€™s Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLM-DC) first convened at the Friendship Hall facing the beautiful panorama of the Nile River in Khartoum, Sudan. The Convention ran through August 31-September 3, 2009.
The event was unprecedented. Its unanticipated popularity, vast turnout, unparalleled jubilations, powerful and professional presentations, and surprising peaceful success caught many by surprise. The party delegates coming from
different parts of the country and abroadâ€”60
from each state of 25 states all over Sudan, 31 from the Diaspora (representing Australia, Canada, Egypt, Rwanda, Scandinavia, Uganda, United States, and United Kingdom), and uncounted number of party supporters, invited diplomatic corps, national and international media, traditional musicians and dancers, comedians, poets, members of various political parties, and undecided but sympathetic individuals in Khartoumâ€”were all in attendance. During the 4 days-Conference, the delegates accommodated in Ardh al-Muaskarat at Soba neighborhood and various hotels in the city were daily bused to and from the Conference Hall using more than 40 minibuses and cars.
In that historic national convention at the Friendship Hall, the public mood was upbeat. Inside and outside the Conference Hall, the positive interactions and intermingling amongst the
Sudanese people from all walks of life from as far as Wadi Halfa in the far North, Nimule in the far South, al-Junaynah in the far West (Darfur), and Kassala in the far East symbolized
the beauty and richness of Sudanâ€™s cultural heritage, diversity and uniqueness. For four days while the partyâ€™s founding convention was in progress, SPLM-DC (commonly referred to in short â€śDCâ€ť) became a common household word dominating every topic of public discussions. The most amazing thing about the distinctiveness of the SPLM-DC from other political parties in the country is its professional disposition, speed, popularity, growth and expansion within three (3) months; something historically unprecedented not only in the Sudan, but also in the world history of politics.
The thrill, excitement and euphoria for the word â€śDemocratic Changeâ€ť were indescribable. It struck the nerves and spirits of the voiceless, disenchanted and marginalized people of Sudan, whom by the virtue of restoring their
human dignity and freedom, hungry for democratic change to occur in Sudan. Professionally planned and organized, the conference programs were opened by the recitals of religious sermons and blessings from Holy Books (the Koran and the Bible). Then Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin, the party chairman and co-founder of the SPLM-DC, opened the founding national delegatesâ€™ congress (NDC) with powerful, enlightened and erudite speech written in both Arabic and English, but only presented in Arabic, highlighted the political situation of the country. The speech by the chairman was so powerful that it wholly touched and addressed issues and challenges facing the whole country. In the few truncated extracts hereunder, Dr. Lam Akolâ€™s keynote address covered all political, social, economic and historical facts of the peopleâ€™s movement in his 13-pages speech which commensurate with the SPLM-DC objectives as stipulated in the Basic Rules of the party adopted in September, 2009:
(1)The establishment of a free, just, democratic and decentralized system of governance and a social contract based on the free will and popular participation of all the people of Sudan;
(2) The achievement of the right to and exercise of self-determination by and for the people of the Southern Sudan in fulfillment of their aspirations;
(3)The realization of voluntary unity between the various regions of the Sudan; and (4)Building a national consciousness and common purpose in the Sudan through the liberation of the individual and society from all forms of political, economic, social and other constraints.
For those who didnâ€™t have a chance to read or hear the speech, Chairman Dr. Lam Akol eloquently had this to say: â€śThe dawn of the new millennium saw historic reconciliations between the different factions of the SPLM which was an opportunity for the new body to benefit from the mistakes of the past and face the future in an esprit de corps in order to grapple with the challenges of the future. However, a tiny clique within one faction of the reunited factions of the Movement misunderstood reconciliation and unity to mean defeat to the other factions and submission to their authority. They embarked on excluding the leaders of the other factions as was evidenced by the developments that took place in the last General Congress of the May/June 2008, and decided not to include anybody outside their group in the organs of the Movement except those who have turned their backs on their past. It is undisputable fact that the SPLM after 2001 is not the same as it was before 1991. Today, the SPLM is composed of united groups, dealing with issues which require far-sightedness, justice and inclusiveness. Sadly, the Movement lost its leader [Dr. John Garang] under critical conditions. At that time, it was faced with enormous challenges that competed for attention. It was the beginning of the transformation of the Movement from the military into a political organization capable of competing with other partiesâ€¦.â€ť But the â€śnew leadership did not measure up to the [new] challenge, things were left to drift and a few misguided fellows took control of the SPLM affairs. They expended the energies of the party in uncalled for internal squabbling and continuous confrontations with its partner in the CPA. Thus, it was hardly surprising when this clique failed to build the party in order to play its expected role in the running of the country, especially Southern Sudan where the government is controlled by the SPLMâ€¦.That itâ€™s necessary to correct the course the movement is taking when it reneges on its basic principles upon which our democratic movement was foundedâ€”the principles of democracy and progressive program aiming at building a united democratic decentralized nation-state in which every Sudanese feels being part of. As such,
this leadership failed while we are close to the general electionsâ€”[ that it tries to sabotage]â€”to build a national movement capable of embracing all the Sudanese with their different ethnicities and cultures. The most obvious example to this is the clear down-sliding of the popularity of the Movement all over the Sudan.â€ť
After this powerful speech, the doubtful and cynics were caught by surprise and forced to revisit their preconceived misreading of the SPLM-DCâ€™s objectives and vision.
In the same vein, the optimists confirmed their optimism and confidence in a quest for democratic transformation of the country than ever before.
On the second note, as principally explained during the launch of the party in June 2009 and again reiterated in the NDC (August 31-September 3, 2009), issues that led to the formation of the party were in fact political, social and economical in nature of which the SPLM party (the ruling party in the Government of Southern Sudan) failed to address. These issues and challenges stated forthwith have made the semi-autonomous South Sudan a â€śfailed stateâ€ť of the highest order according to Naom Chomskyâ€™s famous book titled : â€śFailed State: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy (2006)â€ť. According to Chomsky, the elements which qualify a state to be a failed one
include outright poverty, lack of clean water and access to healthcare and basic education, loss of control of nationâ€™s territory and sovereignty, competition over land and natural resources, food shortages, politically-motivated ethnic conflicts and violence, century-old tribal vengeance-seeking and conflict revival, political and institutionalized exclusion or discrimination of some groups, unequal economic development, widespread corruption, human rights abuses, deterioration of public services delivery, intimidation, arrest and harassment of political dissidents opposed to the futility and incompetence of those in power, government-sponsored private militias terrorizing innocent citizens with impunity targeting the imagined or real suspects and sympathizers of the opposition parties, scaremongering tactics to manipulate public opinions in the media, interference of foreign elements in the affairs of the country, etc.
As such, the SPLM-DC emerged with a well-thought rescue mission to prevent the collapse of the Sudanese peopleâ€™s movement so as to revitalize peopleâ€™s hopes and aspirations; and ultimately committed to bring a genuine democratic change. The Sudan, once known as a militarily strong nation, an embodiment of the enlightenment and intellectual centre in Africa, a bread basket of the Horn of Africa blessed with rich natural resources and ethnically, historically, religiously and culturally diverse; an insignia of human kindness, hospitability and hard-work;
and strategically a solid bridge that connects
Africa and Middle Eastâ€”now has become nothing but a laughingstock in the eyes of the outside world because of its current human rights violations; ethnic division, hatred and violence; political factionalism; unchecked broad-daylight corruption; religious fanaticism; failed economy; widespread insecurity; environmental degradation; and dysfunctional institutions.
To prove that the SPLM-DC was born to democratically transform the political landscape of the country in practice, two (2) days of the convention were devoted to open deliberations, discussions, and debates of the partyâ€™s Basic Rules and resolutions were passed. Similarly, position papers covering political, economic and civil service sectors were read and a committee was formed to study these papers and to present their findings to the Congress for further deliberations and debates.
After that, the final draft of the Basic Rules of NDC Resolutions was read out and adopted. And the Basic Rules Document officially became the partyâ€™s Manifesto. On the last day, electoral committee, comprised of nine (9) members including their chairperson, was formed by the general congress to supervise the elections. So democratic it was, all positions were declared void. Position holders from the interim chairman to the last political officers stepped down to be either confirmed, re-elected or ousted altogether democratically. Therefore, positions for National Council (NC) of about three hundred members (300)â€”an equivalent of a legislatureâ€”and the National Executive Committee (NEC), the highest political organ of the party consisted of thirty (30) members were open for contest. Then, the elections successfully proceeded according to the Basic Rules of the party. The post of party chairman was meant to be contested but no one contested for the highest position except Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin who was unanimously elected by the delegates to the Congress to lead the party. Likewise, the post of party Secretary General wasnâ€™t contested and Engineer Charles B. Kisanga was popularly confirmed. The only positions which experienced tough but peaceful competitions were party deputies to the chairman. Then the congress democratically elected five (5) deputies representing different geopolitical locations in the Sudan (West, East, North, South and the Centre). This marked the success and the end of the historic 4-days of the founding NDC. The morale was high; and preparations for the transport of the delegates back to their respective states took place thereafter. The task that lies ahead of them is very complex. So what is next is the political mobilization and preparation for the SPLM-DC to win the upcoming general elections in 2010, as well as the forging of political coalitions and alliances with other parties on the basis of mutual interest and promise.
The SPLM-DC understands that change is not easy. Challenges are enormous and complex. But with strong zeal, courage, commitment and unfaltering promises to the people of Sudan for democratic transformation of the country both in practice and in principle, SPLM-DC is sure to win and fix things for the better. Since the party came to being with clear platforms and coherent programs, its top priorities once in power are national security, political liberalization, reformation of public and private institutions, sustainable economic development, environmental protection, rule of law and good governance, clear separation of state and religion, free access to healthcare and basic education, and reformation of higher education, among other things. On top of these country-wide national agenda are the protection and implementation of the CPA items to the fullest, particularly the 2011 referendum and bringing to an end to the crisis in Darfur through peaceful negotiations and consensus of all parties involved.
Currently, security issues are of immediate concerns for the people of Southern Sudan and Darfur region. So building integrity in defense and security establishments requires collective efforts from all sectors of society and respect for military norms, standards and principles governing the relations between the military and the general society. That the armed forces (AF) should be subordinated to democratically elected authorities and be subject to the scrutiny and oversight of the judiciary as well as the media and civil society organizations. Furthermore, the pillars of democracy in defense and security branches require professionalism, effectiveness, justice and equality which include, among other things, civilian control, democratic governance, civilian expertise, non-interference in politics by depoliticizing the military, ideological neutrality, effective chain of command and respect for the rights of military personnel and citizens.
These issues are fundamentally security-related ones which require a new government that can strategically put in place a system of accountability and clear oversight that incorporates the legitimate concern of both the military and civilian leadership. However, the current government in the south is miserably a failed one. This is simply because there are lack of governance at all levels of government (for example, in defense, police and security sectors), gross financial mismanagement, discrimination, lack of strategic policies and planning.
In closing, this press statement chiefly attempts to highlight the events which took place during the partyâ€™s first national congress; and to restate the objectives and vision of the party for democratic transformation of the country at this critical time. The next piece of writing will be devoted to political developments in the country.
And for the most part, the raging insecurity in the South will be the major focus of part two (II). Stay Tuned!
The author is currently based in Khartoum, Sudan. He can be reached at [email protected] Phone: +249907489015