South Sudan Democratic Forum
Oct 31, 2005
The South Sudan Democratic Forum is shocked by the decision of the leadership Council of the SPLM/A on Oct 28, 2005 not to resume South-South dialogue with South Sudan Defense Force (SSDF).
The leadership of the Democratic Forum has been working day and night before and after the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement for the realization of peace throughout the entire South Sudan. The leadership of the Democratic Forum in London coined the term “South-South dialogue” in 2002. In the same year, the first South-South dialogue mediated by the New Sudan Council of Churches took place in Entebbe, Uganda between the SPLA and the SSDF. After the end of the conference, both parties agreed to stop negative propaganda campaign against each other and work towards the realization of tranquility in the South.
In the famous Oxford Conference of August 2003, the assembly of democratic forum unanimously passed resolutions calling for military and political dialogue with the SPLM/A. Although the SPLM/A leadership was not formally represented in the Conference, there were individual SPLA commanders who attended the conference.
In April 2005, the first political dialogue between the SPLM and the other political parties was convened in Nairobi under the auspices of Moi’s African Institute (MAIN). Dr. John Garang, former chairman of the SPLM/A, attended the conference. As the result, the Covenant of South Sudan was signed by all the parties that participated in the dialogue.
At the end of June 2005, the military dialogue between the SPLA and the SSDF took place in Nairobi again under the auspices of Moi’s Foundation. Late CDR. Dr. Garang Mabior headed the delegation of the SPLA while Maj. Gen. Paulino Matip Nhial, Chief of Staff of SSDF, headed the SSDF side. On the conclusion of the conference, both parties agreed on many points. The issues that prevented the signing of the agreement were minor. Both leaders agreed that they would continue the dialogue to iron out their differences as soon as the government of the national unity is formed.
In his address to the international community and the Sudanese people, Dr. Garang made it abundantly clear that dialogue between the SPLA and SSDF would resume for the complete implementation of the CPA. However, his tragic death delayed the smooth resumption of the dialogue.
The leadership of the SSDF with jubilation received the coming to power of Salva Kiir Mayardit. Gen. Matip had hoped that a collegial figure took control of the SPLM/A in order to hasten the unity of the factions of the South. As soon as Kiir was sworn in as the first vice-president of the Sudan, he called a meeting with Paulino Matip to inform him that divisions among South Sudan armed groups would no longer exist under his leadership. Paulino Matip assured him that SSDF would fully cooperate with the new SPLM/A leadership to achieve peace in the South. Both leaders agreed to resume South-South dialogue in the near future. Matip expressed his happiness to journalists after meeting Kiir by saying that the latter “has a vision different from previous SPLM leader that would ensure that peace prevails in the South”.
On Oct 29, 2005 at 2:00pm Sudan local time, Vice-president Kiir called Gen. Paulino Matip to the presidential palace and informed him that the leadership Council of the SPLM/A rejected the resumption of dialogue with SSDF. Vice-president Kiir stated that the majority members of the Council united against his call for the continuation of dialogue between the SPLA and SSDF. As the result, he acquiesced to the will of the majority. He felt sorry and expressed his remorse for the discontinuation of the dialogue. In turn, Paulino Matip appreciated his candid speech and willingness to unite South Sudan factions. Matip congratulated his honesty for telling the truth to his brothers in the SSDF about the decision of the SPLM Council. Both leaders agreed that SPLA and SSDF would exist separate like before and work towards the implementation of the CPA.
However, the leadership of the Democratic Forum is profoundly concerned with the rejection of the dialogue by the SPLM/A. Vice-president Kiir, who is also the president of the South Sudan Government, could have vetoed the decision of the majority of his party based on the presidential powers bestowed upon him by the interim Constitution of the South Sudan. Unity among Southern Sudan armed groups is critical at this juncture. But Salva Kiir allowed the future of the South to be stolen by tribalists within the SPLM Liberation Council who will not live for more than ten years given the fact that most of them are at their sixties. It’s very unfortunate and unwise that SPLM could reject dialogue with SSDF at the time the movement is at loggerhead with the National Congress Party (NCP) on the implementation of the modalities of the CPA.
The SPLM/A is currently having problems with the NCP, which is not willing to give SPLM its share of power in Northern States as stipulated by the CPA. One may question the intellectual capacity and mental health of the members of the SPLM Council who rejected dialogue with SSDF prematurely.
Therefore, the Democratic Forum calls on the IGAD and its partners to work day and night to reverse the tragic decision of the SPLM Leadership Council. The international community should know that SSDF and SPLA couldn’t live in peace for long without an agreement. Moreover, the politicization of ethnicity in the formation of the government of South Sudan is an alarm bell that should inform the international community that war is looming in the South. The Nuer of SPLM have already made it clear to Salva Kiir Mayardit that they will not accept Dinka domination of South Sudan government. If marginalization of the Nuer is not enough to cause war, perhaps the history of hostility between SSDF and SPLA is enough to warn the international community.
It’s very unfortunate that the current SPLM leadership rejected the vision of Dr. Garang, who called for the resumption of the dialogue with SSDF before his death. The international community must take the history of the South into consideration in dealing with administration of Salva Kiir. Division among Southerners always plays a greater role in the failure of the agreements signed with northern regimes. Southerners are known for killing agreements by inventing divisions among themselves. One notable example is when the South Sudan general assembly voted in 1983 to dismantle the Addis Ababa Agreement. However, the current military situation of the Sudan seems to demonstrate that the CPA will be dismantled in the battlefield either between SSDF and SPLA or between the latter with Sudan Armed Forces.
G. Buay Reath
Chairman of South Sudan Democratic Forum-Canada
Tel (613) 260-9307