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Duping and lack of political Shrewdness led to the suspension of national reconciliation

by James Nguen Nyol

South Sudan President Salva Kiir with George W. Bush (2007)
South Sudan President Salva Kiir with George W. Bush (2007)
South Sudan Vice-President, Dr. Riek Machar
South Sudan Vice-President, Dr. Riek Machar

 

“We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.” –Aesop

 

This is what ought to happen in South Sudan but it is unlikely because we are too immature, too tribalized and too irrational to the core. If I may, rationality is being truthful and driven by honest conviction to act and die for what is highly moral as “law is the objectivity” of good instinct.  True, but I resent that good never seems to triumph for long before some evil interrupts. Sadly, this is the case in the Republic South Sudan considering the recent suspension of nationwide national reconciliation rescheduled for June 2013.

President Kiir suspended that landmark event despite its overwhelming support from South Sudanese and friends across diversity and various geographical locations around the globe. Inability to think, tribalism and political jealousy to earn credits for what one did not sow, matters in South Sudan, so long as one is in a position of power. This is where things don’t get done in that country, because free thinkers are not allows to think freely to enhance innovative ideas. Everyone is expected to play dump to resemble the big man at the top. Such trends are the political reality where I was born and where the national reconciliation was suspended on baseless grounds.

After the fact, I felt sadden and disgusted simply because I am aware of the implications, because people who needed to heal in order to repair their shattered lives and redevelop  a damaged nation were held hostage without national reconciliation in the country. By all accounts, it was a desperate and blinded move to say the least. It is equally painful to many who wanted to heal, and desperately disappointing to learn that President Kiir was indeed an obstacle to peace process.

It is one of the grossest mistakes ever committed by a sitting president. It is a political blunder. It is deplorable and unforgivable injustice done by President Kiir to his own people. Above all, it is undoubtedly an endorsement and affirmation of hatred and simmering sentiments among South Sudan’s sixty three tribes. This brings me to the reason why I decided to write this commentary. My aim is to help readers understand that President Kiir was duped into such deplorable eventuality. Also to point out that lack of political shrewdness has complicated the matters and in many respects led to the unsolicited political decision which was poorly presented just like the previous insidious political verdict before it. In a nutshell, since the untimely death of late Dr. John Garang in 2005, South Sudan has politically been downgrading at a disappointing rapid pace and more so toward a rogue state.

To start with, it is true that President Kiir was part of the movement who fought on the basis to overhaul the deformed Khartoum regime and then build on common values, guided by clear-conscience goals to ensure peace and freedom. However, after he (president) ascended to power in 2005, such liberation ideals, values and principles were thrown overboard and became things of the past.

Hoodwinked or not, Mr. President has placed South Sudan and its people before the custodian of misguided, ill-informed and opportunists cliques. At will, Kiir placed his cronies in sensitive positions in the Republic of South Sudan (RSS) which include the banking and financial system, judiciary, foreign missions, military and security apparatus.   

After ensuring control over these institutions, the president and his clan-mate cliques set out on the next phase of embezzling public funds in billions of dollars in the cover of dark or in a broad daylight. Four shocking examples of this scheme that caught international headlines were:

1.     The $3 million dollars caught red-handed from Mr. Stephen Madut Baak at the Heathrow International Airport in London in 2008, where Mr. Baak was unhesitant to mention that he was working for president as an advisor;

2.     The $4 billion reported missing by none other than President Kiir himself in 2012 and the $600 millions reported stolen by the former RSS minister of finance Arthur Akuien Chol in 2008;

3.     The $20 million stolen by Stephen Baak Wuol and $293 millions reported by Aaron Young stolen by none other than Elijah Salva Mathok Gengdit, the current deputy minister of interior in RSS;

4.     And the $6 million dollars and South Sudan pounds reported stolen from the president’s office 2013;

These are not mere allegations but proven facts simply because the RSS as a nation started this journey with the wrong foot. For example, the former Governor of South Sudan Bank, Mr. Elijah Malok Aleng was not hesitant to assert this, that “we already know of people who have millions in their accounts, whether in Ivory or Buffalo Bank. Where did you get the money from, it is simply because you got it wrongly.”

That said the suspension of national reconciliation by the president is just another insidious political blunder in human context. With the latest, South Sudan is once again placed at the crossroad, between good and evil. Weirdly, the evils in their distorted terms are appreciative of the direction of which the nation is heading while the good masses are indifferent and confused.

People are numbed to the core and ceased to think. Few who asked honest questions were threatened, kidnapped, killed and accused of wanting to overthrow they fought so fierce but got hijacked and in the process got broken and became personal property or a tribal dynasty lead by crooks. What a shame! No one can justify beyond reasonable doubt that the suspended national reconciliation was a political enterprise, or has been used as one by anyone. The fear was based on political insecurity and lack of political shrewdness from the top spoiled brat.

Another disappointing fact was that President Kiir allowed himself to be driven, misled and grossly manipulated at his disadvantage by well stationed crooks whose aims are to set him up for failure and expose his weaknesses as a head of state. The April 15 presidential decree read on South Sudan Television (SSTV) was one of them and meant to trash the president’s records. The decree read dissolved national reconciliation committee and suspended national reconciliation process based on misconstrued political insecurity and erroneous speculations to say the least. However, this was not the first time President Kiir made such erroneous and regrettable decisions based on ill-informed advice crooks who exploited Mr. President’s weak self-confidence, self-esteem in the absence of political shrewdness.

In 2011, President Kiir demanded more powers to avoid unfounded insecurity and was bestowed unnecessary absolute powers in the South Sudan Interim Constitution. The clause granted the president power to remove elected officials including the governors. Four months ago, Kiir acted on this misplaced clause and removed the Lakes state elected Governor, Mr. Chol Tong. Mr. Chol’s replacement was a military man.

Subsequently, Kiir emotionally led South Sudan to war with Khartoum regime which in eventuality led to Panthou crisis and the bombing of civilian targets by the Khartoum’s rogue regime. In that incident, more than 1000 SPLA soldiers died and to this day no one in South Sudan talked about this humiliating adventure. After the fact, President Kiir made an uncivilized political remark toward Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General. Kiir told South Sudan parliament on the televised broadcast that “I told Ban Ki-moon that I am not your commander and not answerable to your directive.”

The most disappointing part in that fiasco was that Kiir caved in and withdrew South Sudan troops from Helige in a cowardly disorganized fashion which resulted to the above reported thousand death tolls. Another poignant event emerged out of the Panthou Crisis was salaries of the deceased SPLA’s’ soldiers were cut in half by the same month they perished by the same government who sent them in harm’s way.

Out of emotion, Kiir frantically ordered the closure of South Sudan oil production without a back up plan. For the last 20 months South Sudan’s civil servants barely got paid due to the fact there was no money in South Sudan’s reserve opposite to what president Kiir claimed.

Early this year, President Kiir relieved 153 senior army officers at once and replaced most of them with new close associates and tribal men. The move was nothing short of consolidating power and for South Sudan to become a rogue state. The move was seen by many analysts as a dangerous and irrelevant since it sets the new country into the wrong path of dictatorship.

Before President Kiir retired 153 senior armed officers, however, he also personally signed off big junk of South Sudan’s land to Arabs in the name of the questionable demilitarized zone between two countries. The signed off places have never, in history, been part of the northern Sudan but Kiir signed them off to appease the Arab North (Sudan) for South Sudan’s oil to flow north. The sell out did not stop there. The president pledged to compensate North Sudan with $3 billion US dollars simply because South Sudan separated from Sudan. If President Kiir was politically smart and thought independently as an able politician, Sudan would have compensated South Sudan for the atrocities and human sufferings the north inflicted on South Sudan and not otherwise.

Rumor had it that President Kiir suspended national reconciliation because of an internal strife in the SPLM between him and his VP, Riek Machar. Mading Ngor wrote, “the Vice President Riek appears to overplay his hands at times and some of his moves border on insubordination, expressed consciously or not.” In this quote, Mading failed on specifying which area the VP may have overplayed his powers over his boss, which in my view amounts to mere speculations of a sought and insignificantly factual.

If President Kiir has based his decision in suspending the national reconciliation in the cited above-mentioned point as a point of reference, therefore, it’s fair to conclude that lack of confidence and political shrewdness are the driving factors.

As I was about to publish this commentary, I realized that President Kiir has on Monday appointed Archbishop of Episcopal Church, Daniel Deng Bul Yak to chair the national reconciliation and Archbishop of Catholic Church, Paride Taban as his deputy. This is indeed a good gesture as far as peace process is concerned in South Sudan, considering the fact those appointed are clergies of the House of God.

Who is Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak?

Who is Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak?  Is he the right clergyman to lead so much politicized national reconciliation?  Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul was born in 1950 in Twic East County, Jonglei State, South Sudan. Archbishop Bul studied theology in Sudan and United State of American. His work with the church since 1970s undoubtedly suggested a good clergyman but his recent work with people traumatized by war suggested otherwise. 

Archbishop Bul spent most of his clergy work in the northern Sudan during the Sudan civil war, particularly in Port Sudan and Renk. Archbishop Bul did not live through the horrors during wartime. During Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) it seemed, Archbishop Bul moved to Juba where he became the archbishop of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan.

After Sudan elections in 2010, Archbishop Bul was appointed to lead a peace delegation to make peace between rebel led by George Athor and the Republic of South Sudan. That peace initiative failed because Archbishop Bul was accused of conspiring with the RSS to capture George Athor instead.

During the Jonglei crisis, Archbishop Bul was also appointed to heads the reconciliation process between the warring tribes in the Jonglei. In the process Archbishop Bul “was [also] accused by the Murle community of allegedly siding with the Dinka Bor, his tribe, prompting the Murle to withdraw from the reconciliation process and demanding for appointment of a neutral person to chair it.”

Given what we know, Archbishop Bul appeared problematic and might not be the right person to chair national reconciliation in South Sudan for the following reasons:

  1. Archbishop Bul has never been in the bush and never experienced bush lives and therefore he has no personal experience to relate to during the process of healing.
  2. Archbishop Bul is already accused twice: one for siding with his native tribe during Jonglei peace process and for conspiring with RSS to capture George Athor. Therefore, his neutrality is in serious question;
  3. Archbishop Bul’s appointment will be views as politically motivated and considered as the Dinka led political hegemony in the country;
  4. Because national reconciliation is already politicized on tribal basis and that President Kiir has intentionally avoided Archbishop Paride Taban to chair the process is another serious phenomenon and hurdle;
  5. The two tribes that need serious focus in South Sudan in the course of this national reconciliation are the Dinka and The Nuer. They (Dinka & Nuer) must be led through this peaceful healing process by a neutral personality like Archbishop Paride Taban to avoid tribal siding.  

Though I personally applauded and supported the formation of the new national reconciliation committee by the president, I honestly feel that President Kiir has again made another political blunder by not appointing Archbishop Paride Taban to lead the process. Archbishop Taban would be a right choice and consider neutral by all parties involved in the healing process. Because this issue was grossly ignored, there is no doubt that neutrality and fairness is in serious question.

 

J. Nguen Nyol is a concerned South Sudan citizen living in Canada. He can be reached at nyolgaar@yahoo.com

This op-ed piece appeared in South Sudan News Agency on April 24


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