The, hopefully, simmering down political situation in South has a long history. The aspirations of the people of South Sudan that emerged during the CPA and referendum times were abused by the leadership. Instead of building on those, a stern sectarian politics emerged and time and time again, hatred and greed continue to guide the institutional and individuals relationships.
The leadership of south Sudan failed to convene its political and social forces to amend the movement vision to suit South Sudan as an independent nation. National vision and shared values were eroded and sectarian visions and values based on hatred and greed arisen. Ministerial positions just become symbols of status to many folks in the government as opposed to delivering the services.
The SPLM, since its last convention in 1994 in Chukudum has not sat down and revised its essential documents to reflect its change from a guerilla movement to a professional ruling political party. Some elements within the party have shown their interests in the party leadership. The SPLM party leadership politics is linked to that of the nation in the sense that a chairperson of the party is the one who runs on the party ticket for president in the national elections.
This situation has caused a crack between the party members in the government and those outside the government. For sure, there are interests. The party elements in the government do not want President Kiir challenged for the post of the party chair. They like to continue to have him as the party chair; hence, its candidate for president in the 2015 general elections to give them another round of power in the post 2015 era. On the other hand, the party elements mainly outside the government wants democracy to allow those vying for the chairmanship of the party a chance to challenge President Kiir and hence, giving them a shot at the presidency comes 2015.
Several requests for meetings of the political bureau, the SPLM highest structure, are reported to have been tabled by the then Secretary General of the party, Pagan Amum, but they were turned down by the president. After the pressures for the leadership of the party amounted on the President and his close aides, he started to swirl his powers and hit everyone he deems opposition to him.
Consequently, a series of decrees were officiated; private presidential guards (believed to have hailed from the President's regional states) were recruited and trained without the knowledge of relevant military leaders, some elected governors gone, the entire cabinet gone, the entire SPLM party structures gone, requested meeting for the political bureau, denied, NLC meeting called without consultation from the political bureau and there were more threats only decrees away.
December 6 Press Conference:
As a result, a team of SPLM high ranking officials, headed by Dr. Riek machar called a press conference to explain to the party members their unaddressed grievances. This team also scheduled a public rally on December 14 to do the same to the members of the public. The rally was later canceled to give room for dialogue after the spiritual leaders urged both sides to resolve their political differences internally through dialogue. Among the group, 3 individuals, namely; Mama Nyandeeng, Pagan Amum and Dr. Riek Machar were vying to challenge president Kiir for the party chairmanship. The group was united to fight the dictatorship tendencies within the party which normally spillover into the national affairs time and time again (e.g. firing of elected governors). Many had hoped that something positive was going to come out of the vice President's press conference on Monday. Nevertheless, hate speeches and nicknaming of the dissident voices group were what came out of the press conference.
The group had hoped that canceling their rally to give room for dialogue would also necessitate the president to cancel the NLC meeting so that a meeting for the political bureau was convened and the differences would be worked out and agenda items for the NLC meeting would be set. However, to no avail, this opportunity to resolve the outstanding issues was also ignored and the NLC scheduled meeting continued.
The dissident voices group gave dialogue another chance and attended the meeting, hoping that the outstanding differences will be given a consideration but again, none was considered. Instead, the president, a leader of the party and the nation, came out intimidating and was rubbing on past historic wounds within the party such as 1991 Bor massacre. This rigidity of the President and his close aides to open up to addressing fierce political differences caused the dissident voices group to boycott the NLC meeting on its last day.
December 15 Sunday Presidential Guards Incident:
The darkest days of South Sudan since its independence began on Sunday, December 15. A fight broke out within the PRESIDENTIAL GUARDS. The causes (s) of this incident are storied differently and none is yet confirmed as the reliable cause because there has not been an investigation into the incident so far or at least that is known by the public. On December 16, the president was seen in military uniform on SSTV, flanked by some cabinet members, addressing the nation that what occurred on Sunday night was "a failed coup." Dr. Riek was accused for the coup and, interestingly, arrest orders were also issued for other linked politicians to the "coup" who turned out to be members of the dissident voices group with no connection to the presidential guards or the army, whatsoever.
Dr. Riek has come out and denied the coup and claimed that President Kiir took advantage of the incident that happened within his own presidential guards and used it to deter or eliminate the opposition. There has not been a strong proof that the alleged coup d'état (which the world would not recognize) was, indeed, an attempted coup. That leaves the public to wonder about what is going on. Is it a poor judgment in differentiating between a mutiny and a coup or is it a pure calculated politics based on ill-hatred of fellow citizens and obsessive greed for power?
Dialogue and Negotiation Process:
Regardless of the fact that the public seems to remain divided on who to blame for the crisis and process differently the potential conditions leading to the conflict, it is apparent that it is opposed to the unwarranted violence and would like a peaceful way of addressing political differences. Therefore, in a rare circumstance, allow me (member of the public) to say thank you to both warring factions for agreeing to sit down and talk.
Moreover, it should also be noted that the crisis has taken different forms over time and in the process, has created slightly differentiated but substantially linked cohorts. It is important to understand how those slightly differentiated groups developed and how they still link to the main issue that brought our country here. In my own view, I think it will be necessary to approach the dialogue in two phases.
A. Solving Political Differences Through Political Dialogues:
Phase one should focus on the political differences within the SPLM party and the SPLM national policies because as a ruling party, its policies influence how the affairs of the nation are run. Therefore, it is critical to address political differences within the party and the party national policies under this phase of negotiation. This is where Dr. Riek and the detained politicians are one group. Therefore, in this context, yes, Pagan or any other member or members of the detained group may part-take in the negotiation process. Therefore, Dr. Riek is not wrong to appoint Pagan if he is thinking in this context and Pagan, on the other hand, is not wrong to accept the appointment if he is sticking to his December 6 conference allegiance.
B. Reconciling The Warring Factions: Kiir vs. Riek (Dinka vs. Nuer)
The second phase should focus on the violence that began on Sunday, December 15 and its effects. This phase should cover President Kiir unconfirmed coup accusation, risking the lives of Dr. Riek, other accused politicians and the killing of innocent citizens in Juba. It should be noted that the killing in Juba fitted the Nuers against the Dinkas more than the coup accusation itself.
On the other hand, this phase will also focus Dr. Riek and the killings in Bor, Akobo, Bentiu and Malakal. President Kiir has an indirect responsibility for the killings in those other towns because the killing in Juba catalyzed the actions of the Nuers against Dinkas in those towns. The main goal here should be to give the two leaders a chance to reflect back on their actions and how they could have contributed to the unwarranted crisis that caused several losses of lives and resulted in several war crime accounts. When that is done, it is when the two will see a dire need to reconcile and move on.
Most of the talks under this phase should be between Kiir and Riek. If they want to use other people to represent them, they should pick people from their warring sides. For example, Dr. Riek can appoint either Gatdet or any of the people fighting with him now because they are the ones who can answer why they killed people. Kiir, on the other hand, should appoint someone within his inner circle to explain why they were rigid to changes and eventually, rushing to calling what happened on Sunday an "attempted coup." Moreover, they should be the one to answer why they ordered the presidential guards to kill innocent civilians in Juba who may not have any clue about politics.
Last but not least, the three parties (warring factions, Kiir & Riek, and the accused politicians) affiliated with the crisis should converge here as well and collectively reconcile. The detained politicians should help mediate both sides. Their contribution, especially, at this point will be a key catalyze for the reconciliation between the two leaders and the affected ethnic groups of Nuers and Dinkas. The two leaders must first reconcile before the reconciliation of the Nuers and the Dinkas, followed by a national healing process if a meaningful and comprehensive peace can be achieved in the country.
Matters pertaining to the security of Riek, members of his forces and the accused politicians must be negotiated and it will not surprise me if power-sharing becomes the solution. Therefore, continuation of talks to involve the detained politicians is necessary regardless of the fact that they are not affiliated with the war. Pagan Amum can continue as one of the chief negotiators but Dr. Riek will need to appoint other co-chief negotiator (either directly or indirectly involved in the war) to sit alongside with Pagan to answer questions regarding the war.
Power-Sharing between the warring factions:
So, yes, a power-sharing may not be a bad idea given the fact that the president has continuously shown his inability to lead with the nation interest in the center and continuously misuse his presidential powers. It will also be the best way to guarantee trust and security between the warring factions, including the detained politicians. Power-sharing will create enabling, safe ethnic and political environments that will be necessary to move the nation forward.
The power-sharing resolution should have a life span, ranging from when the negotiation deal is sealed until next election when the nation will elect its next leader. Both President Kiir and Dr. Riek should lead the country during the power-sharing period and must not run for election in 2015 in order to forgo the war crimes. Otherwise, if they choose to take part in the leadership and still run in 2015, they must be investigated for the war crimes committed over the last 2 weeks.
The Resolutions of the Political Dialogues
The resolutions of the political dialogue should ensure the following:
I. Provide comprehensive solutions to the SPLM party political processes relative to the nation political processes, hence, reconciling the party ranks;
II. Reconcile President Kiir and Dr. Riek while acknowledging where each of the two leaders could have prevented the crisis (power-sharing should be obvious);
III. Reconcile the Nuers and the Dinkas to bridge the ethnic gap created by the conflict;
IV. Provide national healing because the current conflict has affected every South Sudanese in a very profound way.
Abraham Deng Lueth is a Community Support Specialist at Truman Behavioral health Emergency Department in Kansas City, Missouri, United States; he is the President of Greater Bor Community-USA. He previously worked as a critical care laboratory technician and conducted an independent undergraduate biomedical research project which was published in the Plant Science Journal in 2007.