The Battle for the SPLM’s Chairmanship Heats Up!!
By PaanLuel Wël
Our former VP and current Deputy Chairperson of the ruling SPLM party, Dr. Riek Machar, has announced that he would “soon hold a press conference to address the nation on the party’s future and other pressing issues in the country.” Specifically, Dr. Machar is going to “unveil resolutions passed against the actions of the party chairperson Salva Kiir, also South Sudan’s president.”
In the layperson’s language, this is nothing short of reading the riot act to Salva Kiir Mayaardit–the chairperson of the SPLM party and the President of the republic of South Sudan.
Many questions are crying out for answers. Are the disgruntled members of the SPLM-Politburo, many of whom were recently fired from the cabinet, going to gang up behind Dr. Machar and “relieve” the Chairperson of his duties “in the interest of the party and for the sake of the nation”? How will the President, who have of late gone on decreeing spree unperturbed, react to such naked political challenge to his perceived “constitutional authority”?
Will President Kiir back down peacefully (as Dr. Machar did after his dismissal from the government) and take respite from his addictive decreeing habit? Will he ratchet up the political pressure and take on his political opponents?
What leverage do Kiir’s political competitors have over him? What else can the President do other than his recent actions–their dismissal from the cabinet and the dissolution of the SPLM-PB?
However, what most South Sudanese people are wondering over is the final lineup of the factions that would compete, first for the position of the SPLM chairmanship, and secondly, for the office of the President of the country. Some crude form of the factionalization within the SPLM appears to be crystallizing, albeit ambiguously.
First is what seem to be a public knowledge already–Kiir’s detractors in the person of Dr. Machar, Pagan and Nyandeng. While they have been relentless in their opposition to President Kiir for sometime now, the question is whether or not they would eventually succeed to put aside their internal differences (there are many internal contradictions, one of which is whether Pagan and Nyandeng would accept to serve under Dr. Machar given his past) and coalesce into a formidable political force.
That would be a matter of political survival for the duo though, for they could still re-unite with President Kiir just as we saw this week when the President made an unexpected political coup against Pagan & Nyandeng’s camp by (snatching and) appointing Nhial Deng as Pagan’s replacement–Juba’s chief negotiator with Khartoum over the outstanding issues. Dr. Machar’s political rapprochement with President Kiir, though not entirely improbable, is highly complicated by the fact that VP Wani Igga won’t be ready to give him a free ride this time round.
If Machar-Pagan-Nyandeng axis survive its tumultuous infancy and graduated into a fully fledged political force, who will they take on other than President Kiir? Most likely, it would be Kiir-Wani-Lam’s alliance. Yes, Dr. Lam Akol shouldn’t be counted out. Not yet! If you are in Juba, then you must have heard Mach-kuol tales of Lam being groomed as the next National Minister for Environment–replacing the recently dismissed Abdallah Deng Nhial.
All indications point toward that eventuality. Dr. Lam, a long time traitor, was received like a rock star, with all state security and amenities at his disposal, when he recently landed in Juba, after years of self-imposed exile in Khartoum.
After all, politics is the art of possibilities. With Pagan gone, President Kiir would be tempted (if not already convinced) to take in Dr. Lam, killing two birds with one stone in the process.
Firstly, Dr. Lam, who has the absolute loyalty of the Shilluk’s voters (look at the MPs, how many SPLM MPs are from the Shilluk kingdom?) will surely prop up Kiir’s numbers during the Presidential election. Secondly, with Lam in the cabinet, it would be hard for the critics to accuse Kiir of marginalizing the Chollo people.
Of course, many people from the Kiir-Wani’s camp would be aghast at the thought of them sharing political bed and platform with a character like Lam. That is true, except that the Machar-Pagan-Nyandeng’s camp won’t dare to question the credentials of Kiir-Wani-Lam’s camp while they have their own elephant in the room. It is therefore safe, politically, for Kiir to bring Lam on board without the slightest worry of being branded a Khartoumer for associating with Khartoumers. “Those people in the glass house should not be the first to throw the first stone”, Kiir would be telling anyone within ear-reach to emphasize his point.